Semi-Colon Bashing

Semi-colons are gay?:

Kurt Vonnegut called the marks "transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing." Hemingway and Chandler and Stephen King, said [Ben] McIntyre, "wouldn't be seen dead in a ditch with a semi-colon (though Truman Capote might). Real men, goes the unwritten rule of American punctuation, don't use semi-colons."

As I recall, Mike Kinsley hated them with a passion. At TNR in the old days, he fashioned a key on his computer that would, in one stroke, remove all semi-colons and replace them with a period and a capital letter for the next word; or maybe I remember that wrong. There's more:

Paul Collins, in a recent Slate article, cited a study showing "a stunning drop in semicolon usage between the 18th and 19th centuries, from 68.1 semicolons per thousand words to just 17.7."

You'd think a victory like that would satisfy the anti-semicolon crowd. But no, they keep worrying that those girly, prissy, hermaphroditic punctuation marks will somehow infect their sturdy prose. If semicolons are masculine enough for Melville and Irving, why should they unsettle Barthelme and Vonnegut? Are today's male writers just more insecure than yesterday's about the manliness of their vocation?

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

Video

The Case for Napping at Work

Most Americans don't get enough sleep. More and more employers are trying to help address that.

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

Video

Stunning GoPro Footage of a Wildfire

In the field with America’s elite Native American firefighting crew

Just In