Once when I was helping my daughter with homework, I discovered that some things are beyond description.
Think about it. How do you explain parenthesis to someone who has never seen them before? You can’t really call them brackets. Besides, my daughter didn’t know what a bracket is either.
And how does one describe parenthesis? “Those funny little lines. One goes one way and the other goes the other way.”
It’s no wonder the poor girl started crying.
Then when I drew them, we got into another gray area. “That doesn’t look right,” she said. One of them is backwards.”
“No it’s not. They’re supposed to be that way.”
“But it looks backwards.”
“Take my word for it. It’s not.”
“Okay. But what do you call that one?”
“Uh, well, you don’t call it anything. There is no singular of parenthesis. They’re a pair. Just like a pair of shoes.”
“But you call one shoe a shoe.”
She had a point. One that stopped me cold for a second. Then I shuffled her papers together and said rather breezily, “Okay. What else did your teacher say you needed to work on tonight?”
I ran screaming from the room.
Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.