Random Quote #36 topic: bierce-devil, The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
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FLY-SPECK, n. The prototype of punctuation. It is observed by
Garvinus that the systems of punctuation in use by the various
literary nations depended originally upon the social habits and
general diet of the flies infesting the several countries. These
creatures, which have always been distinguished for a neighborly and
companionable familiarity with authors, liberally or niggardly
embellish the manuscripts in process of growth under the pen,
according to their bodily habit, bringing out the sense of the work by
a species of interpretation superior to, and independent of, the
writer's powers. The "old masters" of literature -- that is to say,
the early writers whose work is so esteemed by later scribes and
critics in the same language -- never punctuated at all, but worked
right along free-handed, without that abruption of the thought which
comes from the use of points. (We observe the same thing in children
to-day, whose usage in this particular is a striking and beautiful
instance of the law that the infancy of individuals reproduces the
methods and stages of development characterizing the infancy of
races.) In the work of these primitive scribes all the punctuation is
found, by the modern investigator with his optical instruments and
chemical tests, to have been inserted by the writers' ingenious and
serviceable collaborator, the common house-fly -- _Musca maledicta_.
In transcribing these ancient MSS, for the purpose of either making
the work their own or preserving what they naturally regard as divine
revelations, later writers reverently and accurately copy whatever
marks they find upon the papyrus or parchment, to the unspeakable
enhancement of the lucidity of the thought and value of the work.
Writers contemporary with the copyists naturally avail themselves of
the obvious advantages of these marks in their own work, and with such
assistance as the flies of their own household may be willing to
grant, frequently rival and sometimes surpass the older compositions,
in respect at least of punctuation, which is no small glory. Fully to
understand the important services that flies perform to literature it
is only necessary to lay a page of some popular novelist alongside a
saucer of cream-and-molasses in a sunny room and observe "how the wit
brightens and the style refines" in accurate proportion to the
duration of exposure.



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