Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Grammatical Denigration of the Week

I have long been distressed that my favorite novelist, Kurt Vonnegut, called semicolons "transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing." Others have suggested that real men don't use semicolons.

And according to today's Globe, semicolon use is way down. How is all this relevant to Soxlosophy? Good question. I use semicolons all the time; in my last post, I used 5 semicolons; in the previous post, 3. Right there, in that last sentence, 2 friggin semicolons; only a real man would be ballsy enough to do that!

Listen:

Periods imply abrupt stops, discontinuity; semicolons introduce distinctions yet maintain continuity. Commas separate mere words; semicolons ideas. Sometimes thoughts need to be modified by entire thoughts; thoughts are amplified, not diminished, by such qualification. Independent clauses don't require each other, it's true, but then how they are to be related is left unsaid; distinct ideas can holistically combine via the alchemical link of the semicolon.

The semicolon is suited to baseball. Baseball isn't just one damn thing after another. This. Then that. And then this. The period is such a Humean punctuation mark, severing the connection between clauses. It's also mechanistic, lifeless. And commas are just for breathing, required for life, yes, but of itself a lowest form of living; the vegetable state of punctuation. But the semicolon is the punctuation mark of the robust, meaningful life; anywhere there's narrative structure, nuance and modification, individual thoughts organically integrated into a larger whole, a semicolon is appropriate. It's the punctuation for the story of baseball; it should be in the scorecard. DP 6-4-3; didn't hustle. Sox humiliate New York; Yankees suck. And with apologies to Mr. Updike, he should have said "the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now; Gods do not answer letters."

I imagine that if Gods did answer letters, they'd use a lot of exclamation marks; Gods bark orders. But for those of us who do nuance, not imperatives, we have a plucky little overlooked Dustin Pedroia-esque punctuation mark to help out.

10 comments:

Barry said...

The Red Sox beat the Orioles; isn't this a baseball blog?

Cartman's Left Hand said...

I love semicolons. What happened to Varitek? Is he still cheating? Didn't look like it last night. He looked like a hitter last night.

Soxlosophy said...

of course it's a baseball blog. but one can't discuss baseball without semicolons, can one? any crack in the foundations must be addressed before living in the house... plus, i can't stand watching matzusaka pitch. it hurts me.

cartman's- yeah, varitek looked pretty good last night, which is definately good. but cheating can pay off... plus, i have to admit i gave myself a pat on the back when jim palmer, in the orioles broadcast, said after tek homered on a 3-1 fastball against cabrera that varitek had "cheated last night" on the 2-0 fastball. that made me happy, as i was eager to take that as confirmation.

tek's other big hit- the double- came righthanded, the side he's struggled less from.

and thanks for loving semicolons. we- me and semicolons- appreciate it.

Aaron said...

I can't believe I read this whole post. Did you really just compare Dustin Pedroia to a punctuation mark? Semicolons are for pussys, among them:

1. Tim McCarver
2. A-Rod
3. You

Soxlosophy said...

that's not very nice.

Rooster said...

Meanwhile, the one full, strong, imposing colon in the post sneaks by unnoticed.

Nicely done; a true masterpiece.

Soxlosophy said...

now that's nice. Thanks, Rooster!

Soxlosophy said...

i was just chatting with aaron, and i said "i think you should have to find passages where a-rod or mccarver use semicolons inappropriately".

aaron said "if this were a just world, I would."

but we should all work for a more just world; it's not going to happen by itself. and any step towards erasing the ignorance and hate of the semicolon is a step towards a more perfect union...

Marc said...

"And commas are just for breathing, required for life, yes, but of itself a lowest form of living; the vegetable state of punctuation."

Is this not the time to use a colon? You know what I mean...
The corresponding portions of babble de-marked by a semicolon are supposed to be capable of standing alone as individual sentences. So, it looks you got carried away...just this once!!!

it has been awhile; got to get right back into it by nitpicking your grammar, where possible.

Barry said...

I may have no dog in this hunt, but Marc's frivolous employment of ellipses lead me to question his ability to choose punctuation efficiently and correctly.