Two years after the death of Oscar Wilde one of his friends named Robert H. Sherard released a privately printed volume titled “Oscar Wilde: The Story of an Unhappy Friendship”. In 1905 the book was published publicly, and was soon followed by other biographical works about Wilde written by Sherard.
In ‘Unhappy Friendship’, Sherard recounted the comma story, and the context suggested that he’d heard the tale directly from Wilde.
While this story had appeared as early as 1884 in newspapers, under various titles including “Oscar’s Morning Work”, this retelling by Sherard became the most well known and became the basis for the many versions and adaptations of the quote that have been disseminated.
From Sherard’s telling the quote goes:
“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma.”
“And in the afternoon?”
“In the afternoon—well, I put it back again.”
For a more extensive explanation of the citations and history of this story and quite, you should check out the QuoteInvestigator’s reporting of the history of this famous quote.
I found out about this podcast through Instagram thanks to the ‘JusticeForAlissaTurney’ account managed by Alissa’s sister, Sarah. I almost didn’t look at that profile or click on the link to the podcast, but once I did, I couldn’t stop listening. Go check it out—this entire story, from Alissa’s disappearance to her stepfather Michael’s history—is fascinating.
Listening to Ottavia Zappala describe Alissa at the start of the podcast, it struck me that she was a few months older than I was, and would have graduated high school the same year I did had she not gone missing the last day of school her junior year. It’s sobering to reflect on the things I was concerned with at that time. What was I looking forward to, fearful of or worried about as a junior in high school compared to what we learn and during the course of the podcast?
This investigation lays out a story that runs much deeper than a missing girl. It tears into the underlying factors that led to Alissa’s disappearance; not only those that went completely ignored by police in 2001 when she was assumed to have runaway and was disregarded by law enforcement, but the many occurrences over the decade prior as well, when people close to Alissa and the Turney family repeatedly chose not to believe or appropriately act on evidence of sexual abuse.
Its remarkable that if not for a convicted murderer falsely confessing to killing Alissa, police never would have taken another look at her disappearance eight years later. As they investigated her case in order to corroborate or discount Thomas Albert Hymer’s confession, police began to realize that what had been dismissed as a teen runaway was likely something much worse.
But what could investigators do eight years later? Or in the ten years since Alissa’s case was reexamined? When police eventually moved obtain DNA from Michael Turney, Alissa’s stepfather, as part of this new investigation, they discovered a stockpile of weapons, pipe bombs and a detailed plan for attacking a union hall, which he believed was at the heart of a decades-long conspiracy targeting him and his family. If he was capable of that level of planning and violence, could he be responsible for Alissa’s disappearance?
The Washington Post recently published a piece in their Speaking of Science section that claimed science has finally and definitively proved the superiority of the double space after a period.
The late Roy Hobbs, who we’ve written about before, would have rejoiced at this headline if he wasn’t dead (and fictional), and subscribed to the print edition of the Washington Post, as this would be the only way he’d hear the good news. Let’s face it, he wouldn’t have owned a computer or tablet or smart phone in order to read it online, a fact he would proudly boast about as if his intentional ignorance towards technology and an evolving world in general was a badge of honor or sign of superior character.
“One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong,” read the headline that Roy would have cut out of his newspaper and mimeographed so he could mail out copies to his grandchildren.
But the devil is in the details and with all those extra spaces between sentences, and Roy’s glaucoma, he’d probably tire out and stop reading before the revelation in the article itself that the study barely proved anything at all. At the very most, it proved that those who already double space (and playfully shout at friends over the landline in their kitchen, “will until it’s pried from my cold dead fingers”) are faster readers only by milliseconds when double spaces are used. And that is the only measurable benefit. Reading comprehension is not effected at all. But when was comprehending anything actually important?
“Reading speed only improved marginally, the paper found, and only for the 21 “two-spacers,” who naturally typed with two spaces between sentences. The majority of one-spacers, on the other hand, read at pretty much the same speed either way. And reading comprehension was unaffected for everyone, regardless of how many spaces followed a period.”
So science proved two spaces are better for people who already double space and refuse to evolve. Groundbreaking.
This kind of regressive scientific study doesn’t come cheap though, so that’s why the estate of Roy Hobbs is asking for your help to keep the march of progress from taking even one step further. For a limited time you can support a cause dear to Roy’s heart by purchasing your very own “Make America Double Spaced Again.” hat.