It’s called an ellipse. You’re supposed to use it to show omission of material in a quotation.
It’s those three little dots that we see in all sorts of places these days, and not just in quotations. Here’s what I think are the hidden meanings behind ellipse use today, especially on the internet. I’m covering both correct and incorrect use of the thing.
1.) The spoken ellipse.
This is that pause that people use when they’re trying to formulate a thought or are omitting their true feelings.
Example: When a lazy, obnoxious co-worker has announced that he is leaving the company.
What is said: “Oh, that’s…too bad.”
What is meant: “Oh, that’s the best news I’ve heard all week. I don’t know how I’ll get through the day without having to listen to your whistled show tunes. It won’t effect my workload, because I’ve already been doing your job. You’re such a douchy bastard that the fact it took you this long to leave really is too bad.”
2.) The dangled thought.
I see this one a lot on facebook, and I’ve been guilty of using it myself. It’s kind of a way of trailing off in text form.
Example: A friend’s facebook post.
What is typed: Tonight’s the big night! I can’t wait to see Junior’s play performance. It should be cute. We shall see…
What is meant: Tonight’s the big night! I can’t wait to see Junior’s play performance. It should be cute. We shall see if I cry or if I really want to gouge my eyes out with my car key.
3.) The book review.
|Look! An ellipse!|
You’ll see this one on the back cover of published books. I’m reminded of an episode of The Simpsons where Marge is reading one that says, “It’s definitely…useful.”
Example: Marge’s book.
What is published: “It’s definitely…useful.”
What is meant: “It’s definitely the biggest waste of paper I’ve ever seen. I think that if someone needed something for elephant toilet paper, this would be useful.”
Now you know the secret meanings. Go forth, enlightened.