I am currently reading the 2004 bestseller by Lynne Truss, Eats Shoots & Leaves
, which probably can best be described as a humorous approach to grammar and puncuation: Sloppy grammar and/or punctuation can lead, at times, to some undesirable results.
The title to the book is actually explained on its back cover:
A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.
"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes toward the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"I'm a panda," he says at the door. "Look it up."
The waiter turns to the relevant entry, and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."
Admittedly, this requires a different spelling for the homophone, chutes
. But the point is well taken: A (seemingly) very minor alteration can make for an enormous difference in meaning.
Although the author gives several examples of this, very early on, she neglects to mention one of my favorites. It is from the New Testament; more specifically, it is from Romans 1:13a, in which the apostle Paul declares the following:
Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren...
With just the slightest alteration--and remember, the Koine Greek of the first century contained no punctuation; so it is entirely arbitrary--we can produce the following:
Now I would not have you, ignorant brethren...
My, what a difference the mere placement of a comma makes...