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9 Ways To Say Jonathan Franzen Is Sassy

My favorite punctuation is the question mark. I’m a curious, research-oriented kind of guy, so it fits.

My least favorite? The exclamation point. I hate them. Up until recently, I never used exclamation points in my writing. But I’ve recently started scattering them around every now and then to be ironic or to actually show a small amount of forced enthusiasm. I also don’t mind using them in casual writing.

When it comes to punctuation in the English language, here’s what I find interesting–and what must be a nightmare for non-native speakers. You can write the exact same thing and, by using different punctuation, change the meaning a dozen times.

Here’s what I mean.  Let’s say you want to make a comment about Jonathan Franzen’s vivacious personality. You might say:

Jonathan Franzen is sassy.

Now there’s a nice, declarative statement. Straight to the point. But you might want to inject a little forced energy, so you say:

Jonathan Franzen is sassy!

Wowsers! That’s some excitable writing! But maybe you want to tone back the energy, and just let your thoughts about Jonathan Franzen’s sassiness tail off a little bit.

Jonathan Franzen is sassy…

With the ending ellipses, you don’t want to take a firm stand on Jonathan Franzen’s sassiness. You’re making a statement, but you’re also implying there might be more to the story. You’re adding mystery to the element of Jonathan Franzen’s sassiness. Well played. Another fun way to implement the ellipses:

Jonathan Franzen is…sassy.

Oh, you’re so dramatic. We were waiting. We knew you had some insight into Jonathan Franzen. And those three little dots added so much drama. Were you going to say he loves pomegranates or is a pioneer of fashion? We never knew until you finally told us about his sassiness.

Jonathan Franzen is sassy?

Really? Jonathan Franzen is sassy? I never knew that. Are you sure about this? I swear I read somewhere that he actually isn’t very sassy at all, that people approach him in the street and say, “Wow, you just aren’t that sassy, are you?” But here you are saying he is sassy.

“Jonathan Franzen is sassy.”

It wasn’t me. You see, that other guy said Franzen is sassy. That’s why it’s in quotes. Don’t blame me if rumors begin spreading about him being sassy. Not my fault. Those are quotation marks right there, my friend.

“Jonathan Franzen is…sassy.”

How about this one? It’s excellent usage of the quotation marks AND the ellipses. Maybe your friend says,  “Jonathan Franzen is lactose intolerant and sassy,” and you love that insight into his sassiness, but you don’t really care about his lactose issues, so some quotation marks here and an ellipses there, and voila!

Jonathan Franzy [is] sassy.

Ah yes, the brackets. This one is an article-writing trick that is often used ethically, but it could be misused if that was one’s desire. So let’s say Jonathan Franzen used to have a sasstastic personality, but, in recent years, has mellowed out on the sass-o-meter. He is sassy no more, but you’re not a fan and you want to misrepresent the current state of Jonathan Franzen’s sassiness. The bracket lets you easily change was to [is], thereby making Jonathan Franzen’s hard-earned sassiness rehabilitation obsolete.

Jonathan Franzen is sassy.

Think Tim Gunn’s voice as you read this one. For example: “Designers, I’d like to see that low-cut jean skirt you’ve always dreamed of designing. Make it sassy.” The italics just give a little added emphasis to Jonathan Franzen’s sassiness. You know that he isn’t your average run-of-the-mill sassy author. He’s no William Gibson or Philip Roth. This Franzen guy, he’s really sassy.

That’s it.

Maybe there’s other ways to talk about Jonathan Franzen’s sassiness, but I’m sassed out.

What about an asterisk? Hashtag? Creative way to use a colon or semicolon?

What are some other ways to say the same thing?

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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39 Comments Post a comment
  1. JF is . . . sassy ??

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  2. Matt #

    Of course Franzen loves fashion! Look at those glasses.

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  3. Zero punctuation In the style of Cormac Macarthy –
    the judge said jonathan franzen is sassy

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  4. Blair #

    Love it

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  5. bba #

    One of my favorite uses of the question mark is by Richard Price. He uses it in dialogue often not to signify a question, but to establish the tone of voice of the speaker. I’ve always found that a rather elegant technique. It really makes the conversations jump off the page. Well, that and the words are pretty great too.

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  6. This is my favorite post so far.

    Best. Post. Ever. (!)

    Like

    June 14, 2013
    • Thanks! I wasn’t sure how many people would “get” it. I have a strange sense of humor sometimes.

      Like

      June 14, 2013
      • bba #

        This post was supposed to be funny? Huh.

        Like

        June 14, 2013
        • Thanks for the ringing endorsement. More informative than funny, but slightly funny. The idea of Jonathan Franzen begin sassy is the catch. But it’s never a good sign when you have to explain a “joke.”

          Like

          June 14, 2013
          • Robert, you have a great sense of humor! (the ! is just for you) AND I like to imagine Franzen as “sassy”. I think it’s the glasses…I mean I love his writing but it’s something about his look that makes you believe he just might be…

            Like

            June 14, 2013
          • Thanks, KC!

            Like

            June 17, 2013
  7. cchung90 #

    Thanks for the post! My favorite punctuation has become the ellipses… I use them at the end of sentences in email and texts quite frequently, to soften the tone at the end (“I’ll try to meet you after dinner…”), because a period can come across as quite definitive, whereas in speaking we can modulate our voice to soften sentences.

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  8. You know one reason he is sassy? He loves bird watching!!! Yea .. that’s right!

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  9. Oh Lacan, Kristeva et al and all the language/culture theorists would give this one a grin. Your discussion is so much more entertaining than:

    “The ‘punctuation’ of the chain of signifiers in analysis gives the subject space to breathe, but that system of signifiers that appears in a chain in the articulation of a discourse and in the act of speaking is itself already structured. There is a history to the punctuation of written text, and that history presupposes a view of what language is really like.”

    Parkes, M. B. (1992) Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West London: Scolar Press.

    Like

    June 14, 2013
    • Wow, that’s an actual quotation from an academic text? At first I thought it was a parody.

      Like

      June 15, 2013
      • It’s as real as it gets. I studied literary theory while getting my MFA. Sometimes, you hit a wall of “unreadability” :o)

        Like

        June 15, 2013
  10. Is anyone else picturing Phil Hartman saying “Ssssssassy!”

    Thanks for the laugh. I hope JF reads this 🙂

    Like

    June 14, 2013
    • I was. RIP Phil.

      Like

      June 15, 2013
    • That’s great. I was probably subconsciously channeling him there. I totally forgot about that skit.

      Like

      June 17, 2013
  11. If you like this, try ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynne Truss ….

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  12. Robert, Call of the Siren (http://nickowchar.wordpress.com/) and I (www.jilannehoffmann.com) are hosting a “Show Us Your Shelves” blog hop, where bloggers post photos of their bookshelves. Call it literary curiosity or just plain nosiness, we’d love for you or any of your readers to participate.

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  13. Jennifer Allison #

    Jonathan Franzen? Sassy!
    Oh him? Most definitely sassy.

    Jonathan FranzenSassy.
    Who needs spaces when you want a cool nickname.

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  14. onsiu #

    Sassy, Johnathan Frazen is.

    Master Yoda’s style.

    Like

    June 15, 2013
  15. onsiu #

    Sassy, Jonathan Franzen is.

    Master Yoda’s style.

    Like

    June 15, 2013
  16. How about “John Franzen is: sassy.” Announcer-style.

    Like

    June 15, 2013
  17. Jonathan Franzen is sassy?! I’m surprised but superexcited by that information.

    Like

    June 15, 2013
  18. Jonathan franzan is “sassy”. Beig sarcastic with the use of the word sassy.
    I love this post!

    Like

    June 16, 2013
  19. That’s a very clever post. Isn’t punctuation amazing?

    Like

    June 17, 2013
  20. I would agree. I love the power that the ? has to create conversation. I think there should be a variation of the ? added to the english language. I believe there should be a punctuation mark that denotes when a question is rhetorical. Perhaps language will evolve in such a way that just as one can show their emotions with emoticons there will be symbols that will show conversational intent through emoticon like symbols.

    Like

    June 21, 2013
  21. Grammar is as much a part of language as are letters and words. Good post.

    Like

    June 22, 2013
  22. Reblogged this on gemmamillenson.

    Like

    July 10, 2013
  23. Sassy or not sassy, that’s not the question. For me, in french, is it : insolent? culotté? rebelle? classe? all of that? someone says it’s only for girls..not possible to be so sexist.

    Like

    July 26, 2013

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