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Do you rate a semicolon?

Rosie Right

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Rosie came upon an enchanting obituary in the New York Times — that is if any obituary can be enchanting. It described a use for punctuation that Rosie in all her study had never even imagined. The headline read: "Betty Kenward, Snobbish Chronicler, Dies at 94." In the body of the article Warren Hoge wrote: "A snob and proud of it, Mrs. Kenward composed numbingly undramatic accounts of parties with long lists of names preceded by unfailingly complimentary adjectives and with their relative importance encoded for her privileged readership by idiosyncratic punctuation. Ordinary guests' names were set off from one another by mere commas. But Royal Family members and others of note rated semicolons. Many of the breathless serial sentences ended with exclamation marks." Later Hoge tells us, "Attentive readers of the long-running column learned to divine judgments in the bland copy. A remark on the 'tirelessness' of a hostess rather than her 'radiance' meant that the night was a disaster. If a debutante was 'pretty' instead of 'exquisite,' then she was very likely ugly or badly turned out." After that, let anyone challenge the power of language and punctuation. The old saying "there's nothing new under the sun" has proved its worth again. Rosie came upon a little paperback "Lost Words of the English Language," by Robert Schachner and John Whited. Published in 1989, the book contains the following entry: Chadless adj: not possessing any chad (the small pieces of cardboard produced by punching out data cards). "Chadlessness is quickly becoming a universal condition. Even people who work at high-chad jobs usually brush themselves off before going home." Perhaps chadless is a lost word, but chad, as we all know, has had a spectacular resurrection this past year. Stylish Language: In a description of Republican fund-raiser Georgette Mosbacher's move to Washington, where she hopes to be a player in the new administration, even though she very publicly supported John McCain in the primaries, New York Times reporter Cathy Horyn wrote: "That, if nothing else, is proof that the Republican hostess and fund-raiser may have the bread, but she didn't know which side to butter it

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