Friday, October 9, 2009

Weekend Light Reading: The Continuing Adventures of P and H

“I once slapped a bloke who misplaced an apostrophe,” said H suddenly, as he and P strolled along one of Kalamaki’s busiest streets.

“You slapped him?”


“Open handed?”

“Yes. Pretty hard.”

“But a slap nevertheless.”


“Poof,” accused P.

“Why? He wrote on his café blackboard that customers were free to choose from five types of pasta’s…”

“That sounds like a good variety.”

“He wrote pastas with an apostrophe! Pasta, apostrophe, s!”

“Did he? Why?”

“Because he’s an imbecile.”

“Well I can’t say he didn’t deserve it," agreed P.

“Of course he fucking deserved it.”

“Yes, but I called you a poof because of the slap, not the apostrophe.”

“What, do you think I should’ve punched him?”

“Indeed! It’s the worst type of apostrophe abuse.”

“No it isn’t," said H, shaking his head. "Spelling 'you’re' without an apostrophe is my nomination for worst offence.”

“I hate that. That deserves prolonged beatings. What was your relationship to this apostrophe molester?”

“He’s my uncle.”


“What the fuck is that?” shouted P, jumping to his feet and trying to distance himself from the marine creature that had entered the boat via H’s fishing hook (which wasn’t particularly far given that they were bobbing in the ocean in Tim Merhackerty’s decrepit, timber fishing boat which measured, from bow to stern, eight feet).

“How the fuck should I know?” responded H, poking it with his finger.

“Don’t touch it, you fool! It might be poisonous.”

“Jesus Christ it looks like that woman from Alipanopolis’s bar.”

“Throw the fucking thing back in,” shrieked P.

“Are you kidding? This could be a new marine creature that’s never been discovered before.”

“Yeah that’s likely. 200 metres off the coast of Athens.”

“Stranger things happen at sea.”

“We’re not at sea.”

“What do you call this?” said H, pointing at the water.

“We could wade back from here, pea-brain.”

“It’s the sea!”

“We’re not tossing in the middle of the Atlantic.”

“You’ve been tossing in the Aegean for an hour now.”

“That’s neither a well-formed joke nor very funny,” said P.

“It has the makings of a joke.”

“The bare bones perhaps.”

“I’m going to write it down. Have you got a pen?”

“Of course not.”

“You claim to be a writer and you don’t have a pen?”

“I use a fucking typewriter! Anyway, I’m fishing!”

“So? What if you have a great idea?”

“I’ll fucking remember it. And I’m in the fucking ocean for fuck’s sake!”

“Aha! It is the ocean!”

“You said the sea.”

“What’s the difference?”


“We were unbelievably drunk,” said P, “stumbling through the back streets of Surry Hills on our way home to…”

“Who was drunk?” asked H, looking up from his lunchtime moussaka: they were seated in a restaurant in the shadows of the acropolis. P had finally gotten around to being a tourist.

“I told you. Me and Bambi and Lola.”

“Two prostitutes?”


“Were they prostitutes?”

“No, Bambi was my girlfriend and Lola was Bambi’s friend.”

“They sound like pros.”

“Pros? What are you, a 1970s undercover detective?”

“Yeah, like Popeye Doyle.”

“You don’t remember Bambi?”


“You met her a least five times,” sighed P.

“Did I? Did she go by any other name?”

“No. Bambi! My fucking girlfriend!”

“Can’t remember her.”

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter.”

“Where’s Surry Hills?” asked H.


“When were you in Sydney?”

“I lived there for four years! You stayed with me for six weeks.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Oh, you fucking retard!”

“Well, go on,” prompted H.

“We got back to the house and Bambi and Lola collapsed on the lounge room floor. I struggled upstairs and fell into bed.”

“Oh, I thought you were going to sleep with them both.”

“I wish! But that’s not the point of the story.”

“Too expensive?”

“They’re not prostitutes!”

“Oh that’s right.”

“During the night I was half asleep and saw somebody come into the room. I thought it was Bambi coming to bed.”

“With Lola?” asked H.


“Was she naked?”

“Just listen to the story. It’s not sexual!”


“I sat up in bed and the person in the room ducked behind a towel that was hanging over the wrought iron frame at the end of the bed. I realised it wasn’t either of the girls.”

“It was an intruder!”

“Yes. He didn’t know if I’d seen him or not so he remained crouching there. I was frozen, didn’t know what to do. It was a silent stand-off, neither of us knowing what our next moves would be. We were like that for about three minutes.”

“I’d have shat myself.”

“My arsehole was closed up due to the tension. I started thinking about the girls: they were asleep on the lounge room floor. I suddenly realised I had to be a man. I leaped up and screamed something inane at the top of my voice which contained as much aggressive swearing as I could muster, and the guy raced out of the room, down the stairs and out the front door.”


“In our drunken state we’d left the front door not only unlocked, but ajar. This guy had walked in, stepped over the girls and had come upstairs. He could have done anything.”

“Did he take anything?”

“Lola’s hat was missing but she figured that was unrelated.”



Perseus said...

“Where’s Surry Hills?” asked H.


“When were you in Sydney?”

“I lived there for four years! You stayed with me for six weeks.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Oh, you fucking retard!”


Melba said...
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Melba said...

Bob it's 1970s not 1970's.

Lewd Bob said...

Agreed Melba. Corrected. How about that irony.

Lewd Bob said...

Although let me add, there is a bit of a golden rule with apostrophes. In cases like 1970s and CDs - and I do completely agree that there shouldn't be an apostrophe in either of these examples - if an apostrophe makes it read better (after all, that's what punctuation is all about, making things more comprehensible) then it can be considered acceptable.

Melba said...

Yes Bob the irony. That was what I was going on about in my first comment, and then I deleted it. Didn't want to rub it in too much. I was going on about apostrophe hypocracy (it rhymed) and was even going to create a rap about it and then decided not to be such a bitch.

As Perseus said, typos are different but they are usually fairly easily identified.

Your golden rule I agree with, Bob. Clarity is of utmost importance.

Can I ask a serious question though? What are your rules or forms for writing dialogue? Care to share? If not here via email? I have mentioned it over at mine but you may not have read it.

Melba said...

BTW with the dates and the apostrophe, I think people get confused because it's '80s and 1980s. They know there can be an ap. somewhere there and just put it in the wrong place. Also because they are used to seeing possessive aps. they apply that thinking to a date. If indeed they are thinking at all. It could be argued they are not.

Fuck I love grammar in the morning as much as Kilgore loves the smell of napalm.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Supercool, I really enjoyed it, weekend light reading with depth too. Thanks.

squib said...

I hope you're going for the Booker with this, Lewd

My oldest girl and my dad got back from Melbourne last night. They had the following to report:

1. There are lots and lots of bridges

2. They saw a real live gangster. Nick someone

Also, due to daylight saving and 'no one in Melbourne even told them', they missed half a musical

I have a grammar conundrum for you, Melba. Would you say 'Roxette is singing tonight' or 'Roxette are singing tonight', given that although Roxette is singular, it consists (or rather it consisted) of two people?

Kettle said...

Which musical, Squib?

Kettle said...

PS Squib, the first gig I ever went to was Roxette, with my Mum. As they say (both as individuals and as a group): "Don't bore us, get to the chorus".

[I also saw Rick Astley but I was only 10. How could I know?]

Tracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy said...

Hello all,

Long time lurker - from the TSSH days.

I teach Literacy classes at High School and my understanding is that it would be "Roxette is singing tonight" as one band is singular. Reminds me of the time all the newsreaders went crazy with "The couple is" (as in "The couple is vacationing in Hawaii" - which even now sounds dead weird to my ears). I guess it is technically correct as there is only one couple.

Melba said...

Hey squib, Tracy is right, if you think of it as a band, you'd use the singular but alot of people would use the plural and I wouldn't call them wrong, that would be even beyond my particular brand of nit-picking. I think that's one of the grey areas.

Technically though it's singular.

And it was probably Mick not Nick, the real-life gangster. Mick Gatto.

There ARE lots and lots of bridges, especially around the Yarra.

Lewd Bob said...

I must put in my 2 cents worth: it is most certainly "Roxette is..." however Melba makes a valid point that you'd have to be a particular type of of pedant to get annoyed if someone said "are".

Again, unless it's absolutely wrong (such as "there" instead of "they're", or "pizza's" instead of "pizzas"...and let's not forget the confusion over "it's/its") then clarity is king.

Lewd Bob said...

What are your rules or forms for writing dialogue?

I follow the rules of the English language, Melba. Have I gone wrong somewhere? I'm sure you'll be first to point it out if I have. Boogey pointed out once that it's sometimes hard to follow who's who in my dialogue. Fair cop.

Otherwise, I'm not sure what you're after specifically.

Anonymous said...

Would you say 'Roxette is singing tonight' or 'Roxette are singing tonight'

I'd rather say neither. My good name and community reputation relies on me never making such statements.

squib said...

Kettle, it was 'Chicago' (You saw Roxette? We all have our skeletons)

Thanks all re: Roxette. I would say 'Roxette are' but I'm always wrong

Melba, yes, Mick Gatto, that was him

Melba said...


I love your dialogue and wanted tips.

TIPS I SAY!!!!!!!!!

Melba said...

squib I think you'd find most people, including myself, would default to "Roxette are." For someone, when speaking, to say "Roxette is" (knowing it was a band of more than one person) I would probably notice and think "wanker." So you aren't wrong in that way. But if it was written, and I was correcting it, I would change it to "is."

Lewd Bob said...

Nice point Melba. The difference between written English and spoken and/or popular usage, can - and should - differ widely.

Tips you say? Every time I write dialogue it's like me talking to me. Not really a good thing.

Anonymous said...

For someone, when speaking, to say "Roxette is" (knowing it was a band of more than one person) I would probably notice and think "wanker."

Melba, so you would think someone is a wanker for confusing is and are - even if they were technically correct in doing so? My, you are zealous about your grammar. I hope I never run into you anywhere. It would probably take about 8 seconds for you to decide that I was a complete twat.

And then I'd start talking and things would really go to shit.

Melba said...

No Alex, I already like you so that wouldn't happen.

What I meant was if I default to Roxette are in spoken form, I would notice someone who used the more grammatically correct Roxette is.

I am a wanker with my grammar, but that would make them a bigger wanker.

Oh this is too good to be true. Grammar on a Saturday morning, and then the next morning as well!


Ramon Insertnamehere said...

People who confuse "fewer" and "less" deserve nothing but our contempt.

Tracy said...

Ok, so I admit I don't read a lot of "good" literature these days (I'm too busy reading education bullshit most days) but I've only just discovered that apparently using quotation marks to denote direct speech is no longer required! What? Why? How did this happen? I tried to read a little bit of dialogue without them and within two sentences I was hopelessly lost. Who is speaking? When did the speaker change?

Am I hopelessly outdated or is this something that gives others the shits too? And is it in common usage?

Leilani said...

Melba, a lot is two words.

Lewd Bob said...

Tracy, Peter Carey did it in My Life as a Fake. It's not in any way grammatically correct, but an 'artistic' choice. I had no fucken idea who was saying what-lah.

Melba said...

Winton's done it in Breath as well. I guess it's a case of learn the rules, then break them if you want.

I guess there are rules, and then there are conventions.

Does come back to clarity though. Unless something is really badly wrong grammar or spelling-wise (and there are degrees) then clarity IS king.

Perseus said...

Saramago does it too, and beautifully. In fact, the only punctuation he uses are commas and full-stops. He refuses even question marks... but he's such a good writer, you can tell who is talking and if it's a question or not. He doesn't even do line breaks or sentence breaks bewteen dialogue and you can still tell.

Here, an excerpt:

They were not afraid, they were simply astounded at their own daring. The priest laughed and shouted. He had already abandoned the safety of the handrail and was running back and forth across the deck of the machine in order to catch a glimpse of the land below, north, south, east, and west, the earth looked so vast, now that they were so far away from it, Baltasar and Blimunda finally scrambled to their feet, nervously holding on to the cords, then to the handrail, dazed by the light and the wind, suddenly no longer frightened, Ah, and Baltasar shouted, We've done it, he embraced Blimunda and burst into tears, he was like a lost child, this soldier who had been to war, who had killed a man in Pegões with his spike, and was now weeping for joy as he clung to Blimunda, who kissed his dirty face. The priest came up to them and joined in their embrace, suddenly perturbed by the analogy the Italian had drawn when he had suggested that the priest himself was God, Baltasar his son, and Blimunda the holy ghost, and now all three of them were up there in the skies together, There is only one God, he shouted, but the wind snatched the words from his mouth. Then Blimunda said, Unless we open the sail, we shall go on climbing, and we might even collide with the sun.

Tracy said...

"Ah, and Baltasar shouted, We've done it..."

"Then Blimunda said, Unless we open the sail, we shall go on climbing, and we might even collide with the sun."

(Sorry, not so hot with quotes and tags and stuff).

Perseus, at least the speech is owned by someone in this. It's clear when it changes and who owns the speech. The stuff I've read goes straight from one speaker to the next without any identifiers. I gave up in frustration.

squib said...

Also, Cormac McCarthy