The semicolon

(Written on Jan the 25th 2017)

I’ve always found the semicolon ( ; ) to be very interesting. Yes, it looks like a half-breed between a comma and a colon, but it’s not that. It’s how we use it that interests me. Particularly the usage that the Oxford dictionary describes as “a pause that is not as short as a comma, but not as final as a full stop”. Why would we need something like that?

It’s not like a group of people suddenly decided to come up with a new punctuation. People speak first, then translate their rules into grammar and their sounds into punctuation.

“Not as short as a comma, but not as final as a full stop” sounds to me like a near death experience or a coma: they’re not as short as sleep, yet not as final as death.
It sounds like a lingering relationship that is neither as short as an acquaintanceship, nor as as over as being strangers.

It’s probably a person who decided to continue speaking even though they could have stopped. But why didn’t they stop? What would have happened if they had stopped? Did that follow up semi-sentence make as much of a difference as they had imagined? What if they had said goodbye, that day, when things where just fine, right before they decided to stay longer and then end up fighting? What if they hadn’t sent that last text when they were feeling bad, instead of going to sleep and discussing it later?

We may never know the answers to those questions, and they may just keep tormenting us forever. Ironically, they can be no less merciless than the torment of things we *didn’t* say! The things we wish so badly we had said, and keep imagining what would have happened -or at least felt like- had we said them. In our minds we keep revisiting them over and over and over again! How would that alternative branch of reality have looked like? Would we have been here now had it happened? What if – and there I go again!

Maybe semicolons are not as bad as I think. They could be nothing but a tool that revealed a truth that was better exposed sooner than later. Or perhaps, more optimistically, a new chance; hope. We also can’t do a wink emoji without it ; )

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