There are two moments I must brace myself to deal with each semester: leading reading discussions and teaching sentence grammar. The former barely exist because no one reads anymore. The grammar lessons keep getting more absurd each year.
I hear it from a handful of students every semester. I’ll ask, “Now why do we have a comma here?” The reason you have a comma there is because you have to take a little breath. Or a pause. Or a break. Or a moment to reflect.
Oh, let me fart, okay. (Did you inhale? Twice?)
There isn’t a teacher in the world who believes this is true. (Right?) And yet the average student claims it. They’ll talk this nonsense even though they notice no serious change to their breathing patterns when they come across texts loaded with commas.
Let’s accept it for a moment. Comma equals breath. Ok, (breathe) fine. What should we do when we face a full-stop? Inhale the atmosphere? Have a coronary?
What about a semi-colon? If I see a semi-colon, should I—what?—experience a twitch in my eyelid? Should I take a break from reading to go take a crap? It’s a weird symbol, I’ve heard; some people say it’s meaningless. So let’s chant OM or MU anytime we see a semi-colon.
This “breathing philosophy” begs further questions. What should I do when I see an exclamation point? Here it is! You just had an erection. (Women have imagined boners.)
If I need to take a breath when I face a comma, must I drop dead when I come to the end of a text? Is that why no one finishes books anymore?
You want to breathe? Read this: Give me that, dope.
I want something worth inhaling. Give me that dope.