Monday, October 22, 2012

Confession; I Don't Understand Semicolons

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I don't really get semicolons.

I'm not sure if I simply happened to miss out on all of the lessons in school about the semicolon (much like my sister missed all of the lessons on how to spell the word "neck"), or if I'm just really, really dumb.  But either way, I simply don't feel comfortable enough with semicolons to actually use them.

As such, to find a semicolon in my writing is to find the needle in the haystack.  They simply don’t exist. 

When I rarely throw one in, it is done so with a grimace, as if to say “I don’t know about this…” like when you drive by a cop on the highway and you know that you are speeding.  It's just a question of how much you were disobeying the law in comparison to the other drivers around you. 

The word "semicolon" itself is an appropriate name, considering I only semi-know how to use it.  I know it has something to do with two sentences.  And connecting them and stuff.  But that's about it.

Semicolons are scary.

So scary, in fact, that I typically opt to use the double-hyphen.  Even though I don’t quite know how this one works either, I am much braver with it.  Additionally, the fact that it is two minus signs makes it a double negative, which is positive.

Or something.

My fear of the semicolon is not limited to writing.  Let's pretend, for example, that I am flirting with a female via text messaging.  I say something particularly playful.  Something like "ur so cute when u get angry."

Now, let's say that I am sending this text message at an early stage of the courting process.  I don't want to freak her out with grand sentiments of love or affection.  "You're so cute when you get angry," is a statement that is usually reserved for couples who have been dating each other for quite some time and have, in fact, seen each other angry on numerous occasions.

But I do want to flirt with this girl, imaginary as she might be.

So I figure that the perfect thing to tack on to the text message is an emoticon.  A smiley face will counterbalance any premature sentiments of infatuation and ensure that she knows that my message wasn't a grand gesture of love, but rather a coy means of flirting.

But then an entirely new problem arises.

Because I don't know whether to use the :) or the ;) emoticon.

The :) shows that I meant the statement in a friendly way.  It signifies that the emphasis is not on the fact that she was angry, but rather on the cuteness that arises from her anger.  But I'm also trying to make sure she knows that I am flirting.  And to that end, a winky-face would be more appropriate.

Or would it?

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Because if used at the wrong time, the ;) can be eerie and disturbing.  The dreaded semicolon strikes again, turning an innocent smiley-face into the face of a creepy stalker -- one who has seemingly been watching this particular woman from afar for years and knows exactly how cute she is when she is angry*.

*Note the use of the double-hyphen.  I'm not even sure the double-hyphen is correct punctuation in that scenario or if a simple comma would suffice.

So I settle for the :P face, which is just about the worst choice that one can make when choosing emoticons for flirting.  The :P face says that I don't really take things seriously.  I'm more of a silly friend, who doesn't hold his self-image high enough to keep his tongue in his mouth.  Additionally, by plopping that stupid face at the end, I have completely compromised the flirtation as a whole.

And that, I guess, is why I don't have a girlfriend.

Fuck you, semicolons.

-Youngman Brown

Source

34 comments:

  1. Oh my word this was a funny post. You had me ;) this whole time! However I did go to college but never finished and I still use the semi-colon in my writing. It is when I want to mesh two sentences together. Like when I want to answer a question with a statement at the same time using a sarcastic tone. Who knows, I could be using them all wrong.

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  2. It's basically to connect two sentences together that are along the same line of thought. A semicolon gives a slightly longer pause than a comma. For example:

    "A man complimented me on my choice of hat today; a man with an equally intriguing hat of his own".

    I think that's correct. If not, I've been using them incorrectly for years.

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  3. Semi-colons are my favourite punctuation marks. I have even written sentences that have contained 2 of them. I sometimes have to edit them out when I've gone really overboard. As with everything in writing, rules are made to be broken, so use them whichever way you want and stand by it!
    (Yes, you read correctly, I just admitted to having a favourite punctuation mark...)

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  4. I'm glad someone else understands that :P is for pussies. The guy who uses :P when talking to a girl is the guy that's going to get friendzoned, hard. "Oh he's my goofy best friend!"

    Also, the ;) is just weird to me. Sufficed to say, I don't really wink when I talk to people, so why would I wink all the time when texting someone?

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  5. You know, you're not the only one. All throughout my English classes I was always told to just not use them because 99% of the time they're use incorrectly. I was always told that if there's doubt just make 2 separate sentences. I get when to use them but the problem is that most times a comma will suffice.

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  6. All I can say is you know you are an old married has been when no one has EVAH texted you using any of the above "flirty" emoticons. :(

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  7. I like to think I understand semicolons. I'm pretty sure it's as Addman says. I use them every once in a while, but where they seem most awkward to me is in written dialogue. I don't know why. I just find it strange when I find a semicolon in between quotes.

    Also, I tend to stay far away from emoticons as I'm and probably the most socially awkward person when it comes to texting. I keep forgetting sarcasm doesn't translate well in the written form.

    Anyway, I agree with you. They really serve no purpose other than to string winky faces along lines of sexual tension or something something something.

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  8. We're apparently sharing a brain on this one. I also embrace the dash - totally makes up for my impotence with colons and semicolons.

    I can't do those texting-smiley faces the right way, either. Mine are always reversed.

    Signed, Failure in Social Media and Punctuation

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  9. hehehe i loved this so stinkin much. :) ;) :P

    it's especially funny, to me, cuz i saw numerous spots in this where i, personally, woulda tucked a semi-colon. that said, i'd rather not see it then see it used as a comma or soemthing. argh.

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  10. You have the best sense of humor. This was too funny- "And I wonder why I don't have a girlfriend" Ha.

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  11. I, too, am baffled by the proper use of the semicolon. However, I, unlike you, want to use one so badly! I am on constant alert in my writing for an opportunity to arise when I might use the most elusive punctuation mark of them all. It hasn't happened yet, but I just know, if I am patient enough, the day will come when I will recognize the perfect sentence, at the perfect moment, to use the mysterious and, dare I say it, sexy semicolon. Oh, I will be so happy and fulfilled.

    And that right there is probably why I don't have a boyfriend, yo!

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  12. Your double hyphen is fine, dear. Now don't curse semicolons. Mommy can teach you how to use them. The sentence on either side of the semicolon must be a complete sentence. The semicolon usually links two sentences that are closely related. Example: To err is human; to forgive is divine. The semicolon can also be used when listing, if your list also uses commas. Example: I hate Dr. X, who is a pig; the new Mrs. X, who is my successor; and her stupid children, who now get to use the lovely home I decorated. Was this tutorial of any assistance? Press one for yes and two for no.

    Love,
    Janie, who continues to vote for the peacock baby and is annoyed that others don't

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  13. Good rule of thumb is to (a) use a semicolon in place of a conjunction, e.g. "I can't drive a car; (but) my bike is always an option." and (b) use a semicolon directly before words 'namely', 'therefore', and 'however', e.g. "The park is closed; however, the zoo is always open on Sunday." Ha! And my parents said I'd never use that Liberal arts degree. SUCK IT!!!

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    Replies
    1. Just wanted to add that your title should be Confession: I Think Semicolons Suck Shit

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  14. Use the ;) as the flirty face. It's not usually creepy in the flirty context, she'll get the point. Unless you've already done something creepy.

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  15. You are hilarious Youngman Brown! I never use semicolons. Ever. I do use the hyphen quite a bit - but I only use a single hyphen. What is the double hyphen all about? In general, when it comes to semicolons or commas I say the less the better. However I did google the semicolon in response to reading your post and came across an example of how to use it. I got a bit of a chuckle out of the sentence they used so allow me to share it. "I like cows; however, I hate the way they smell." Perhaps a more fitting example in your case would be "I like flirting by text; however, I often feel creepy if I use the winky face."

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  16. I use whatever punctuation I want. It is the luxury of the unpublished; the hallmark of the under-edited. ;@ (which I think means I have something in my eye and I'm eating a cinnamon roll)

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  17. I'm cracking up. You should know this is a post that literally made me laugh out loud. I happen to use the semicolon now and again. I think I'm using it properly, at least I've never been told that I'm not.

    I am fully aware that I over use emoticons...much the same way I overuse lol...but your breakdown of the creepy winky face is so accurate. YMB, your posts are a bright spot in my week...they really are. Thank you!

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  18. I agree, Fuck semicolons. As a woman I would interpret :P as something completely different than "a silly friend". ;)

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  19. Damn semicolon strike me as being similar to a loaf of bread that isn't quite baked. Since it is no longer doughy it is not fun to eat and since it is not baked it is not enjoyable as toast either.

    Damn semicolons suck.

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  20. I only use semicolons when Outlook tells me too!

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  21. I don't know if anyone has a solid understanding of when to use a semicolon. Sometimes when word says "fragment, consider revising" I slap a semicolon in there and shit seems good. I think knowing when to use it is more of a feeling... like the force.

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  22. I am the exact same way! I think I must have been playing sick on the day that we learned punctuation in elementary.

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  23. I've had the same issue. I start to use one and then think, "I'm not quite sure that's right." Then I chicken out and remove it.

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  24. Professor McKnight taught me the proper usage of the semicolon ;)

    Give her a call....she'll teach you shit.

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  25. Bloody funny indeed and the only time I use seemicolons is when my spell and gramma checker tells me to...........lol

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  26. I love semicolons! If you ever need punctuation advice, I'm your girl ;-)

    See what I did there?

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  27. I was semiconscious when my semicolon...oh wait, you'r talking about punctuation.

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  28. I'm with you on that - screw semicolons; they're trouble! Funny post; as usual.

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  29. I'll go along with you here, Hell I am just getting comfortable throwing in a comma or two once in a while, not sure where to put them but if it feels good then do it I say.

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  30. I can't remember ever actually using a semicolon as the punctuation mark that it was intended to be. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't use one, if I wasn't afraid of looking like an idiot for doing it wrongly.

    Like you, I generally stick to semicolons and colons in emoticons, and my rules for those are quite simple. No smileys or winky's at another dude, EVER! And be happy with a smile. Sticking out you're tongue is always too much.

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  31. As an artist I tend to design my words based on what looks good. I don't let grammarians tell me what to do. Screw em!

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  32. I'm probably one of those people; the kind of person who uses the semicolon a bit too much. I probably need to develop your fear; a fear bathed in insecurities to keep my semicolon usage in check.

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