'Times' Excited By Proper Punctuation

The Times was sooo thrilled to find a vaguely correct use of a semicolon on a subway ad that they tracked down the copywriter (who has a degree in creative writing, natch) and wrote a whole cutesy piece about how rare it is that civilians punctuate properly. Then they asked various famous linguists and grammarians to comment:

Louis Menand, an English professor at Harvard and a staff writer at The New Yorker, pronounced the subway poster's use of the semicolon to be "impeccable."

Lynne Truss, author of "Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation," called it a "lovely example" of proper punctuation.

Geoffrey Nunberg, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, praised the "burgeoning of punctuational literacy in unlikely places."

Allan M. Siegal, a longtime arbiter of New York Times style before retiring, opined, "The semicolon is correct, though I'd have used a colon, which I think would be a bit more sophisticated in that sentence."

The linguist Noam Chomsky sniffed, "I suppose Bush would claim it's the effect of No Child Left Behind."

Actually we're not sure if they really asked any of those people to comment or if they just made up what they might say in response to this pointless inquiry as a writing exercise. Seriously, Noam? When did he become Bill Maher?

(Fittingly, this impeccable semicolon is in the MTA's house ad about how you should throw away your newspapers when you leave the train instead of leaving them for others to discover the joy of reading.)

Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location [NYT]