[The Forlorn Grammarian]
The unfocused byproduct of
www.simulacri.com's incisive brilliance

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I'm Tired Of All These Male Influences Ridiculing My Punctuation

A few weeks back there was a piece in the Boston Globe about semicolons. I know what you're thinking: Oh great, Jono! Semicolons! We sure do fucking love semicolons, and they are just so exciting. I know, right? Semicolons are great. I thought so too. I know I use them more than I should; in fact, if you look closely, you'll see I just used one right now. According to gruff old newsmen, this makes me less than a woman.

And Kilpatrick, in a 2006 column, restated those sentiments at a higher pitch, calling the semicolon "girly," "odious," and "the most pusillanimous, sissified, utterly useless mark of punctuation ever invented."

Then Kurt Vonnegut compared them to hermaphrodites.

I'm occasionally asked whether or not a piece of grammar or syntax or usage is correct, and I never respond with any confidence anymore. Any answer I could give would start out with me going, "Well, in AP you'd do this, and in MLA you'd do this, and if you're using Chicago you'd thumb through their gigantic Goddamned phonebook for three hours until you finally found two passages that gave contradictory instructions and then a third that tells you to actually just do whatever you want, and you'd go 'Yeah thanks, Chicago,' and throw the book in the trash where it belongs. So to answer your question I don't know."

My point is that stuff like this semicolon debate fuels my uncertainty. People don't want that. They want to be told that grammar is like math, not that grammar is like a kind of math wherein the professors call each other dickless cowards for using those curly script 2s instead of the good old heterosexual flat-based 2s.

At least when it was Tycho making fun of my semicolons, I didn't really feel like I was in any personal danger; his prose is so articulate and sonorous that I could never imagine him punching me around while demanding that I act more like fucking Hemingway, you simpering little fraud! which is what I get when I imagine Kilpatrick, who is after all an 88-year old who opposed desegregation. I feel like he'd take one look at my flowery-ass writing and die of rage.

Sex And The Semicolon