... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Monday, October 31, 2011

442: Semi-colons

Semi-colons are wonderful; in fact, I love them so much they give me a... actually, no I won't say that. Perhaps I should start again. Oh, I do so like those semi-colons. They are a challenge to use properly; a middle-ground between the full-stop and the comma; a tool for balancing sentences that contain more than one complete thought; a way of separating elements in lists where a comma just wouldn't cut it; a way of drawing together two sentences where a full-stop is just too severe. I use semi-colons too much, but I strive for perfection through experimentation and personal preference. I expect that whenever I am satisfied with a particular usage there will always be a pedant somewhere to tell me I have misused it.

My dad once told me an anecdote about his university days. He submitted an essay about something (Shiva is to Giant Haystacks, as Vishnu is to Big Daddy. Discuss. ...probably.) with not a semi-colon to be seen. Now the lecturer in receipt of this essay was particularly fond of semi-colons, and advised my father that he should think about taking them up. As a hobby, or whatever. The next essay he submitted (Sid Waddell and the Bhagavad Gita) was a blizzard of semi-colons. Randomly sprayed, landing in places appropriate and inappropriate alike. I suppose he was trying to use them for their aesthetic quality as opposed to properly as punctuation. They are a bit of a mystery to me; I think language should be creative as opposed to proscribed.

I have been reading about the whimsical, clandestine, creepy, litigious, horror show that is Scientology, particularly the series of articles 25 People Crippling Scientology on Village Voice. In the article about their megalomaniacal leader David Miscavige (I keep wanting to call him David Miscarriage) there is an anecdote about the time, four years ago, when Miscavige reworked some of the sacred texts of L. Ron Hubbard. The reason they needed reworking was not because they are full of imaginary, dangerous bollocks, but because the transcribers had used too many semi-colons. Miscavige announced he had replaced nearly four-thousand semi-colons with commas and full-stops, and was met with a standing ovation (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, front row centre). The audience applauded their grand dictator for allowing them to buy the books they already own, but now with new punctuation, woohoo! The less said about this weirdness, the better.

That is all my thoughts on semi-colons. I love them, and I hope you do to. I love them even more now with the knowledge that David Miscarriage hates them.

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