Posted 20 hours ago

Shady Characters – The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical Marks

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The small town feel in Shady Hollow feels authentic to traditional cozies, and Shady Hollow and all its locales ring with an air of authenticity and realism, despite not being populated by humans (in fact, nary a human exists within this story’s world). But language can also be a stubborn thing, with new symbols facing an enormous institutional and usage barriers. But the more determined steps she takes to solve the murder, the more she is shadowed by someone who is determined to keep that dark deed, among others, a secret.

Houston’s dry, wry style makes this an engaging read (well, as engaging as a book on punctuation can be). Despite having pioneered the integrated circuit, the Cal Tech’s chips were so complex that the company could not reliably produce them en masse. a book about the history of punctuation marks should not be interesting and it should not be funny but shady characters is both.One I love is not a manicle at all but an adorable octopus whose tentacles embrace several lines, much like a bracket. This is an excellent book and (much as I hate to admit it) it's one of the best that addresses the history of the various glyphs used to indicate punctuation in context with the development of the modern book. Christianity both drove and benefitted from the innovations in writing, printing, and punctuation in many ways taken for granted.

And just a week or two after I finished it, I happened into a conversation at church about pilcrows, of all things. While certainly intended for a popular audience, Houston took his task very seriously, drawing upon an enormous range of sources to tell the story of these symbols to the tune of ~67 pages of references. If you are interested in or curious about how certain punctuation marks have come about and have been used through history, you probably should enjoy this book. The podcast 99% Invisible has an episode featuring Keith Houston talking about this book, which is definitely worth a listen if you enjoyed Shady Characters!Non-English editions Shady Characters is also available in Polish (as Ciemne typki), published by Karakter, and in Chinese complex characters (as 英語符號趣味學), published by Rye Field Publications. Without Houston’s clever, friendly style, this still would have been a fascinating book, using specific symbols and marks to trace the evolution of the written word. There are references to a stabbing, poisonings, and a drowning, but these are never related in any graphic detail aside from passing mentions of blood.

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