This is definitely going to be reoccurring since I love playing with punctuation / playing in general. I do it to some extent with UpMeDownMe and it’s something I’ll probably continue to play with as the novel progresses. I already drop commas left and right in it, on purpose – to the dismay of any editor. And it is also there that I discovered my love of hyphens, the long pause comma of writing. Also parentheses (they’re something entirely different).

Something that’s always interested me is the |. I come from a math background and | is used quite often. It reads something like this:

S = {x in A | x is an element of B}

This reads in set notation that S is a set containing elements of A *such that *x is also an element of B. A set, for the non-mathematical, is simply a group of things. This can be numbers, such as {1,2,3, 4}, or furniture {table, chair, bed}. So if A is a set things containing all Edwardian furniture, and B is the set of all tables, then S is the set of Edwardian tables. Or another way to read this is that A is the set {1,2,3,4} and B is the set of prime numbers {1,2,3,5,7,11…}. So S is {1,2,3} since 1, 2, and 3 are both in the set A and also prime.

For a bit of background… Set theory was created by Georg Cantor, who also discovered that there are different sizes of infinity. That is, he invented naive set theory. It took Abraham Fraenkel and Ernst Zermelo to produce the modern set theory that we have today – which is the foundation for all of math that we use. I once had a wonderful semester building modern calculus up from basic set theoretic beginnings. And all set theory uses | in its notation.

I wonder if it’s possible to train the reader to its use. Replacing because and in order to with it. Let’s try it. I want to do this | there is more than one form of english out there. Of all the different languages there is more than mere english – there is a diminutive subset of it that forms the international language of mathematics | standardize and formalize difficult concepts into a format that no one will object to once they know how the language flows and its rules.

Not that successful.

Maybe I’m taking the literal translation of | too seriously. Math has it’s use, but it also uses to express relation between concepts. The concept of elements in set A and elements in set B.

The cat found itself stuck in the tree | there because it is a moron that doesn’t learn from its own mistakes.

Better. Maybe it can also be used in place of parentheses.

The cat [a grey tabby affair that never seems to attract the eye in any traditional sense, but is loveably cute according to its owner (who is insane)] is stuck in the goddam tree again.

Instead this could be:

The cat | a grey tabby affair that never seems to attract the eye in any traditional sense, but is loveably cute according to its owner (who is insane) | is pathetically stuck in the goddam tree again because of its own moronic leanings toward climbing outdoors.

What do you think? Does | have a place in modern english writing?

James