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Mark Twain's "Corn-pone Opinions"
Data for a Study in Semicolons
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     The following table presents all of the sentences in "Corn-pone Opinions" that contain semicolons.
1 But it did not happen; [1] in the distribution of rewards he was overlooked.
2 - 3 He interrupted his preaching, now and then, to saw a stick of wood; [2] but the sawing was a pretense -- he did it with his mouth; [3] exactly imitating the sound the bucksaw makes in shrieking its way through the wood.
4 But it served its purpose; [4] it kept his master from coming out to see how the work was getting along.
5 If he would prosper, he must train with the majority; [5] in matters of large moment, like politics and religion, he must think and feel with the bulk of his neighbors, or suffer damage in his social standing and in his business prosperities.
6 - 7 He must get his opinions from other people; [6] he must reason out none for himself; [7] he must have no first-hand views.
8 - 9 It was his idea that there is such a thing as a first-hand opinion; [8] an original opinion; [9] an opinion which is coldly reasoned out in a man's head, by a searching analysis of the facts involved, with the heart unconsulted, and the jury room closed against outside influences.
10 - 11 Six months later everybody is reconciled; [10] the fashion has established itself; [11] it is admired, now, and no one laughs.
12 It is our nature to conform; [12] it is a force which not many can successfully resist.
13 We all have to bow to that; [13] there are no exceptions.
14-15 Even the woman who refuses from first to last to wear the hoop skirt comes under that law and is its slave; [14] she could not wear the skirt and have her own approval; [15] and that she must have, she cannot help herself.
16-18 One woman abandons the fashion; [16] her neighbor notices this and follows her lead; [17] this influences the next woman; [18] and so on and so on, and presently the skirt has vanished out of the world, no one knows how nor why, nor cares, for that matter.
19 Twenty-five years ago, in England, six or eight wine glasses stood grouped by each person's plate at a dinner party, and they were used, not left idle and empty; [19] to-day there are but three or four in the group, and the average guest sparingly uses about two of them.
20 We shall not think it out; [20] we shall merely conform, and let it go at that.
21 We get our notions and habits and opinions from outside influences; [21] we do not have to study them out.
22 Our table manners, and company manners, and street manners change from time to time, but the changes are not reasoned out; [22] we merely notice and conform.
23 We are creatures of outside influences; [23] as a rule we do not think, we only imitate.
24 We cannot invent standards that will stick; [24] what we mistake for standards are only fashions, and perishable.
25 Shakespeare is a standard, and fifty years ago we used to write tragedies which we couldn't tell from -- from somebody else's; [25] but we don't do it any more, now.
26 Our prose standard, three quarters of a century ago, was ornate and diffuse; [26] some authority or other changed it in the direction of compactness and simplicity, and conformity followed, without argument.
27 We had historical novels before; [27] but nobody read them, and the rest of us conformed -- without reasoning it out.
28 The Smiths like the new play; [28] the Joneses go to see it, and they copy the Smith verdict.
29 Morals, religions, politics, get their following from surrounding influences and atmospheres, almost entirely; [29] not from study, not from thinking.
30-36 Mohammedans are Mohammedans because they are born and reared among that sect, not because they have thought it out and can furnish sound reasons for being Mohammedans; [30] we know why Catholics are Catholics; [31] why Presbyterians are Presbyterians; [32] why Baptists are Baptists; [33] why Mormons are Mormons; [34] why thieves are thieves; [35] why monarchists are monarchists; [36] why Republicans are Republicans and Democrats, Democrats.
37 We know it is a matter of association and sympathy, not reasoning and examination; [37] that hardly a man in the world has an opinion upon morals, politics, or religion which he got otherwise than through his associations and sympathies.
38 I think that in the majority of cases it is unconscious and not calculated; [38] that it is born of the human being's natural yearning to stand well with his fellows and have their inspiring approval and praise -- a yearning which is commonly so strong and so insistent that it cannot be effectually resisted, and must have its way.
39-41 A political emergency brings out the corn-pone opinion in fine force in its two chief varieties -- the pocketbook variety, which has its origin in self-interest, and the bigger variety, the sentimental variety -- the one which can't bear to be outside the pale; [39] can't bear to be in disfavor; [40] can't endure the averted face and the cold shoulder; [41] wants to stand well with his friends, wants to be smiled upon, wants to be welcome, wants to hear the precious words, "He's on the right track!"
42-44 Men think they think upon great political questions, and they do; [42] but they think with their party, not independently; [43] they read its literature, but not that of the other side; [44] they arrive at convictions, but they are drawn from a partial view of the matter in hand and are of no particular value.
45 They swarm with their party, they feel with their party, they are happy in their party's approval; [45] and where the party leads they will follow, whether for right and honor, or through blood and dirt and a mush of mutilated morals.