Punctuation and not being creepyFebruary 8, 2010
“I figured something out the other day on Facebook,” says Ninja Vicki. “You cannot type the phrase “happy birthday” onto one of your friends’ comment boxes without using an exclamation point at the end of it.”
“You’re on Facebook?” I say. “That’s a rather non-ninja thing to do.”
“I stole someone else’s Facebook profile,” says Ninja Vicki. “I use it to stalk people like Samurai Cathy.”
“So why is the exclamation point the only suitable punctuation for the phrase Happy Birthday?” I say.
“Because if you just use a period, it comes across as either really cold or really creepy,” says Ninja Vicki. “There’s supposed to be some enthusiasm when you declare Happy Birthday to someone, which the exclamation point provides. Just putting a period in gives it the same inflection as something like ‘This hat is blue.'”
“I see what you’re saying,” I say. “There are too many ways a sentence with a period can be taken. Is it happy? Sad? Sarcastic even? Is there an undercurrent of menace to it? A bit of low-simmering anger or cold vengeance running through it? Whereas the exclamation point makes it clear what your intentions are in saying Happy Birthday.”
“If I were to just write ‘Happy Birthday.’ on Samurai Cathy’s Facebook page, you would be inclined to read it like some sort of action movie one-liner right before killing someone, right?” says Ninja Vicki. “With an exclamation point, that threat isn’t there.”
“What about multiple exclamation points?” I say.
“Anymore than three and it’s a sign of mental illness,” says Ninja Vicki. “And the use of the triple exclamation point set should be rare and allocated for only the most exclamation-worthy declarations.”
“Like ‘I’m not the father!!!'” I say. “Or ‘the AIDS test is negative!!!'”
“I ‘d have to do more research to see if using a period instead of an exclamation point is just as creepy when when used to wish someone a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year, but I’m pretty sure it is,” says Ninja Vicki. “But that research will have to wait until December.”
“Well, there’s one thing we can test right now to see if it’s creepy,” I say.
Happy Valentine’s Day.