I’m a huge fan of the semicolon; I love it and use it whenever I can. But even I was amazed to see that today’s most popular e-mailed article from the New York Times is Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location.
The story is about a transit employee who dared to insert a semicolon in a subway advisory placard: “Please put it in a trash can; that’s good news for everyone.”
Hah! I had to laugh. With all we have going on in the world – the economy, the U.S. presidential race, and even a new American Idol on the air – this humble punctuation mark is the real star, making it’s way from inbox to inbox all over the world on this very day.
Well, why not? It is a noble little fellow, able to double as a punctuation mark and a wink. How many of us can do that?
I used to work for a woman who was terrified by semicolons. Hated whenever I used one, and only relaxed after I edited them out. One day, a fellow employee who loves the art of language as much as I do, saw that I had managed to get some semicolons past our obsessively watchful boss.
“Did she see them?” he asked me in absolute amazement.
“Yup,” I smiled back, quite proud of myself. I had decided to dig in and play the grammatical guru card just for fun. And she finally went along with me. (Actually I’m not all that great at grammar; but she didn’t know that. And I do love a good challenge.)
I was worshiped for a while by co-workers who had tried the same and failed. But, as time went on, our boss loosened up and allowed others to follow suit and use the semicolon too – even in external e-mails! I’d like to tell you this experience also freed her up to accept occasional typos in those e-mails; but alas that is not the case.
Kudos to the New York City Transit writer who dared to go where no transit worker had gone before and breathe new life into my beloved semicolon; that IS good news for everyone!
OK. At least it’s good news for me. (-;