TAMPA — “MITT!”
So proclaimed the signs on the GOP convention floor as Mitt Romney became the official Republican nominee.
But as Josh Greenman quipped on Twitter, “How did Mitt get an exclamation mark after his name? I’m pretty sure it’s officially a period.”
He’s right. It is grammatically incorrect to follow the name Mitt Romney with an exclamation point. In fact, sticklers for grammar advise against following Mitt with anything more excited than a semicolon, preferably one exhausted from a hard day at work holding apart independent clauses. Even that is pushing it. A question mark is best. A period is standard. An interrobang was tried, disastrously, back in 1998 after everyone around Mitt had consumed too much tequila, but that will never happen again.
As a lover of punctuation, I took it unkindly that battalions of exclamation marks were pressed into servitude at the GOP convention to accompany the official nomination of Mitt! Romney. This is not fair. This is impressment. They are signifiers, not miracle workers. You know the scene in “War Horse” or “Black Beauty” or really any movie involving horses where the weary ginger-colored horse suddenly collapses to its knees, motionless, having been placed under a yoke too heavy for it to bear? This is what I feel, gazing into the eyes of the exclamation marks tonight. “Come on!” I mutter. “Pull, Ginger!”
I understand that the whole point of this multi-day-infomercial is to gin up enthusiasm for the nominee. But if the primary process — nasty, brutish, and long — left any legacy, it is that the nomination of Mitt is the kind of inevitable if slightly unpleasant event (like death or root canals) that does not merit an “!.” Yes, I understand that nothing signifies enthusiasm like an exclamation mark. But you cannot expect them to do all the work. Adding excitement to Mitt Romney is far, far beyond the !’s pay grade.
There are so many acceptable, humane uses for the exclamation mark. F. Scott Fitzgerald said that using one was like laughing at your own joke. I frequently laugh at my own jokes, so exclamation marks are my constant companions. I also find them of use in e-mails, to indicate to the other person that I am not angry. End an e-mailed sentence with anything but an ! and I suspect that you are secretly, deeply disappointed in me. But Nominee Mitt is not a sentence. He’s a word.
Actually, come to think of it, he is a sentence. But not the kind you end with an “!.”