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 towards 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.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves markets itself as "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation", but really Lynne Truss stresses the importance of personal preference so very often that it's hard to credit this. In fact, I'm not entirely sure what this book is. My first instinct is to say "gripe".
It's a fun little read, and certainly Truss does seem rather intolerant of "ignorance". But the grammar rules are none too easy to follow, and the general line of the book doesn't really crop up until the last chapter, a somewhat hysterical and panicky overreaction to the "bloody electronic signal". This was published ten years ago. We still have punctuation. The internet is still flooded by sticklers for grammar. The punctuation crisis that Truss predicts has not happened.
Still, the book is amusing enough. One of my favourite passages:
Evidently an A level in English is a sacred trust, like something out of The Lord of the Rings. You must go forth with your A level and protect the English language with your bow of elfin gold.
There are some interesting tidbits about the history of punctuation, too, interesting without being dull, and useful pointers on the difference between British and American standard usage. Not a bad read, at all - even if the author is a little dotty.