The KISS Grammar Workbooks Back to April Menu

Notes for
A Study in Semicolons
[For KISS Levels Three +]
from "The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo," by Rudyard Kipling



     The objective of this exercise is to give students the basic rules from the typical textbooks and then have the students explore the validity of those rules, as they see them. Thus my interpretation of the use of the various semicolons is irrelevant. The exercise should be discussed in class to allow the students to share opinions and make up their own minds. I should note that Kipling has used a semicolon where other writers may have used a dash or a colon, i.e., the second clause can be seen as amplifying the meaning of the first. There is, in other words, a general core of agreement about the use of these punctuation marks, but there is a wide range in applications.
     Some of the sentences include more advanced grammatical constructions, so I have noted them here.


1. Make me different from all other animals; [#1] make me, also, wonderfully popular by five this afternoon.

2. Make me different from all other animals; [#2] make me popular and wonderfully run after by five this afternoon.

3. He ran through the desert; [#3] he ran through the mountains; [#4] he ran through the salt-pans; [#5] he ran through the reed-beds; [#6] he ran through the blue gums; [#7] he ran through the spinifex; [#8] he ran till his front legs ached. 

4. He ran through the ti-trees; [#9] he ran through the mulga; [#10] he ran through the long grass; [#11] he ran through the short grass; [#12] he ran through the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer; [#13] he ran till his hind legs ached.

5. Still ran Dingo Yellow-Dog Dingo hungrier and hungrier, grinning like a horse-collar, never getting nearer, never getting farther; [#14] and they came to the Woligong River. 

6. Now, there wasnt any bridge, and there wasnt any ferry-boat, and Kangaroo didnt know how to get over; [#15] so he stood on his legs and hopped. 

7. He hopped through the Flinders; [#16] he hopped through the Cinders; [#17] he hopped through the deserts in the middle of Australia. 

8. First he hopped one yard; [#18] then he hopped three yards; [#19] then he hopped five yards; [#20] his legs growing stronger; [#21] his legs growing longer. 

The end of this sentence is comprised of two noun absolutes. In this case, however, one could argue that they are simply main clauses with ellipsed verbs "his legs *were* growing stronger; his legs *were* growing longer."
9. For he hopped like a cricket; [#22] like a pea in a saucepan; [#23] or a new rubber ball on a nursery floor. 
As in the preceding sentence, one could argue that ellipsed clauses are involved "*he  hopped* like a pea in a saucepan; or *he hopped like* a new rubber ball on a nursery floor."
10. He tucked up his front legs; [#24] he hopped on his hind legs; [#25] he stuck out his tail for a balance-weight behind him; [#26] and he hopped through the Darling Downs. 

11. Down sat Dingo Poor Dog Dingo always hungry, dusky in the sunshine; [#27] hung out his tongue and howled. 

I can see a student arguing that an ellipsed "he" follows the semicolon, but I personally found this one harder to follow, i.e. easily read.
12. Hes chased me out of the homes of my childhood; [#28] hes chased me out of my regular meal-times; [#29] hes altered my shape so Ill never get it back; [#30] and hes played Old Scratch with my legs

13. Ive made him different from all other animals; [#31] but what may I have for my tea?

14. Yellow-Dog Dingo is drawn black, because I am not allowed to paint these pictures with real colours out of the paint-box; [#32] and besides, Yellow-Dog Dingo got dreadfully black and dusty after running through the Flinders and the Cinders.