Thursday, March 23, 2023

#Hashtag This

I recently read an interesting book, Hyphens & Hashtages* — The Stories Behind The Symbols On Our Keyboards by Claire Cock -Starkey. Below are selected excerpts that you may enjoy: 

1. “Without punctuation, glyphs and mathematical symbols all texts would run in endless unbroken lines of letters and numbers.” 

2. “As our need to communicate in written form has grown and developed, so too have the symbols and glyphs which help us to express or clarify our meaning.” 

3. “The dollar did not originate in America; its beginning was in the silver mines of Joachimsthal in Bohemia (today in the Czech Republic and known as Jáchymov). These coins were first minted in 1519 and known as Joachimsthaler, which became shortened to thaler. The thaler was used across Europe; the Dutch called it the daler. It was the early Dutch immigrants who first took the coin to the new colonies of America. At first, because there was a severe shortage of British currency, a number of foreign coins were legal tender in the American colonies - the Spanish peso and the Portuguese 8-real piece, both large silver coins of similar weight and quality, were used interchange-ably. This ultimately led to all large silver coins being referred to as dollar', the English corruption of the Dutch daler. Hence, when the colonies gained their independence they adopted the more familiar dollar as their official currency, rather than keeping the British pound.” 

4. “The increasing use of the exclamation mark in the digital age is another example of our ever-evolving relationship with punctuation. Writing and communication are not static, but are constantly growing and changing as methods of communication develop.” 

5. “As the impact of the printing press was felt and books could now be produced more quickly and circulated more widely, reading, writing, punctuation and spelling began to become more regularized,” 

6. “The first English grammar guide was Pamphlet for Grammar (1586) by printer William Bullokar. This attempted to codify the rules of writing the English language; however, it still clung to the rules of Latin and was heavily based on William Lily's Latin Grammar (c. 1540). In 1542 Lily's work was the only book on Latin grammar authorized by Henry VIII to be taught in English schools. It was to be the foremost book on grammar for hundreds of years, being widely used right up to the nineteenth century, ensuring Latin ideas of grammar were instilled into generations of English schoolchildren. Modern English punctuation was largely set by The King's English (1906), a book on grammar and usage by brothers Henry Watson Fowler and Francis George Fowler. The book was a huge success and ushered in an era of less-is-more when it comes to marks on the page, promoting a sparer use of punctuation than had been popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.” 

7. “Punctuation was not inherent to the development of writing. It did not formalize or regularize until many hundreds of years after written languages were first created. It was not until the 166os that the word 'punctuation' began to mean the system of adding pauses into written works, and this perhaps reflects its very slow creep (with numerous tangential trips down dark alleys) on its long journey towards the system we recognize today.” 

8. “Christianity and its emphasis on written scripture was hugely influential in the development of the concept of punctuation. The clarity of God's message became increasingly important, and early punctuation marks served as a visual clue to help the reader understand how the text should be read aloud, for example by indicating pauses.” 

9. “Since its inception the apostrophe has been a controversial piece of punctuation. In part this is because its usage has shifted over time and the rules of its use took a long time to be codified, it is still somewhat in flux today.” 

10. “Copyright empowers the creator of an artistic, literary or other work to exert their rights as the owner of their work and prevent others from copying or distributing it without permission. The first copyright law was the Statute of Anne, introduced in Britain in 1710, which created a statutory right for authors. Since the introduction of the printing press in the fifteenth century the publishing trade had grown enormously, with thousands of books produced and circulated every year. As the trade flourished it became increasingly clear that some protection was needed for authors as any unscrupulous printer could copy and distribute their work without paying them a penny. The Statute of Anne was the solution, granting publishers fourteen years of legal protection for any published book. Once the fourteen years had passed the copyright would revert to the author for a further fourteen years. To ensure a work was protected it had to be registered by the Stationers' Company. Anyone breaking the copyright would be liable to a large fine and the destruction of their illegal copies. This was a groundbreaking law which not only recognized authors as the beneficiaries of copyright but also introduced the idea of it lasting for a set period of time. The law was influential and soon similar laws were passed in Denmark in 1741, in the United States in 1790 and in France in 1793.”


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

-James Baldwin

 “There's a lot of rhetoric and discussion at the turn of the

and ready to be replaced by electronic books. The question of whether the book survives and what survival would look like has deep consequences for the bookshelf. As book and bookshelf shape each other, there is a symbiosis in that relationship. We see the evolution of the digital bookshelf already expressed in a curious way--a tablet, the physical tablet, is both book and bookshelf.”

— Bookshelf by Lydua Pyne


“Bookshelves do more than catalog books; bookshelves put those books on display. On an incredibly esoteric level, we could describe the bookshelf as a linear plane a place where it is possible to group together different categories of knowledge one category here, another over there. On a pragmatic level, what books are put where on which shelves reflects the values space? order? accessibility? that shape the shelves and books. And this means that not every subject category that groups a set of books together is going to be immediately obvious to a person looking at that bookshelf.”

— Bookshelf by Lydua Pyne


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Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.3 million pageviews. With 4,400+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:

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