In Reply to: Period posted by Parthian on September 23, 2008 at 16:27:
: : : : I am a subscriber to your 'A phrase a week' service and I was wondering if you could help me out with something that is stuck on mind since a couple of months. If you have seen the movie The Pursuit of Happiness there is a scene where Will Smith is talking to his son telling him about how he should never let anyone tell him he can't do something and he goes like," If you want something go get it. Period". I never really understood what adding 'period' to the end of a sentence meant. I thought you could help me out.
: : : A period is that little mark you have put at the end of each sentence which in British English is known as a full stop. The usage you are describing places emphasis on this idea.
: : : If you want something, go get it - period - full stop - I have spoken - there is nothing more to be said - don't ask questions, don't quibble, don't argue - that's the way it is.
: : Period. (End of statement.)
: :'full-stop' is equally strange,but where does 'period' come from?A 'period' is sort of a pause,whereas a 'full-stop' is an end of everything.
(TRUTH IN POSTING: The following paragraph has had some help from the OED.)
I don't think I quite understand Parthian's reservations: "'full-stop' is equally strange. . ." Equally strange as what? In ye olden tymes a stop was any mark of punctuation. A full stop was the mark at the end of a sentence, to wit, the dot. In telegrams the words "full stop" were used for "end of sentence." You hear it sometimes in old movies.
Period has traditionally been used not only for a period of time, but also for the end of something, a conclusion. In speeches it has sometimes been used for the peroration, and in this sense doubtless has some relation to periodic structure (of sentences). One tries to shape one's sentence so that the biggest bang, the kicker, the most significant word or phrase, comes at the end.