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Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Monday, 26 December 2011


In this vituperative slur, Clinton Smith pours scorn on the device all academics and bureaucrats hold dear.

The days of Virginia Woolf are long gone. Her musings are too dilatory for this century and her cherished semicolons belong to the era of the clothes prob and mangle.

Many writers have decried this bastard child of the comma and the colon. George Orwell, a permanently contemporary mind, told his editor that the semicolon was an unnecessary stop and that he would contrive to do without it. He was right.

Yet, its worthy and indispensable parents faultlessly fulfil their roles. Its mother, the comma, provides an essential breath or pause in a sentence, clarifies meaning, separates concepts, transforms obscurity into sense. Its father, the noble colon, informs us of what is coming, emphatically amplifies a thought. There is no praise too extravagant for these duties brilliantly preformed.

But the semicolon?

It attempts to express a pause slightly longer than the comma. Or to relate two ideas. And does neither well. Its unwelcome intrusion assaults the eye and judders the mind.

This elaboration of the workmanlike comma is merely the stuffy emissary of the dash or a vapid allusion to the colon. Neither fish nor fowl.

None of this bothers the public servant or local government official, the manager of an institution or a university factotum. Mediocre minds use the thing to appear recondite. It helps them cloak their specious, muddy thoughts in defensive ambiguity. Which might not matter except for the semicolon's major flaw.

It is ugly!

As Barthelme pointed out, it is "ugly as a tick on a dog's belly." The redoubtable Gertrude Stein also disparaged it. Are such views merely pretentious?

Have you not eyes to see? The thing is a flyspeck on the page.

Someone recently remarked that a contemporary fop's desire to be fashionable had transcended his sense of the ridiculous. Brave, because people have been crucified for stating the self-evident. And, if our instinctive attributes included a sense of design, then this barnacle slowing the voyage of communication would never have appeared.

So, next time your finger strays to that perverse key on your keyboard, pause - pause: or pause...

The sensible alternatives are there. None offend the eye or the subvocalisation in the mind. All are efficient, direct, sensible, exempliary.

Does it matter?

As sages point out: everything matters, nothing matters.

So yes! It matters.


If this post interested you, see also WATCH YOUR TONGUE on this site.

Monday, 12 December 2011


Humorist Martin Jensen has a problem with Murphy's Law. He's discovered Murphy's Reverse Law! Read all about it here:

There are many self-evident laws. For instance, Etorre's Supermarket Observation: 'The other line moves faster.' And Jenning's Corollary: 'The chance of bread falling jam side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.'
    And although Murphy's Law, 'If anything can go wrong, it will', is the most famous, his Reverse Law is even more diabolical. This states: 'If anything goes right, it does it when it cocks up everything.'

     For instance, I’m driving somewhere and need the pause at the next set of red lights to tweak the GPS or jot down something I’ve remembered. And what happens? Green lights for blocks. Guaranteed.

    Or I’m standing outside the airport terminal waiting for the shuttle to take me to the long-term car park. I know I’ll be there till I grow roots, so light up a fag. And the bus immediately rockets around the bend with NO SMOKING signs plastered all over it.

    I can’t find a taxi on the main road. So I walk around the corner to check the side road and one cruises by on the main road. I go back to the main road and, like quantum decoherence, another flashes by on the side road.

    I really want someone to phone me. So, the moment I go to the toilet or take a shower, they do. I get the phone dripping all over the carpet, or with my pants around my ankles, just as they ring off.

    Masochists can use this law to attract positive events.
    For instance, if your garden's parched and there are water restrictions, simply invite a major business client to a home barbecue. And you'll cop a thunderstorm three minutes before everyone arrives.

    Need company or attention? Easy. Take a private moment to pick your nose or fart. Someone's sure to walk into the room the moment you do it.

    Detest extravagant weddings? Once your wife's ordered the expensive new dress, got the hairdo, nail job, facial and you've bought the presents, plane tickets, booked the hotel... the happy couple will call it off.

    Note, in this context, Zymurgy's First Law of Evolving System Dynamics: 'Once you open a can of worms, the only way to re-can them is to use a larger can.'

    Well, must finish this. She was going to call tonight and confirm that it's dinner at her place. But the call hasn't come. So, to make sure she rings, I'll have to look forward sincerely to an indulgent meal by myself, crack an extravagant bottle of red and half cook an expensive steak.

    Which reminds me of O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law. 'Murphy was an optimist.'

Liked this one? Then check out Martin's book on Buzzword: "How to Keep Fit Without Avoid Exercise". Click here on How to...