Friday, August 27, 2010

I Speak Your Language

In spite of crime-solving TV shows like the CSI series, as a forensic psychiatrist I know that real life is much more mundane. Although I get to interview lots of interesting folks, most of the work involves writing extensive reports (or editing the reports of others). And just when I think I've got my writing skills down pat, a copy editor comes along to prove otherwise.

Dinah, Roy and I spent several hours together this week going over the proof of our book. We reviewed our editor's corrections and quibbled about our own. I discovered that Dinah had learned rules of grammar that I had never heard of, and that some of the truisms I learned no longer applied. Language is like that.

Fortunately, as children we pick up grammar and syntax without any conscious awareness. Certain sentences or phrases just naturely "sound right" because they get built into our brains somehow. We speak the language and vocabulary we hear, and we write the way we speak.

This is a problem when you live in Baltimore. Every day I get exposed to Baltimore urban vernacular. In this city people don't get beaten up, they get "banked." They aren't relaxed and happy, they're "chillin'.'" They aren't merely annoyed, they're angry "for real." And they don't lose their tempers, they "zap out."

In my clinical practice it helps to speak my patients' language. If my patient tells me he "caught a hopper", I know he doesn't like his young and restless cellmate. If he asks me for help with an "8-505", I can explain the legal process for doing this. I am unexpectedly multilingual through the coincidence of where I live and work.

I just have to remember not to write like that or my editor will "zap out for real."

Dinah adds:
OMG! I can't believe we wrote an entire book together and you're still putting the periods outside the quotation marks! Shoot me now. From

Rule 1. Periods and commas always go inside quotation marks, even inside single quotes.
Examples: The sign changed from "Walk," to "Don't Walk," to "Walk" again within 30 seconds.
She said, "Hurry up."
She said, "He said, 'Hurry up.'"


Clink responds:

Life is never that easy. See discussion here and here. Nevertheless, I changed them.


Anonymous said...

The period goes inside the quotation marks. I've been telling you this for 2 years. I can't believe you're still putting it outside. We have to work harder on this.
Your post was funnier when you had the period outside the quotation marks. But whatever. It just makes me happy that there is one little way that you're not perfect. Otherwise, you're perfect. Hard act to keep up with.

Cheryl said...

Just came across this blog randomly and find it interesting that I have lived in Towson for almost 5 years and have never heard the word "banked." Ah, the suburbs...

Dr. Psychobabble said...

It's all about the slang. In Brooklyn, it's all about the "beat." No, not the rhythm or whipping eggs. It's about how much "that" sucks. It's beat, yo. (with period inside the quotes.)

Sunny CA said...

I don't know how I did not learn where to put the period with an ending quotation, despite 3 writing classes after college. I would write that wrongly myself.

Anonymous said...

although it's a rule, it makes no sense, because the period after a quotation mark applies to the entire sentence and not just the quoted text so it should not be confined to the quotation... :) being so counterintuitive, i think such mistakes are perfectly acceptable and the rule should be changed :)

Anonymous said...

Really enjoying your posts Clink-Shrink. You are on a rush.... slow down don't crash and burn hun, pace yourself... a long blogging year in front of you.

I heard a really great interview today, a psych who wrote a book about the challenges of sending in Western pdocs, counsellors to deal with stress re flooding / tsunami in Pakistan. So interesting that there are cross cultural barriers here. PTSD seems to not exist in a form as we know it.

if you can hold of it. Try abc am (that's an aussie broadcaster) worth a listen. The author from the US.

Best wishes Paperdoll

Anonymous said...

I think a period is always supposed to go up against letters just because it's nothing but a little dot, so if it's not right by a letter, it might be mistaken for some random dot, like an ink splash or something. I could be totally off on that, though.

If sometimes putting the period outside of the quotation marks is a British thing, I'm unsure as to why it was Derrick's old English high school teacher who hammered always putting it inside into his head.. if s/he was English, s/he wouldn't have been so absolute about it going inside the quotes!
*ahem* not to nitpick or anything.. well, maybe just a bit. ;)