Wednesday, May 25, 2011


If em-dashes are my favorite sleek and cute punctuation mark, semicolons are the ones I think are loneliest.  Listen to some of these quotes from various awesome people about the semicolon...
"Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college." 
--Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country 
"Let me be plain: the semi-colon is ugly, ugly as a tick on a dog's belly. I pinch them out of my prose."
--Donald Barthelme
"I have been told that the dying words of one famous 20th century writer were, 'I should have used fewer semi-colons,'--and though I have spent months fruitlessly trying to track down the chap responsible, I believe it none the less. If it turns out that no one actually did say this on their death bed, I shall certainly save it up for my own."
--Lynne Truss, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"

And, because I'm starting to pity the poor semicolon:

"With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule; with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say I gave a great respect for the semicolon; it's a very useful little chap."
--Abraham Lincoln

When I picture the personality of a semicolon I see something that's sort of awkward and mawkish, like this dog I used to know.  Mr. Pugs.  He was fat, and every time you pet him you got weird bits of dead skin on your hand, but that little pug dog really, really wanted to be liked.  He'd waddle right up to you, desperately trying to wag his curly little tail, snorting softly because he couldn't breathe very well, and you'd try to avoid him but you'd kind of feel bad because you knew that, deep down, he wanted to be useful.  He wanted to be loved.  He couldn't help the way he was.

So.  Mr. Pug in a floppy hat, looking sort of sad.  Oh, and maybe he's from France, because semicolons seem French.

What a clumsy, awkward punctuation mark.  It's called a "useful little chap" by Abraham Lincoln, though.  That's something it can be proud of.

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