On the Dot: The Speck That Changed the World

Hardcover | October 15, 2008

byAlexander Humez, Nicholas Humez

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Despite the humble origins of its name (Anglo Saxon for "the speck at the head of a boil"), the dot has been one of the most versatile players in the history of written communication, to the point that it has become virtually indispensable. Now, in On the Dot, Alexander and Nicholas Humezoffer a wide ranging, entertaining account of this much overlooked and miniscule linguistic sign. The Humez brothers shed light on the dot in all its various forms. As a mark of punctuation, they show, it plays many roles - as sentence stopper, a constituent of the colon (a clause stopper), and the ellipsis (dot dot dot). In musical notation, it denotes "and a half." In computerese, it hasseveral different functions (as in dot com, the marker between a file name and its extension, and in some slightly more arcane uses in programming languages). The dot also plays a number of roles in mathematics, including the notation of world currency (such as dollars dot cents), in Morse code(dots and dashes), and in the raised dots of Braille. And as the authors connect all these dots, they take readers on an engaging tour of the highways and byways of language, ranging from the history of the question mark and its lesser known offshoots the point d'ironie and the interrobang, toacronyms and backronyms, power point bullets and asterisks, emoticons and the "at-sign." Playful, wide-ranging, and delightfully informative, On the Dot reveals how thoroughly the dot is embedded in our everyday world of words and ideas, acquiring a power inversely proportional to its diminutive size.

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From the Publisher

Despite the humble origins of its name (Anglo Saxon for "the speck at the head of a boil"), the dot has been one of the most versatile players in the history of written communication, to the point that it has become virtually indispensable. Now, in On the Dot, Alexander and Nicholas Humezoffer a wide ranging, entertaining account of th...

Alexander Humez has authored or co-authored ten trade and reference books, including collaborations with his brother such as Latin for People, Alpha to Omega, A B C Et Cetera, and Zero to Lazy Eight (also with J. Maguire). He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. Nicholas Humez is a freelance writer and silversmith. In addition to the a...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 8.25 × 5.75 × 1 inPublished:October 15, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195324994

ISBN - 13:9780195324990

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Table of Contents

Preface1. Time and Chance: Punctuality and the Coin Toss2. Dit Dah: Codes to Sigh For3. With a Bullett: Checklists and Dingbats4. ...And a Half: Musical Dots5. For Short: Mr., Sr., et al.6. Dot Dot Dot: Ellipses, Lacunae, and Missing Links7. Stet: Emendations of Immortality8. Ninety-Eight Point Six: Decimals and Determinings9. Dot Com: Computation Punctuation10. Bang! The Dot Meets the Family11. Period: The End PointAfterword and AcknowledgmentsNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"An engrossing collection of curiosities that rewards dipping in and out at one's leisure." --Library Journal "In the emendations of proofreaders, the computer coding of internet engineers, the calculations of accountants, and the musical notations of composers, the Humez brothers catalogue an impressive array of meanings conveyed by the dot. The author's lively inquiries open surprising political and literary insights. Who would have guessed, in short, that a mere speck of ink could inspire such a fascinating foray?" --Booklist "Ideal for etymologists and trivia buffs, this book covers an array of information and innovations on the relevance of this speck, from the preDewey decimal library of Alexandria to the modern global culture of URLs, instant messaging and the music of Stevie Wonder." --Publisher's Weekly