On the Dot: The Speck That Changed the World

Alexander Humez, Author, Nicholas Humez, Author . Oxford Univ. $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-19-532499-0

Usually overlooked, the dot is given star treatment by the Humez brothers, established writers on language (Latin for People ), who cheerfully explore the dot's influence on language through history in this dense, tangent-filled book. Explaining that this is the “smallest meaningful symbol that one can make” with any writing or carving tool, the authors assert that the dot “has been one of the most versatile players in the history of human communication.” Without it, Braille and Morse code would not exist; it would be harder to distinguish dollars from cents and hours from minutes; and music would have no half-beat. Even bullet points, the authors argue, are not unique to Power Point presentations but have been discovered in an ancient Egyptian tomb as the chief scribe of the tomb workers noted the completion of each vital task on his checklist. Ideal for etymologists and trivia buffs, this book covers an array of information and innovations on the relevance of this “speck,” from the pre–Dewey decimal library of Alexandria to the modern global culture of URLs, instant messaging and the music of Stevie Wonder. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/11/2008
Release date: 10/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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