15 June 2011

Archaeologists, Palaeographers, and Punctuationists fight over cryptic dohicky

From the dawn of communication, semicolons have been misplaced.

Sans-serif font (sans gill), tertiary layer, otherwise uncontexted

Drs Martin Schone, Donalda Summers-Tjinkji, and Tim Winsome each state authoritatively that this dohicky is a:
  • comma
  • quote mark
  • inverted comma
  • decorative dingbat
  • proto-Helvetic exclamation mark
  • that top bottombottom! thingy that is part of a semicolon
In modern texts, experts are no less argumentative. However, a semicolon isn't a comma, which is what many graduates of tertiary institutions think it is. If a sentence goes on and on, and still goes on further, it may be a tedious slog that no one should have to get to the end of, but the sentence is no less tedious if a semicolon is thrown into it instead of another comma. If the sentence, however, could be cut into two sentences, that place that is the junction could be where the semicolon parks. However, a new sentence refreshes.

Semicolons are best used in places where gaslights stain the walls and the carpets are regularly beaten. * There, they give tone and can be used to great purpose, as they can emit a great aura of place and time. They are as necessary as double cream is. Deliciously rewarding at the right time and place, but rather indigestible.

Newspapers eschew them, which should of course, make the injunction against their ingestion by children under 12, an obviosity.

* The Age of Semicolons was earlier yet, tho' most of today's readers must be roped to the text or a stake if you hope them to complete a sentence from that time.
His arm was around her waist; her hand was clasped in his; her head leaned upon his shoulder; all sterner thoughts were laid aside; it was the hour of tenderness and love. They thought not of strife and battle; they thought not of difficulty and danger; they only thought that in spite of all they were each other's, and that nought but death could dissolve the bond between them.
– G.P.R. James (1801–1860), The Fortunes of the Colville Family

Editor's suggestion: Insert comma between 'all' and 'they'.


JP said...

I loved this piece; but that was an obviosity.

anna tambour said...

I love that you loved this piece.