"Great Britain and the United States are two nations separated by a common language." That's the stock witticism, but if you ask me, it gets things backwards. Great Britain and the U.S. are more like two nations united by a divided language — or more precisely, by their mutual obsession with their linguistic differences. For 200 years now, writers from each nation have been tirelessly picking over the language of the other, with a mix of amusement, condescension, derision and horror.
It's word-of-the-year time again. Collins Dictionary chose "Fake news" and Dictionary.com went with "complicit." Others have proposed #metoo, "alternative facts," "take a knee," "resistance" and "snowflake."
The only literary work about punctuation I'm aware of is an odd early story by Anton Chekhov called "The Exclamation Mark." After getting into an argument with a colleague about punctuation, a school inspector named Yefim Perekladin asks his wife what an exclamation point is for. She tells him it signifies delight, indignation, joy and rage. He realizes that in 40 years of writing official reports, he has never had the need to express any of those emotions.
In 2017 alone, Merriam-Webster added more than 1,000 words to its dictionary. Noah Webster himself might have struggled to define these new English terms — such as binge-watch, humblebrag, photobomb, NSFW, truther, face-palm and listicle.