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Milf Teeth

Death to Exclamation Marks

Courgettes!! Toilet roll!! AAA batteries!!!!! Oyster Card top up!!!!!!!!! Grazia!!!!!!!!!!!
July 5, 2013, 3:35pm

So this is what I do when someone else has been looking after my child and we’ve had a long day apart from each other. I walk into the room where my little girl is, call her name, and say “Mummy’s here!” and she turns around and comes running into my arms. She trips over her little feet 'cos she can’t get to me fast enough, and I squeeze her so tight, and she squeals with joy, her blonde curls all cherubic around her sweet little chubby face, and I say to her, in a really excited manner, “Devastating news! Everyone in our family has been killed in a tragic car crash on the London orbital motorway known more commonly as the M25!” and she gets all excited and squeals again because she’s not yet two and hasn’t got a fucking clue what I’m talking about.

What this shows us is how you can persuade people to enjoy things they didn’t plan to enjoy if you talk about those things in a super enthusiastic tone of voice. Honestly, politicians spend so long trying to work on policies that will appeal to the public – crowd-pleasers, vote-winners, etc – when really they could save a lot of time and effort if they just announced all their new policies in a cheerier tone of voice, with a few exclamation marks in it. “Benefits cuts!!!!” “Let’s close down the hospitals!!!!” “BURNING DEATH!!!!!!!!” It’s like when Fearne Cotton is out reporting on some royal related jamboree and she passes a mic to a member of the public and they say something terrible about the queues they have endured just to stand here in this pitiful weather in Broken Britain today and she goes “Brilliant!” and takes the mic away again and there are no problems anywhere in the world. Because of the exclamation mark that lives inside her voice. And this is perhaps why the British say that Americans can’t do irony – because many Americans live with that exclamation mark, too.

Of course, there is the other method of crowd control, where you don’t put the punctuation mark inside your voice, but instead grow it across your face. I am talking about Nick Cave and his starless, bible-black, eyebrows of hypnosis. Those eyebrows that are actually inverted exclamation marks, smeared across a face with just a smidgen of nose in the way, so powerful in their powers of persuasion that they led a girl dressed all in white to her death at Glastonbury. Alright, so she didn’t actually die. In fact, she looked remarkably well, as she rose from the crowd during the song Stagger Lee, and Nick crowdsurfed over towards her, and they sort of held each other’s gaze throughout the song, as they bobbed about romantically on other people’s sore shoulders. And he made love to her with his tender lyrics, singing the story of a man getting shot, counting the holes in the motherfucker’s head, kicking motherfuckers to the ground. And all the power in the world was contained within his eyebrows. And she died. Alright, I’ve got to stop saying that, as she almost certainly lived, but I’m fairly sure her own mind has now been replaced by Nick Cave and that he controls her at all hours of day and night like a remote control car, even though she lives in Germany. I’m pretty convinced his eyebrows are sending messages straight to her brain.

At primary school they taught us to use exclamation marks. And then in journalism they talked us out of them again. Don’t use them, you’re told, if you write for newspapers. They look bad. Make the words do the work. And so your jokes get drier, unable to say "Hey, look at me I’m a joke!!" They grow sharper, cleverer, snider, because the exclamation marks have died, and your funny lines can no longer go, 'Look at me I’m so funny! Look at me, I’m the bit that’s a joke!" And then there comes a day when you look at your life and realise it basically IS an exclamation mark, at the end of somebody else’s joke. God’s joke.

Sometimes when I’m writing notes to myself, I’ll write a line like “We’ve gone from the school of hard knocks to the school of hard drive.” And then I’ll think, Sophie, that is a truly dreadful line. That is just appalling. That is the worst thing you’ve ever written today. So then I try adding a string of exclamation marks to it, to see if it gets any funnier. “We’ve gone from the school of hard knocks to the school of hard drive!!!!!!” It never does. Sometimes I write shopping lists full of exclamation marks. Courgettes!! Toilet roll!! AAA batteries!!!!! Oyster Card top up!!!!!!!!! Grazia!!!!!!!!!!!

The thing is though, I’m from the north. I was raised by direwolves. Seriously, death to exclamation marks, they’re about as appealing as skin grafts.

Follow Sophie on Twitter: @heawood

Previously – It Is Important for Humans to Have Regrets