2088: Virgule

Virgule /noun/

  1. a short oblique stroke (/) between two words indicating that whichever is appropriate may be chosen to complete the sense of the text in which they occur:

The defendant and his/her attorney must appear in court.

  1. a dividing line, as in dates, fractions, a run-in passage of poetry to show verse division, etc. For example, 3/21/27; “Sweetest love, I do not go/For weariness of thee.” (John Donne).
  2. a short oblique stroke (/) used in computing.
  3. a forward slash.

Character Rare and ambiguous: slash or comma. “Virgule” (or rather, Latin “virgula”, meaning “little rod” or, vividly enough, “little penis”) was the name of a punctuation character shaped like a small slash and used in the Latin writing system much like a modern comma, hence the ambiguity of this term in modern English.


After Trump said, “If [Hilary] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Nelson thought, “The Virgule People! Maybe there is something the Virgule People could do.” Then he started thinking of them as the Vertigule People (as in a vertical, oblique stroke; a slash, a forward-slash; the slash-and-burn people). Then, later, since he disdained the use of the slash (the virgule), he started thinking of them as the Dash People. Maybe there was something the Dash-People could do. The men-women-children-vague people.

My reluctance to use the virgule started when I was a young web developer and I realized there was a host of characters (the virgule, the space, the tilde, the percent sign, etc.) that needed to be encoded and decoded. They required special handling. And I mastered that. And then when Windows 95 came out, it could handle the space in filenames, and people rejoiced; but it could not handle the colon, the pipe, the virgule. I disdained Microsoft, Windows, and Bill Gates; and yet, Windows made certain things easy. Other things became impossible. Windows hid the details. Buried them.

I began to avoid the virgule. It was just easier.

Then, my avoidance of the virgule expanded to the written word. It kind of stuck/ until now. Now, I am free to use the virgule/ but not to separate words in a collection. No. The comma is for that. I use the virgule as the “big comma,” to separate phrases/ when I want to make an impact.

Now we have moved beyond the his/her virgule construction to a simple they. And I am happy. That makes it easier.

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