Readers Write: Time to end, not invest in, fossil fuels; The semicolon’s rise – and demise?
Letters to the Editor for the June 16, 2014 weekly magazine:
CUTLER: The main opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline is that any production of hydrocarbon fuel is foolhardy in the face of imminent disaster from climate disruption, regardless of how that fuel is shipped.
ANDERSON: Proper use of the semicolon plagued translators of the King James Bible just as it does students of today. Its place in modern is now threatened by another mark of punctuation – the em dash.
Union City, Calif. and Westlake, Ohio
Time to end, not invest in, fossil fuels
The bottom editorial cartoon in the May 12 issue makes the point that pipeline shipment of oil is less environmentally risky than rail shipment. That is a plausible argument, but it misses the main point of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline: Canadian tar sands should be left in the ground because any production of hydrocarbon fuel is foolhardy in the face of imminent disaster from climate disruption and ocean acidification due to atmospheric CO2 buildup, regardless of how that fuel is shipped.
The same point applies to – and was omitted from – the May 5 Focus article “Should Israel sell its gas?" on whether Israel should develop its offshore natural gas deposits. It is global limits on fossil fuel production that are needed – not investments.
William H. Cutler
Union City, Calif.
The semicolon’s rise – and demise?
In his May 12 Home Forum essay “Attack of the semicolons!,” Robert Klose offers a witty account of his students’ struggles – despite his conscientious instruction – with the proper use of the semicolon. They were in good company.
Translators of the King James Bible also struggled with the semicolon, a newcomer to English punctuation aimed at replacing functions that were then carried out by the colon. It required decades of trial and error for English writers to accommodate the mark, and evidence of their punctuation struggles are abundant on every page of the KJV – a generally overlooked difficulty of this translation.
Eventually, through informal consensus that evolved over decades, writers made standardized room for the semicolon, at the expense of the colon. But Professor Klose’s students still have plenty of company today. The reason the semicolon is so difficult is that it joins ideas that – we’ve been taught – are “closely connected.” But how close is close?
It’s therefore not surprising that the semicolon remains difficult to use. In modern English it is now threatened by another mark of punctuation – the em dash. Unlike the intimidating semicolon, the em dash is feisty, mischievous, and eager to please.
Janet Byron Anderson
PhD in linguistics, University of Pennsylvania