I had never listened to a single song by the Lonely Island until my sophomore year at UC Berkeley — no, not even “I’m on a Boat.”
My roommate Gabby was the one to open my eyes — rather, my ears — to the hilarity of the band’s music. After watching a few of the group’s most popular music videos on YouTube, I clicked on one whose title caught my grammar-nerd eye: “Semicolon.” I was excited to listen to what the band had to say about the punctuation mark many people misused so often.
Oh, I was not disappointed.
At first, I was very confused because I couldn’t really make sense of what the band was trying to tell me. Then came the line about Oxnard. Then I got it: The band was satirically misusing the semicolon.
The video’s lyrics satirically read, “I’ll take you where you’ve never been; Oxnard.” First of all, you should use a colon in that sentence, not a semicolon. Second, I’ve been to Oxnard many times — the city neighbors my hometown, Camarillo.
So the band members get F’s in their grammar class (which they deserve), but we shouldn’t have to. What is the correct way to use a semicolon?
One correct use of the semicolon is connecting two independent clauses. For example: Oxnard is famous for its strawberries; it even hosts a strawberry festival annually.
Another use is separating three or more items in a list when one or more of those items contain a comma: We can eat strawberry pizza (yes, this is a thing), chocolate-dipped strawberries and strawberry pie; drink strawberry margaritas; and go on a jog to burn off all those calories.
Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t go on that jog — I’d rather sit here, watch funny YouTube videos and tell you not to use semicolons like the Lonely Island does in this song if you want to be grammatically correct. But then again, why wouldn’t you want to be grammatically correct?