Of course the semicolon has gotten a new digital life as part of an emoticon — semicolon, close paren 😉 implying a sort of sly, knowing complicity, winking. It started its printed life in 1494 in a book printed by Aldus Manutius. Its use has fallen off in the last couple of hundred years as this Wikipedia chart shows (assuming it’s accurate!).SemicolonFreq

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I guess these tattoos must mean something. Yahoo Answers suggests that it signifies having had part of your colon surgically removed, or having decided against suicide or self-harming — it allegedly represents something (a sentence) that could have ended but didn’t. Whether this is true of these young ladies, we have no way of knowing. Maybe they just thought it was a clever idea that fitted the available space neatly.

Who’d have imagined that the semicolon could come trailing class associations? This New York Observer piece suggests that its usage carries a different meaning in social media than in print. Wired magazine says that using semicolons in text messages is, basically, a socially lame and pretentious thing to do. “No one uses semicolons in day-to-day casual writing; it’s a literary piece of punctuation, not a colloquial one,” the magazine noted. “So using a semicolon in a text shows you’ve thought out, revised, and overedited your message. That means you’re trying too hard, and there’s nothing worse than trying too hard.”

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