Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Emily Gordon writes:

A sausage chain of inky links:

Friend Laura Miller wrote about this at (on? for? I tried all three, and this has been driving me crazy for years, but I’m going to stick with “at,” I guess) Salon: Hideous fonts may boost reading comprehension.

At Slate, Jon Lackman asks the overdue question, “Why do Tea Partiers uppercase so many of their nouns?” Is it anyone else’s observation, especially those, like me, who have taught college English, that a lot of Americans capitalize a lot of nouns? I wonder if English is using the people who do this as a psychic medium to contact its former incarnations. Lackman alludes to this: “In the century prior to 1765, nouns were generally capitalized. (The reason for this is now obscure; Benjamin Franklin hypothesized that earlier writers ‘imitated our Mother Tongue, the German.’)”

Leila Cohan-Miccio wrote this at Splitsider, the site in the invincible trio of already extremely funny sites that’s specifically about the field/world/pathology of comedy: “In Defense of Judd Apatow’s Female Characters,” which reminds me of the rousing debate about contemporary “romantic” comedies we titled Are We Doomed, David Denby? But since I posted that in 2007, I found that repeated exposure to Seth Rogen eventually begat a fondness for Seth Rogen, which surprises me as much as anyone. I saw and liked Zack and Miri Make a Porno (I have cable now). He seems so happy to be engaged, and so humble about it. I saw him on the Today (or similar) show riding an exercise bicycle, gamely and humbly. I suddenly want him to be in more movies. And marriage will do a lot for him—maybe even make him all sensitive to the issue of trying to make better female characters, as Judd Apatow honestly is. I like a man who can admit he’s learning, and listens to the ladies.

Speaking of The Hairpin, which is referenced in one of the links above, I can’t say enough about Bonnie Downing’s column Outdated Beauty Advice, which is as timeless as, and is a visually rich and devastatingly deadpan complement to, the classic-internet classic (and, later, Broadway show, which I trust is also in Downing’s future) Miss Abigail’s Time Warp Advice. But it’s so late. I will return to this subject. TK. Just read every entry on both of these sites, laugh yourself thin, and follow 100% the advice therein at your own risk.


I think it’s almost universal among the Writers of Manifestos and Other Highly Self-Important Political Tracts to overuse capital letters. It’s a sign of an abstract and pompous mentality disconnected from reality to some degree. George Orwell made fun of the tendency in this essay. Key quote: “I do not think it is fanciful to suggest that the unnecessary capital letters with which this passage is loaded are intended to have a hypnotic effect on the reader. Burnham is trying to build up a picture of terrifying, irresistible power, and to turn a normal political manoeuvre like infiltration into Infiltration adds to the general portentousness.” In German all nouns — all nouns — are capitalized, and in French almost nothing is. English is in between, which means that it’s more discretionary and readers are less likely to be put off by rampant overuse of upper case because — who knows? — maybe it’s right.

Also, Pineapple Express is unexpectedly charming.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree