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Rosie Right

Our language and how it works.

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Our Semicolon Trip

The semicolon is the subject of a lot of discussion among grammarians, but we here at Style got a vivid and unwelcome example of its power. In an article about the Carnival of 5 Fires at Gallery5 we carelessly published this sentence:

"But this was no ordinary carnival; with fried Oreos and turkey legs, this was the type of carnival that an episode of 'Tales from the Crypt' could've been based on."

The problem was promptly pointed out to us by a friend of Gallery5, who took offense at the semicolon, which made the sentence read as if the exhibit were serving fried Oreos. Not at all! The fried Oreos were an imaginative description of the fare at an "ordinary carnival." The semicolon should have been inserted after "turkey legs" to read:

"But this was no ordinary carnival with fried Oreos and turkey legs; this was the type of carnival that an episode of 'Tales from the Crypt' could've been based on."

Another example of the importance of an efficient copy editor and the power of punctuation.



Sum of All Fears

The New York Times, which often has very interesting obituaries, Oct. 1 published that of Norman Lewis, author of such books as "30 Days to Better English" and "Word Power Made Easy." Lewis died at 93.

Buried in the Times obit was this information: "One of his books listed more than 100 'esoteric phobias.' Among them aichmophobia, cibophobia, chionophobia, gymnophobia, harpaxophobia, maieusiophobia, peniaphobia, pnigerophobia, scelerophobia and taeniophobia."

Fortunately, the Times also let us know that these words were, respectively: fear of pointed objects, food, snow, stairs, nakedness, robbers, childbirth, poverty, mothering, burglars and tapeworms.

Armed with this knowledge all of us ought to do better on the SATs.



Ungrammatical Flirting

A friend has sent a clipping from The Washington Post. In a letter to the editor, a reader not only complains about former Rep. Mark Foley's sexual advances to the Congressional pages, but also calls attention to his terrible English. The case in point, this excerpt from one of his purported letters to a page: "I'm glad your busy in school. … and your working with Brian …." This qualifies as a pet peeve for most of us.



Suggestion: Let's give up and change the official spelling of nuclear to nucular.



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