This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Nuts and Bolts: virgule.

Some things matter, and some things don't.

Unfortunately one of the things that matters is the endless capacity of humans to care passionately about things that don't matter.

There are numerous examples of this: football and stamp collecting, for instance. Trouser-leg widths. Coffee spoons.

To this list I think I'm justified in adding the thickness of a slash.

That's slash as in one of these:


This punctuation mark is sometimes called a forward slash to distinguish it from a backward slash:


but only a fool would be really really annoyed by this.

Or so I tell myself.

There are those who say that a slash is a slash whatever it's used for, but on the other hand there are those who insist with great passion that a thin slash, used for showing where the ends of the lines in a poem are, is not a slash at all, but a virgule.

There are also those who say that a slash used to show an alternative, as in and/or is also a virgule.

The best advice that I can give/Assuming that you wish to live,/Is, when you see a grammar bore,/To duck/run/hide/or hit the floor.

Word To Use Today (or perhaps not): virgule. This is the French for a comma, which was originally slash-shaped. Before that the word comes from the Latin virgula, which means a little rod.

1 comment:

  1. Will never use this word. Virgule is what the teacher said in French dictee for comma and I'm set in my ways. Quite happy with SLASH, forward or backward...