colon health

December 8, 2006

On the way to school today, I was discussing English class with both kids. What were they learning? Were they writing? Was #2 son ever going to turn in any homework?

And #1 son wondered, yet again, when he was going to learn to use colons.

He’s in speech class, this year. I’m willing to give this teacher a by, in the punctuation department. But I told him he was going to have to learn it on the street, because it doesn’t seem like he’ll be getting it in school.

I’ve pre-programmed #1 son to ask punctuation questions at school, which have been consistently ignored. In his advanced comp qualification essay, he answered the question, “What do you want to learn from this class?” with “To use colons.” I think everyone is a little embarrassed by punctuation. Especially colons. It’s kind of like encouraging your kids to ask sex questions in sex ed. We have an abstinence program here. I think the answer to all questions is, “Don’t do it!”

And the same goes for colons. If the question can’t be answered with, “Eat more bran,” we just don’t discuss them in polite company.

I will be happy if #2 son learns to write at all. He missed the spelling gene, when you are having trouble forming recognizable words, a liberal sprinkling of commas through the sentence is not going to make things any clearer. That said, I was more than a little irritated when teacher of his in-depth comp class said the only punctuation she cared about was the mark at the end of the sentence.

Wait a minute? How is this in-depth? Personally, I care about the punctuation in the middle of the sentence. Granted, there are some very nice end of sentence marks. I am particularly fond of ellipsis. Probably because my characters and I have trouble forming complete thoughts, especially if we are working too early in the morning.

But I bet they aren’t passing ’round the ellipsis instructions either. Or dashes. How about them? And the difference between the two? Does no one care but me?

But back to our friend, the colon. I assured #1 son that I can teach him colons and semicolons. He insists he wants to learn about them in school. Apparently, he is ashamed to talk to his mother about them.

#2 son piped up: “I know where the semi-colon is.”

He is a teen-age boy. I brace myself for an alimentary joke.

He says, “By the little finger.”

I am stunned to silence. Either there is a punch-line still coming, or we have discovered another educational weakness, possibly caused by the science teacher that preferred to teach the movie “Titanic” rather than basic anatomy.

“They’re on the home row of the keyboard. Right side. And why do they put it there, if we never have to use it?”

Good question.

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