August 26, 2016 12:55 PM   Subscribe

“I grow old…I grow old…”

…The Mysterious History of the Ellipsis, From Medieval Subpuncting to Irrational Numbers.

"… where did the ellipsis come from and how did it end up being so unusual? The Guardian’s article on the history of the ellipsis draws on Anne Toner’s fascinating book Ellipsis in English Literature: Signs of Omission to explore ellipses all the way back to the drama of the 16th century.…But that story may not be the whole story, for the dot dot dot of an ellipsis was no stranger to English texts before the plays of Shakespeare and Jonson. It might have just been serving a slightly different function."

previously
posted by standardasparagus (19 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
...
posted by infini at 1:01 PM on August 26, 2016


"Subpuncting" is my new favorite word.

Apparently paleographers also call it "expunctation", "expunging" and as mentioned in the article, "underdotting".
posted by Kabanos at 1:10 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


…on Mac: OPTION + semicolon
…on PC: ALT + 0133

posted by standardasparagus at 1:13 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


…‽
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:27 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


  …on Mac: OPTION + semicolon …on PC: ALT + 0133

… on Linux and Solaris: Compose key + ..
posted by scruss at 2:09 PM on August 26, 2016


Oh my god! Which three people died?
posted by sexyrobot at 2:23 PM on August 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


I use them too much...and incorrectly. Especially over text message. But I like the suggestive, calm way they let a thought just kind of...drift.
posted by sallybrown at 3:03 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


The article seems to be missing a sense of use for the ellipsis. To me, especially in examples like prufrock and also sallybrown's comment above, the ellipsis isn't indicating anything missing, just a pause. Nothing is said, and time is going by, but it's not words that were removed.

Also, isn't it used to chop up sentences into quotable bits where what is removed isn't necessary for grammar or context?
posted by Naib at 3:53 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I propose a new variant of ellipsis.

It would specifically indicate a kind of "inflected pause." It would separate it clearly from any possible interpretation of it being subpuncting and be a more clear indicator the writer's intent of a longer pause as opposed to the short pause indicated by a comma or series of commas. Just as an exclamation point or question mark indicates a verbal cue even when read, this new mark would be a sign to wait just a moment.

It's called the shatnerris (or is shatnarris better?), and it looks like this (both for obvious reasons):

-.-
posted by chambers at 4:25 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's an interesting tension between punctuating for grammar and semantic elucidation, vs. punctuating indicating how an orator should properly read the piece out loud. The later is older, the former is the meat an potatoes of 200 some years of grammar books, and either path strictly held is going to bedevil the hell out of most modern readers.

(I recently finished David Crystal's Making a Point, and it covers just about everything there is to cover about the history and current use of English each member of English punctuation…even ellipsis. Surprisingly engaging.)
posted by wires at 4:52 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]



Oh my god! Which three people died?


The Three Stooges.

well, not all at once, obviously.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:18 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


We should replace all ellipses with the word 'guh', to indicate a confused intake of air.
posted by benzenedream at 6:47 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


To me, especially in examples like prufrock and also sallybrown's comment above, the ellipsis isn't indicating anything missing, just a pause.

I think of it as kind of specific kind of pause, kind of a drifting off or a "hold on a minute, I'm thinking".
posted by bongo_x at 8:53 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I once wrote a poem that ended with an ellipses and the professor said in class "One wonders how long the pause at the end of this sentence is supposed to be Mr. Avenue...forever I presume?" and it was a sick burn but also completely fair given how thoughtlessly they are employed by silly pretentious students. He is still my blood sworn enemy tho ...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:30 AM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


My wife always gets mad at me when I use ... in messages to her. To me it means some kind of unsure hesitation, but to her it means that I am bored and don't care enough to give a good answer. No amount of discussion has dissuaded her from this opinion, so I sadly put the ... to rest for the sake of marital harmony.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:48 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


may I suggest the m-dash—more dynamic pause, less woolgathery!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:47 PM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I see them used and use them myself all the time in informal messages, and I'm amazed that anyone could be upset by seeing them "improperly" used. People need to lighten up about prescriptive grammar.
posted by rocket88 at 5:22 PM on August 27, 2016


My personal Sustained Ellipsis Usage Award would have to go to the Britlish crimewriter John Wainwright, a review of whose Brainwash (1979) is here. Of the five (brief) quotes included, (only!) one contains an ellipsis. All of Wainwright's novels appear to be currently out of print, unfortunately.
posted by On the Corner at 12:31 AM on August 28, 2016


Pi's Sequence proceeds to infinity. Something about the circular nature of eternity. I grow old...I grow old, just thinking about it. I use the ellipsis to trail off, like an exhale maybe, or a sneaking away.
posted by Oyéah at 8:16 PM on August 29, 2016


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