Monday, January 16, 2006


I've been learning Spanish with a set of Pimsleur audio CDs - great for building quick vocabulary and honing a decent accent, but I felt keenly the lack of written material. How am I supposed to remember the relationships of words, if I can't see the spelling? So I recently bought a simple grammar text and it's been a world of help. The most amazing thing I've discovered? ¡Inverted punctuation! ¿Why don't we have this in English?

¿See, didn’t you find it easier to figure out what’s going on when you had a signal at the beginning that this was going to be a question?

Mere days after this happy discovery, serendipitously I came across a poem celebrating it (¡after a fashion!)...

Appeal to the Grammarians

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we’re capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we’re ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn’t bounce back,
The flat tire at journey’s outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it – here and now
As I sit outside the Caffè Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, “See, that’s why
I don’t like to eat outside.”

by Paul Violi, originally published in Green Mountains Review


Blogger Trina said...

¡I heart inverted puctuation! I have since the 7th grade, when I started learning Spanish. And that poem rocks!

1:31 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

Hi Trina - thanks for stopping by!

It's not stripper rap, but glad it pleases :-D

1:59 PM  
Blogger Bela said...

Lovely poem! However, since an awful lot of people haven't even mastered the current rules of punctuation and sprinkle their blah blahs with commas and periods seemingly at random, can you imagine what would ensue? LOL!

8:48 PM  
Blogger mireille said...

Inverted malgrammaria! *congratulations on your mastery of Spanish, D!* xoxo

8:47 PM  
Blogger red-queen said...

J, you're probably right - extra ammunition must wait until their aim improves!

Mireille, it's not anywhere near mastery - but I can order beer - 'Una cerveza fria, por favor', and then ask the next necessary question - 'Donde esta el bagno?' LOL!

10:37 PM  
Blogger marlen said...

I've heard a lot about Pimsleur as I have a friend who has used the Spanish and Chinese programs. I wondered if an individual was really learning if there was no chance for interaction or writing, and no visual cues...thanks for elucidating!

6:36 PM  

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