Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Virgule: Forgotten or Never Known?

After class, I went to the cafe, where two people behind the counter asked me what "virgule" meant. I said, "I don't know." Then one of them went to a computer and looked it up.

"Virgule" is another name for what we commonly call (referring to punctuation) the "slash" or "forward slash," and it's used (among other ways) to indicate a line-break in poetry when, in an essay, you're quoting from a poem but not presenting the poem as it was printed. Of course I thought, "My God, I should know this word." And then I thought, "Did I know it at one point--and forgot it?" I don't think I ever read or heard the word, however, in all the literature classes I took. I think the mark in question (not a question mark) was always called a "slash." In high school, I even took a typing-class, and I know I never heard the word in there.

I think you were supposed to reach for that key with your pinky-finger, and I probably did so at one point, but now I don't. My typing-fundamentals have been eroded badly.

"Virgule" is certainly a more ornate word than "slash"; indeed, one feels as if one should keep one's virgule (emphasis on the first syllable) in one's vestibule.

Virgule: how cool.
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