Before today I thought it was
a comma in a French dictée
a second to catch my breath
and divine/understand the next
word. Had I known it signaled
options/alternatives and a blank/void
could be avoided how much breath/
life could I have saved/salvaged?

Instead I chewed/stewed
a diseased/gnawed leaf edge
sawed/eaten by bugs/worry fearing
failure/death/irrelevance importuning my
poor/weak/unresponsive memory
to give me a break/respite.

I spelled it out – V/I/R/G/U/L/E –
thought it was a word in the dictée.
After I knew/learned the truth/definition
I wished/cried for relief/release from my head.
But today I know it is a comma/slash
and it makes me laugh.



6 thoughts on “Virgule

    • I don’t know exactly, Carla, but I do like words and I follow’s word of the day. This came up a few days ago and it brought to mind high school french dictation and I remembered the word “virgule” meant “comma” but the actual definition is broader than just comma and that’s how it evolved. I was sitting on my back deck this morning, birds chirping, sun coming up and maybe it was just luck. Thanks for the nice comment!

  1. Very clever. I had a good laugh remembering those “dictées” in grammar school. Funny we never took dictation in English. I wonder if that’s why so many people cannot “hear” what they read….

    Maybe diagonal, separatrix, shilling mark, slant, slash, solidus, and British “stroke” all share an ancient linguistic parentage with the comma…which, as we know, is French “virgule”, after the Latin virgule, meaning “little rod.”

    • Those dictées bedeviled me! I usually understood them AFTER the whole thing was read and by then it was too late and the papers were collected. When I saw the word of the day a few days ago was “virgule”, the whole horror of French class came back to me.

      My husband, the former high school English teacher, did a lot of work with English as a second language students and one of the things he did was dictate short paragraphs to them so they could connect sound with the written language.

"The river flows both ways." (Margaret Laurence)

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