Friday, 4 April 2008

Just some thoughts on the news, really

Surely the most disappointingly pointless news story of late has been the one about the "pregnant man".

You can feel the pain of the journalists who've been sent to cover this one - for of course, the man was, in fact, born female, and then had a sex-change op, which left his reproductive organs intact. So it's not actually all that impossible for him to have then got pregnant, and so the story sort of runs out of steam.

'Tis not even the first time this has happened - there was a similar case a few years back. So, other than that it looks a bit odd to see a bearded man with a very obviously pregnant tummy, it's not really that much of a shocker.

Without passing any moral or ethical comment on the situation, how disappointingly uninteresting. We shall spend no more time upon it here.

However, there is a rather pleasing row going on in France, regarding The Fate of the Semicolon (Le Point-Virgule), and this is getting a bit closer to the sort of thing I read the news for. They're blaming the English, but of course, they would; specifically, because they (les Anglo-Saxons) like their sentences short and unpunctuated, but more generally, because... well, just, because, really....

Une homme by the name of Fran├žois Cavanna has launched a full-blown attack on the hapless semicolon, describing it, among other things, as "a timid, fainthearted, insipid thing". Would he have had the guts to say things like this, we wonder, if he were dealing with one of the more robust forms of punctation? The full stop, for instance, or (*shudder*) the exclamation mark. We may never know. Une autre homme, Philippe Djian, goes so far as to say that he hopes to go down in history as "the exterminating angel of the point-virgule", which is an unusual ambition, but probably more likely than him going down in history as the author of "37°2 le matin", thus far his only other potential contribution to life as we know it.

Thankfully the semicolon has its defenders, and I number myself among them. For apart from anything else, it allows us to make the crucial distinction between a cup of tea, toast and marmite and a cup of tea; toast; and marmite, which could turn out to be critical some day.

2 comments:

andrewg said...

I like the semicolon, but use it infrequently. It's like a torque wrench - you don't often need it, but when you do, you really really need it.

Admittedly though, many instances of the semicolon in the wild are superfluous.

whynotsmile said...

Exactly. You may not need it for years, but when you do, there's nothing else you can decently use.