Sex and the semicolon

George Gopen on his introduction to the semicolon:

To be completely straightforward with you, for a very long time I harbored a suspicion that the semi-colon had something to do with sex. I remember the day – I was 12 years old at the time – when my English teacher reached the section of our textbook that dealt with the semi-colon. With a noticeable amount of emotional discomfort, he told our all-male class, “We won’t go into the semi-colon. You don’t need that now. You’ll need that later.” He was relieved not to have to tell us; we were relieved not to have to face the unveiling of the mystery. We were feeling that way about a number of concerns at that particular stage of life and had seen our fathers undergo the same discomfort and the same escape by avoidance.

My teacher was right, of course. I didn’t need the semi-colon at age 12. Unfortunately, by the time I was grown up enough to need the semi-colon, there was no one around to explain it to time. By then, I was somehow supposed to know all about it. I went around for years thinking I was one of the few people who did not understood (sic) this mystery. I now know that most people are just as insecure about it as I was.

The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader’s Perspective by George D. Gopen, p 161

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