Thursday, September 20, 2012

Things to do with semicolons

Posted By on 09.20.12 at 06:40 AM

1) Abuse them.

2) On a long car ride—if you're not insane, this works best with another player—amuse each other by only speaking in sentences that involve two clauses, independent but related, that could conceivably be fused with a semicolon. Try it; this game is harder than, and as personally embarrassing as, it sounds.

3) Eschew the em dash.

4) Missionary style.

5) Use the semicolon to ingratiate yourself with a future employer by inking it onto your forearm, if you happen to work in the media industry. I did not actually get the semicolon tattoo with a job in mind, though my then future (now former) boss has joked that it was the reason she hired me. I actually didn't get the semicolon with much in mind at all, plus I was sober, so there's really no good story behind it: a friend of mine was learning to draw tattoos and offered to do simple designs for the cost of materials; I liked semicolons, so I thought I'd ask him to put one on my arm.

Incidentally I'm way less inclined to overuse semicolons now than I was then, though I don't have the ire toward them of a, say, Donald Barthelme or a Kurt Vonnegut. (Let none accuse me of being well-read: knowing Barthelme's and Vonnegut's opinions on semicolons are the price you pay for carrying one around as prominently as I do.) I have no regrets about the tattoo. I've occasionally considered a companion piece on the other forearm, to signify my enthusiasm for wordplay: half a picture of Colin Powell's face, or a semi-other-kind-of-colon, though tattooing part of the large intestine on a prominent part of one's body does seem to be the sort of thing one might be inclined to regret, later on down the road.

And nobody (like my grandparents, surprisingly) has expressed concern about what the mark might do for my future or for my job prospects (effects so far have been salutary, as I mentioned) or whether I'd come to dislike it. This week we've heard different thoughts on the longevity factor—like diamonds, tattoos are forever. I feel the same now as I did in January 2009, when I got my first and so far only tattoo. If at some point I don't like it, at least it'll stand as a chronicle of something I once wanted—as a visible piece of my own history, or as a reminder of what I used to be like, or at least a memento of the night I got it, which was a good night. I hope, when I'm older, that I'll respect my younger self enough to believe all that. If I don't, I'll be forced to—I'll have the dictate drawn on my skin.

Read more from Tattoo Week, this week's Variations on a Theme:

"Death and tattoos: an introduction to this week's Variations on a Theme," by Tony Adler
"Gay tattoos and Samuel Steward," by Julia Thiel
"In defense of bad tattoos," by Miles Raymer

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