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Semicolon
Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark | Cecelia Watson
12 posts | 4 read | 21 to read
A page-turning, existential romp through the life and times of the worlds most polarizing punctuation mark The semicolon. Stephen King, Hemingway, Vonnegut, and Orwell detest it. Herman Melville, Henry James, and Rebecca Solnit love it. But why? When is it effective? Have we been misusing it? Should we even care? In Semicolon, Cecelia Watson charts the rise and fall of this infamous punctuation mark, which for years was the trendiest one in the world of letters. But in the nineteenth century, as grammar books became all the rage, the rules of how we use language became both stricter and more confusing, with the semicolon a prime victim. Taking us on a breezy journey through a range of examplesfrom Miltons manuscripts to Martin Luther King Jr.s Letters from Birmingham Jail to Raymond Chandlers The Big SleepWatson reveals how traditional grammar rules make us less successful at communicating with each other than wed think. Even the most die-hard grammar fanatics would be better served by tossing the rule books and learning a better way to engage with language. Through her rollicking biography of the semicolon, Watson writes a guide to grammar that explains why we dont need guides at all, and refocuses our attention on the deepest, most primary value of language: true communication.
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review
Lindy
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A highly entertaining history & current use commentary on a punctuation mark that isn‘t for “highfalutin snobs,” but for anyone who loves language. “If we can learn to see past rules as the *only* framework with which we can understand and learn to use language, we might be able to see what purposes rules could *really* serve.” From the badassery of Elizabeth Anscombe, to liquor laws & the death penalty, the semicolon has great stories!

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Lindy
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The US Supreme Court has ruled that “punctuation is a most fallible standard by which to interpret a writing.” Taking it even further, courts have opined that “punctuation is no part of the English language.”

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Lindy
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It got worse: 3 years later, the parenthesis had gone from Quasimodo to quasi ghost, [being deemed] “nearly obsolete.” The curved marks that humanist thinker Desiderius Erasmus had romantically called “little moons” (lunulae) had crashed down to earth.

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Lindy
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Uncertainty, after all, is very human, and can call forth our best human virtues.

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Lindy
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A review of his 1904 book, The Golden Bowl, appeared under the heading “A Novel for the Select Few.”

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Lindy
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Punctuation has to be judged by how it shapes the text in which it‘s situated. The problem, for writers and readers, is how to go about figuring out whether punctuation is any good or not without the security of a book of rules. It‘s a tough thing to do, to learn to let go of getting answers from stylebooks and to replace that practice with asking exploratory questions about our texts.

tournevis English only. 2mo
Lindy @tournevis The author mentions that Turkish and Arabic are two other languages with much discussion over the use of semicolons. 2mo
tournevis @Lindy Oh, the semi-colon!!! Why is something that should be straight forward gets so complicated! However, my comment was cheekily referring to the fact romance languages have very clear and strict ponctuation rules. 2mo
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Lindy
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Kurt Vonnegut was unequivocal in his last book, advising writers, “Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you‘ve been to college.”

AlaMich Well that seems a bit harsh;;;;;;;; 2mo
Come-read-with-me @Lindy Love this!!!!! 2mo
Lindy @AlaMich Agreed! I‘m a big fan of this mark. 2mo
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Lindy @Come-read-with-me Ha! I‘m going to have to hold myself back from quoting right and left from this delightful book. 2mo
Ruthiella But I love semicolons! 😳 2mo
Lindy @Ruthiella Me too! 2mo
marleed I would consider this; however, I kinda love a well-placed semicolon ;) 2mo
Tanisha_A Yes, I love semi-colons too. 2mo
Ruthiella @marleed well done 👍😀 2mo
Lindy @marleed 👏👏👏 2mo
Lindy @Tanisha_A It‘s interesting how much passion—for and against—is inspired by a simple punctuation mark. 2mo
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review
Tracey3
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If you had asked me if I would ever read an entire book about a punctuation mark, I‘m quite sure I would have said, “no.” Much to my surprise, however, I have read an entire book about a punctuation mark AND I enjoyed it. The author clearly enjoys language and manipulation of words through clever uses of punctuation. She has done thorough research. The book had me laughing aloud at times. Toward the end, I was a bit less interested.

Booksnchill I loved this on audio! 2mo
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Booksnchill
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#Scarathon @Clwojick #TeamSlaughter What a scary book!🤣 For those of you who are language and punctuation wonks- and you know who you are- who read Drexler‘s English as a bit of a palate cleanser between volumes of Proust, this is the book for you. I was fascinated by the stories of the legal battles that turned on a semi-colon; the literary kerfuffles over the punctuation mark that is described as common and posh. Fun read- good as audio!4⭐️

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DyAnne
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It‘s my Birthday Week! (52 on Friday 🎂) Totally required to pop into one of my favorite indie bookstores.

Megabooks Happy birthday!! 🎉🎉🥳🥳📚🍾 4mo
6 likes1 comment
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Bookwomble
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Those damned Renaissance grammar Nazis!

I like the sound of this book, though; a whole tome on the history of a punctuation mark! ❤;❤

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/08/01/the-birth-of-the-semicolon/

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Mitch
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Hahah! It‘s the attention to detail that counts in life! 🤣

Shout out to all you lovely Virgos!

What should you be reading this month?
https://lithub.com/the-astrology-book-club-what-to-read-this-month-based-on-your...

BookNAround This non-Virgo would totally read a book about the semicolon! (edited) 5mo
Mitch @BookNAround I know - cool, right?! 5mo
wanderinglynn Hm, 🤔 I‘m not sure if they adequately encapsulated Capricorn. Usually Caps are described as ambitious (workaholic), persistent (relentless), determined, practical, & helpful. And while family & loyalty are important characteristics, a care-giver is probably not really what the driven, workaholic Cap normally relates to. Normally, I would think of more “take-over-the-world” (in biz) type books for Caps. 5mo
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wanderinglynn I would also read a book about a semi-colon. 👍🏻 5mo
Mitch @wanderinglynn come be an honorary Virgo with us! 5mo
wanderinglynn 👍🏻👍🏻 Who doesn‘t want to read about semi-colons or stationary?!? 😂 5mo
mjdowens I heard Virgo, semi-colon and stationary calling and here I am! 😂😂 5mo
catebutler The Taurus choice was quite good! 👍🏼 I do love cooking and the book tagged sounds intriguing! 5mo
Mitch @catebutler 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 5mo
Mitch @mjdowens welcome🥳 5mo
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