advances in philology: punctuation saves lives

Greek and Latin texts about two millennia ago were commonly written in all capital letters, without any spaces between words and without punctuation. Scholars call that textual form scriptio continua. Ancient readers, taught through recitation and oral instruction, learned how to read such texts correctly.

Grandmother and two daughters eating

Recently in a shopping mall parking lot, I saw a bumper sticker that challenged the complexity and obscurity of scriptio continua. The bumper sticker declared:

Let’s eat grandma!
Let’s eat, grandma!
Punctuation saves lives.

That’s a compelling claim about the importance of advances in philology. Here are seventeen additional examples of the lifesaving importance of punctuating texts.

Philology now tends to be associated with cranky old men academics. Old men have made many contributions to human welfare. Disparagement and harassment of philologists should be condemned.

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While riding my bike one day, I pulled up at a stoplight to a guy on a Harley. On his helmet were two stickers. One said, “Loud pipes save lives.” The other said, “Dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians.” The scholarly field of sticker studies offers rich potential for extensive research.

[image] At grandmother’s house. Oil painting. Adolph Artz, 1883. Held in Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

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