I love words. Especially foreign words that describe in one neat bundle something that requires an entire sentence in English. So when this showed up in a friend’s feed, I dropped everything for some English-major style fun.
At number four I paused uncomfortably. Kaelling: Danish for “an ugly, miserable woman who yells obscenities at her kids.” A bit close to home, that one. But then I realized that lately I have been yelling obscenities with the kids, not at them, so I moved on.
Then I got this eyeful : “Comma F*#ker”
Yep, the Finns have invented the word “Pilkunnussija” which translates as: “A person who believes it is their destiny to stamp out all spelling and punctuation mistakes at the cost of popularity, self-esteem and mental well-being.” Its more literal translation: Comma F*#ker.
I have always been a hardliner when it comes to the things I believe in: politics, morals, punctuation. I truly am incapable of turning the other cheek to out-of-place apostrophes, habitual misspellings, misused homophones. Affect and effect are currently at the top of my list, followed closely by your and you’re. They grind on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard.
This tendency took a turn for the worse in college. Junior year, I formally pledged my future to the English Department. For extra credit, I joined my local chapter of Society for the Proper Spelling of the Word Judgment.
Luckily, I lived with roommates who were equally concerned about good grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Patsy once brought home a kitchen “scurber” brush that she found at the store, not because we needed a new scrubbing device, but because she wanted to hang its package on our Wall of Shame. Which included, among other things, a column from Dear Abby about the gender neutral pronoun suggestions of “heesh,” “hizzer” and “herm.”
Once I had a place of my own, and an income, I began to send out holiday cards. Mostly because I love getting things in the mail, and you don’t receive cards if you never send them. However, I am now in the position of having to decide if I can, in good conscience, hang the cards from Smith’s or the Jones’ in plain sight for my children to see. Their spelling is bad enough as it is. Whatever, “best guess spelling.”*
I am definitely getting crotchetier and less tolerant of grammatical errors as the years pass. And now I have the word “Pilkunnussija” calling to me like the Darth Vader of English majors trying to tempt me over to the dark side. “Kimberly, join a force more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Give into your anger and fulfill your destiny as a comma f*#ker.”
Here is my future as it now stands: When I’m too old to drive, I’ll develop page-rage instead. I will stroll through my neighborhood, cane in hand, tearing down signs from street posts because of their poor grammar. I will add corrections in the margins of library books with my red pen. I will demand that the managers of stores stop what they are doing to fix the misspellings on their marquees this minute.
And those loonies downtown carrying their signs proclaiming that God’s “Judgement” will be upon me? Well let’s just say that they are going to be comma f*#ked by one little old lady who has met her destiny and decided not to fight it. She’d rather wrestle with that gratuitous “e” instead.
*S. has apparently inherited some of my Pilkunnussija-ness. As I was working on this post, he told me about some of his favorite books that they are reading in first grade, including this gem by Lynne Truss called Twenty-Odd Ducks: Why Every Punctuation Mark Counts.