Alternative Punctuation

I’ve had this idea a while that it would be fun to invent some new punctuation marks. This, I’m sure, would be about as welcome as a traffic cop dabbling in interpretive dance on the job, or a semaphorist busting out some renegade signals towards a landing F-16. Recently, though, while sitting on the tarmac at JFK, my frustrated state had me pursuing this flight of whimsy, and I started in on a preface to a work that, I imagined, boldly launches a revolutionary, expanded typographical lexicon.


Dear Reader: This book employs a number of nonstandard punctuation. A guide follows.

~ Concomitant Mark. Normally called a tilde and used for decorating the upper portion of the ESC key, the ~ character in this book is called the Concomitant or Succession mark. In a pair or list of nouns it takes the place of a space or comma to indicate shared occupancy of the sentence’s subject or object.

For example, “Taking a cab to JFK, I forked over a small fortune~ransom~kidney.” Here any or all meanings are operative. The taxi fare was a small fortune, literally, though also a touch hyperbolically. Also the fare was figuratively a ransom. (I wasn’t really held forcibly.) And finally, kidney is clearly nonliteral, and one hopes, comical.

The user of the Concomitant Mark is like a dog-walker with multiple clients. With it, meanings are like train cars linked or the segments of an insect. Each is a component of a larger thing.

Arguing that the use of three nouns where one would suffice is injudicious, greedily excessive, shows poor judgment or lack of editorial control or soupy thinking, or that it violates Strunk & White’s dictum on brevity—is moot and unwelcome. I’m doing this for fun.

Furthermore, you might say that this connective function is already performed by the slash (/). Yes, you might. However, because the slash is known to tyopgraphists as the virgule, and because that name is so gorgeously sonic and evocative that I really cannot compete with it, you just as easily might not.

With verbs, the ~ acts as a successive mark, joining, again in lieu of a space, actions performed. Having just declared iconoclastic motives with the Concomitant Mark, I now declare the opposite with the successive function. This must follow order—it is the order implied by its name: chronology. “I jumped~squealed~wept for joy.”

Admittedly, the Successive Mark’s role is less obviously utile.