issue #04 (December 1981)
Our Far-Flung Readers
Although started entirely by San Francisco members, this magazine was always intended to be a Mensa-wide publication. Our objective is now being realized; at last count, we had over 100 out-of-SF subscribers, including 3 in foreign countries, and the rolls are increasing daily as the word spreads. A message to these intrepid pioneers: Now that you have been ecphorized as readers, we want to ecphorize you as contributors. This will help support a theory long held by the Editor -- that San Franciscans are not all as smart and sophisticated as they think they are.
In the October issue, "venerable wolf" Lupus Canus asked for a show of hands (so to speak) from people who scream while making love. The returns to date are entirely from alleged nonscreamers; maybe we have at last unearthed the Silent Majority. Or maybe it's just that people who make noise in bed don't reply to questionnaires. However, one reply - from a lady who signs herself "Bo Peepers" - contains the interesting observation that as men grow older they become more vocal, ultimately becoming what she calls "Old Yellers." We would welcome more data on this subject. Perhaps Lupus and Peepers would care to do some joint research, in the spirit of Isaiah 11:6.
When a sentence ends in a quotation, typographical tradition shoves the final period inside the quotes even though it belongs to the sentence as a whole. This form is correct." This form is "incorrect". The same holds for commas; to punctuate correctly," stuff them inside. All this may seen like the caviling of a grammicaster (a 'mean verbal pedant' - see last month's article on Johnson's Dictionary); but it is taken seriously in the publishing biz. What happens when the intrusive period or comma encounters another punctuation mark, already properly residing at the end of the quote? You say "Aha!," and torn to pages 58-68 of A Handbook for Scholars by Mary-Claire van Leunen (Knopf, 1978), where all is revealed. This remarkable treatise starts with general principles, carries the reader through a 7-step algorithm for shifting and eliding various combinations of dashes, semicolons, etc., culminates in a grand chart of 124 possible formations, and ends with a discussion of "dicey situations." Rest well, Gentle Readers; we have waded through it, and will do our best to toe the line (nevertheless, you might well exclaim, "Why bother to ask the question 'What is correct?'?"!).
Various mnemonic alphabets are used to spell names over the telephone; the standard nowadays is A as in alpha, B as in bravo, etc. However, it is said that an eccentric Mensan named W. Casey has devised his own standard. When asked to spell cut his name, he shouts "W. Casey - that's W as in why, C as in cue, A as in are, S as in see, E as in eye, Y as in you! " When rattled off rapidfire, it invariably brings the desired response: "Say that again, please?"
More Articles by George Towner
George Towner was born in Reno and grew up near Berkeley. As a teenager he began making gangster movies using an old 8mm camera, one of which featured a car being pushed over a cliff off State Highway 1. He has started and sold two successful technology firms, and currently works for Apple Computer, where he is the most senior in age. He lives with his wife in Sunnyvale. They have two daughters and a son.