NEW YORK — Isn’t it “funny” how something can “really annoy” you for ages and then you discover via “the Internet” that the same thing “really annoys” thousands of “other people,” too?
The blight that Bethany Keeley exposes on her “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks (http:// quotation-marks.blogspot.com) is of a benign sort, of course, nothing like global warming or endangered wildlife.
But it bothers people mightily just the same, as this 24-year-old grad student and language-lover has discovered from the hundreds, occasionally thousands, of visitors she gets daily. And nary a day goes by when she doesn’t receive a bunch of e-mails with photographic evidence of quote abuse, misuse or overuse.
n—The sign in Fletcher, Okla., which advertised a tractor club’s ANNUAL SHOW — “Labor Day Weekend.”
n—The restaurant billboard in Madison, Wis., which felt the need to put quotes around “Lunch” and “Dinners.”
n—The bathroom sign that asked visitors to Leave the Light “On” during business hours. (“On” was also underlined. Twice.)
n—The currently featured “Good Luck Amy” cake, which not only wastes frosting on those quote marks, but also adds parentheses around the whole message.
There’s also a regular stop sign with a handwritten “Stop” beneath it, for good measure apparently. Then there’s the security guard at a rest area in Mississippi, a “SECURITY GUARD” sign beneath him that unwittingly casts doubt on the whole enterprise.
Keeley comes from, you might say, a long line of unnecessary-quote watchers, the whole thing having started as a longtime family joke. A communications student who specializes in rhetoric at the University of Georgia in Athens, she started her blog in 2005 after her senior year in college in Michigan. (Her boyfriend, also a rhetoric student but in Maryland, is a frequent contributor. And proofreader.)
The blog wasn’t noticed much at first. But about six months ago, things started picking up. “You know how it happens — one person links to you, then others do. Also, everyone has camera phones now,” Keeley said in a phone interview. Earlier this week, she was linked on Yahoo, which quadrupled her traffic for a couple days to about 2,000 hits — though her record is still about 3,000 in a day.
What draws people? The humor, but also partly, Keeley admits, a sense of superiority, at least grammatically speaking — something she tries to avoid herself. “I don’t consider myself a prescriptivist or a pedant,” she says (really). “So I’m open to critiques of my own language. I make plenty of mistakes myself.”