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In the future they have no spaces
Wednesday, July 11, 2007   9:32 PM

I just finished reading Alex Robinson's Box Office Poison. Apparently it's a work of some note; all I know is that it was pretty cool, much better than the other graphic novels I checked out. A nice surprise, since I thought it would suck.

Equally surprising was my discovery that the phrase box office poison is fairly old, an apparent Americanism dating back at least to the 1920s and probably decades earlier.

One of the main characters in Box Office Poison is an English major who works at a bookstore, and the book features a number of stupid customer stories. For my part, I think that Robinson is a bit hard on people who mispronounce titles and authors' names: there are a lot of people out there who can't pronounce Don Quixote. In high school I was fairly well-read for my age, but I wouldn't have known to say "kee-HO-tee" if not for an episode of The Simpsons.

The adjective quixotic did not help matters: I was often unjustly accused of mangling it.

But whatever. The stupid customer stories help establish the Robinson's authority, and so we know that his decision to write alot is a conscious one, and that characters using alot aren't ignorant. It's an interesting choice.

Despite widespread public usage (as any editor could attest), alot has few defenders among the usage mavens. I have the "A Lot Is Two Words" comic up in my cubicle now and I'm fairly certain that my coworkers aren't laughing at the same joke.

It's nice to see someone standing up for the silent (but alas, inconsistent) majority and using alot in situations where we're not meant to think the character is uneducated.

(The decision to decaptalize Croesus, if indeed it was, is more troubling. Also, has anyone tracked Rich as Croesus vs. Richer than Croesus? I'm curious.)

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