Knowing the intricacies of English grammar is not a survival skill; it isn't even the key to success (a friend is currently padding her bank account by doing workshops related basic writing for very accomplished audiences, for example, the Navy Seals) but because I spend so much time contemplating and teaching grammar I assume that my knowledge is common knowledge: I often forget that the average person doesn't understand the function of the colon.
The colon, the two periods on top of each other as my students call it, has three basic functions: to introduce a list, to signal an elaboration or example of what came before the colon, and to build up anticipation.The colon (:) can be replaced with the words "for example," "to elaborate," or "wait for it!"
Recently, while engaging in a round of Crabs Adjust Humidity (an off-shoot and addition to Cards Against Humanity) with my group of non-teacher friends, as Card Czar I drew the following "question" card: "_______________________: Ain't nobody got time for that."
I thought that sharing the use of the colon (:) would help my friends come up with witty answers, so I said, "Blank colon (:) Ain't nobody got time for that." By doing so, I thought my friends would grab onto the "wait for it" aspect of the punctuation in order to construction a witty response. I waited in anticipation for the rhetorical genius to come my way:
- "Micropenis: Ain't nobody got time for that."
- "Breeding elves for their priceless semen: Ain't nobody got time for that."
- "Two midgets shitting into a bucket: Ain't nobody got time for that."
My friends were so excited for me to read their answers: they were laughing before I even flipped their cards over. When I began to read them, I put down the question card for them all to see and the miscommunication was immediately seen.
"You meant the punctuation," a friend said. "I thought you meant the other colon."
Of course, I extemporized on the ridiculousness of that assumption. I know that CAH is a crass, bathroom-humor type of game for twisted minds, but in what world does "_____________ colon: Ain't nobody got time for that" make any sense? Mircropenis: makes sense; breeding elves for their priceless semen: makes sense; two midgets shitting in a bucket: makes sense.
My friends proved me wrong. The answers they provided actually did make sense in both contexts: the punctuation and the anatomy.
- "A butt-plug in the shape of a rolled-up copy of the U.S. Constitution"
- "A tossed salad"
- "Struggle Snuggles"
Which one did I pick as the winner? Struggle Snuggles, just to be spiteful.