As promised, I posted my copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss to Joel over at today. It’s a great book. I enjoyed reading it and finally learnt how to use a semi-colon properly. This may not sound like a big issue, but as Truss points out in the book, I fall into the age range that suffered when grammar fell off the national curriculum. I don’t remember having any structured lessons about possessive apostrophes, Oxford commas or any other such delights. Surprisingly, she even manages to make the subject amusing. For example, some graffiti she recounts, as read in New York, once said; “Nigger’s out”, to which some wag had added, “But he’ll be back soon.”

As I said to Joel in some recent e-mail correspondence; if good punctuation can help neutralise evil via the conduit of wit, it’s got to be worth learning about. I was reminded of some graffiti I once saw on a bridge in north Wales which said, “BRIT’S OUT!” – painfully incorrect, both geographically and grammatically.

As if to prove my point about the value of good punctuation, this afternoon I discovered this fantastic L.A.Times article via the trusty

2nd S.F. Judge Delays Ruling on Gay Marriages

Superior Court Judge James Warren told plaintiffs he would not issue a court order until they corrected a punctuation error in their legal filing.

By Daryl Strickland
Times Staff Writer

5:09 PM PST, February 17, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO – Conservative groups trying to stop the city from issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples failed to win any immediate action today in two separate court hearings.

Superior Court Judge James Warren told plaintiffs late this afternoon that they would likely succeed on the merits of their case but said he would not issue a court order until they corrected a punctuation error in their legal filing.

“I am not trying to be petty here, but it is a big deal That semicolon is a big deal,” Warren told attorneys, according to an account by Associated Press.

In documents filed with the court, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund had requested a court order that would force the city “cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to and/or solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples; to show cause before this court.”

“The way you’ve written this it has a semicolon where it should have the word ‘or’,” the judge said. “I don’t have the authority to issue it under these circumstances.”

In the first hearing earlier today, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay said he would not decide a lawsuit today that sought to block more than 2,500 marriage licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples since Mayor Gavin Newsom directed city officials to start the practice Thursday.

In the courtroom, located across the street from where same-sex couples were lined up to get the marriage licenses, Quidachay said the Campaign for California Families gave the city insufficient notice to get an emergency order.

“The court itself is not prepared to hear the matter,” Quidachay said.

The Alliance Defense Fund filed a complaint Friday seeking a court-ordered halt to the marriages and was ordered back to Superior Court this afternoon. Attorneys for the Arizona-based group filed briefs Monday, as instructed by Judge James L. Warren, contending that California law must be enforced – even if it is unconstitutional – until an appellate court states otherwise.

“The mayor is breaking the law,” Alliance spokesman Rich Jefferson said.

California law defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The newly elected mayor ordered marriage licenses amended to allow same-sex unions, stating that to do otherwise would violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal plan to file motions today to intervene in the cases on the city’s behalf.

Lee Romney and the Associated Press contributed to this report.



Disclaimer: confessing to having learnt about punctuation does not provide grounds upon which you may critique my writing; I shall no doubt forget it within a week…