My Problems With Punctuated Names: Joomla Edition

JoomlaOh, Joomla! For those who don’t know, Joomla! is the second most popular content management system (CMS) on the internet — a distant second to WordPress, which is what we use here at Frankly Curious. But it causes constant problems for me in my professional work, because I have to deal with sentences like this, “The three most popular CMSs are WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal.” You will probably see the problem: I hate following an exclamation mark with a comma.

But the word doesn’t have to have an exclamation mark. It could be a period, for example. Suppose some idiot marketing guru decided that a new company should be called Stop. — with the period as part of the name. Imagine that! “The three more stupid recent company names are Pause,, Stop., and What?” The one thing you can say about that is at lease “Pause,” and “Stop.” are clear. But they are only clear because they aren’t at the end of the sentence. Okay, “Pause,” would be clear: “The three more stupid recent company names are What?, Stop., and Pause,.”

Minor Problems Still Need Solving

These are the things that I think about. A lot. These are also the kinds of things that make people create (or at least use) style guides. Unfortunately, having come up in the book publishing business, I’ve only had The Chicago Manual of Style around for decades. It’s only in the last year or so that I bought The Associated Press Stylebook. But it doesn’t matter. I cannot find the issue addressed in either book.

Sure, it’s a minor issue. It doesn’t come up that much — even for me. But for months, I’ve been bouncing around, looking for a good solution. There isn’t one as far as I can tell. In the original sentence above, I could just say that the serial comma is not necessary when the next to last item ends with a punctuation mark, “The three most popular CMSs are WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal.” But that doesn’t solve the general problem. And it gives me one more special case to remember. Also: it looks terrible.

Potential Solution

What is to be done? I’ve looked around, and the consensus seems to be, “Whatever feels right at the time.” The most common cudgel is to use the exclamation point when it is convenient and not use it when it isn’t. I don’t like this — although I’ll admit that I’ve used it a lot. A better solution would be just to decide that the people who named Joomla! are stupid and that the name is simply “Joomla.” Intellectually, I like this solution very much.

Emotionally, I hate it. These nitwits decided that the name of their product is “Joomla!” Shouldn’t I respect that? Would I like it if people started calling me “George”? Admittedly, I would be innocent in this regard. There’s no reason to call me “George”; I don’t go around calling myself “Frank#@!”! And there is a very good reason for not calling me Fran: Fran Moraes.

Joomla It Is!

So I’ve decided something for this case alone. Hang on a second and I will put it in my style book… Okay, it’s done: “Joomla!” is now “Joomla.” The funny thing is that before I dictated that it always be “Joomla!” But really: could anyone be confused? “Joomla? What is this Joomla? I’ve heard of Joomla!, but never Joomla. I wonder what it could be?!” No one would be thusly confused.

Now I understand: I am effectively giving all the Joomla developers the middle finger. But I really don’t care. If their name was something common like “wow,” then I could see it. But Joomla is the English equivalent of the Swahili word “jumla,” which means “wholesale” as in “total.” It doesn’t need the exclamation mark. It isn’t a word that is in any English language dictionary.

Beyond This Case

But I am bothered by the larger issue. For example, as far as I know, Orson Welles wanted the name of his film F for Fake to be ?. See the problem? But you probably don’t need to worry about such things. Even most editors don’t worry about such things. And if Kurt Gödel taught us that algebra was ultimately inconsistent, how could we hope for English to be so? But I’ll continue to lie awake thinking about these matters. At least I have “Joomla” dealt with.

The next time someone asks me why I use WordPress, I have a great response, “Because there is no punctuation in its name.” It certainly isn’t because it’s a bad CMS. It is, in fact, a great CMS. I still need to come up with a reason for not using Drupal. Maybe, “It’s spelled wrong”?

How Democrats Win Short-Term: Ignore Schumer

Chuck SchumerSchumer’s idea is a faithful reflection of the way Congress thought about politics years ago, when Schumer was coming up through the system. It’s a totally plausible model, which assumes that vulnerable members of Congress can shore up their standing by proving to their constituents that they can win concrete achievements. That is how Schumer has built a career, and he wants to help Democrats in red states do the same, by finding some bills where they can shake hands with Trump and cut ribbons on some bridges, and so on. Schumer’s idea can be boiled down to:

Senate Democrats work with Trump → Voters conclude Senate Democrats are doing a good job → Senate Democrats win reelection.

Yet both empirical research and recent experience show that this dynamic, which seems to make sense, does not actually work at all. The truth is that voters pay little attention to legislative details, or even to Congress at all. They make decisions on the basis of how they feel about the president, not how they feel about Congress. And a major factor in their evaluation of the president is the presence or absence of partisan conflict. If a president has support from the opposition party, it tells voters he’s doing well, and they then choose to reward the president’s party down-ballot.

This dynamic played out during George W Bush’s first term. After 9/11 — an extraordinary event, to be sure — both parties rallied around Bush. This caused his approval ratings to skyrocket, and as a result, Democrats in Congress suffered an unusual beating in the 2002 midterm, which ordinarily would have been an opportunity for the opposing party to record gains. Indeed, the bipartisan halo around Bush persisted long enough to let him win reelection in 2004. Only in Bush’s second term, when partisan cooperation collapsed, did Democrats make major gains.

Under Obama, Schumer logic would have dictated that vulnerable Republicans demonstrate a willingness to work together with the extremely popular new president. Instead, the Republican Party denied any bipartisan support for almost any bill, despite the popularity of both Obama and the proposals at issue. This created a sense of partisan dysfunction that allowed Republicans to make major gains in midterm elections, despite the fact that their party and its agenda remained deeply unpopular. The actual dynamic, then, is:

Senate Democrats work with Trump → Voters conclude Trump is doing a good job → Senate Republicans and Trump win reelection


Senate Democrats don’t work with Trump → Voters conclude Trump is doing a bad job → Senate Democrats win reelection

If Schumer wants to prevent bad outcomes, he might cut some deals with Trump. But those deals are going to put his members at risk. If he wants to protect his red-state seats, he needs to drive down Trump’s approval ratings, which means fighting Trump on everything. It’s unfortunate for the Democratic Party that its most powerful elected official does not seem to understand the basic political dynamic.

–Jonathan Chait
Charles Schumer Is Leading Democrats to Their Doom, Continued