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minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Jan 23 08:48:52 EST 2004


Robyn analysed:

>>"Harry had the impression that Krum was drawing her attention back onto
>>himself; perhaps to remind her that he had just rescued her from the lake,
>>but Hermione pushed the beetle away impatiently and said, 'You're well
>>outside the time-limit, though, Harry ... Did it take you ages to find
>>us?'"

about which I had asked

>>Why a semi-colon after "himself"?  I would have said it made the sentence
>>actively wrong, and a comma would do the job there.  If it were after
>>"lake" it would be less wrong (though purists wouldn't like a semi-colon
>>before a conjunction).
>
>I think the semicolon is awkward, but technically, since what follows is an
>independent clause, it is correct. It would not be correct before the "but"

One has to take the sentence as a whole, though: "perhaps to remind her
that he had just rescued her from the lake" is a subordinate clause and
cannot stand alone; it has to be linked with one end or the other.  Of the
two ends available, it fits the first and makes nonsense of the second.

If we do what one ought to be able to do with a semi-colon and put a full
stop instead, we get

"Harry had the impression that Krum was drawing her attention back onto
himself."

which is a perfectly good sentence  Then we get

"Perhaps to remind her that he had just rescued her from the lake, but
Hermione pushed the beetle away impatiently and said, 'You're well outside
the time-limit, though, Harry ... Did it take you ages to find us?'"

which is definitely not a good sentence.

If we put the semicolon or full stop in the other position (accepting that
a sentence starting "But' is an abomination and a sin against the Holy
Ghost, or whatever else, but ignoring that just for once...)

"Harry had the impression that Krum was drawing her attention back onto
himself, perhaps to remind her that he had just rescued her from the lake."

Fine so far, I think.

"[But] Hermione pushed the beetle away impatiently and said, 'You're well
outside the time-limit, though, Harry ... Did it take you ages to find
us?'"

Why is that "not correct" (apart from the "But" it starts with?)  It stands
alone perfectly well.

>>"Harry had the impression that Krum was drawing her attention back onto
>>himself, perhaps to remind her that he had just rescued her from the lake,
>>but Hermione pushed the beetle away impatiently and said, 'You're well
>>outside the time-limit, though, Harry ... Did it take you ages to find
>>us?'"

would be my punctuation of choice, given all the options.  If there were no
semi-colon, it would (I think) be better than having one which is wrong.

>>These aren't the only examples; just above on the same page we have:
>>
>>"He was the only judge who had not left the table; the only judge not
>>showing signs of pleasure and relief that Harry, Ron and Fleur's sister had
>>got back safely."
>>
>>Why a semi-colon after "table" rather than a comma
>
>No idea. It's wrong, unless there's a "he was" after the semicolon.

There isn't.  If there were it would as you say not be wrong, but as it
stands it simply is wrong and that's all there is to it.

I think JKR may have slight trouble with the semi-colon, let's put it that
way.  In the five pages I looked at there are (I think, I may have missed
one or even two, so say "at least', I suppose) eighteen uses of the
semi-colon, of which three are debatable at best, downright wrong at worst.
Of course, it may not be JKR herself who has the problem; it might be the
copy-editor or proof-reader who is inserting them where Rowling had very
properly put a comma....  :-)  (At this point every copy-editor and
proof-reader on the list starts to throw things, I guess.)

Minnow


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