Now, as I am a computer scientist, and I have been slammed into that altered mental state from my own use of very frequent semicolons in PASCAL and "C" (that's the language, not the grade) - not to mention all the other odd punctuation things we get into since no one has seen fit to actually extend the keyboard, except for those APL people.... Ahem! Pardon me for trying to drag in my own work. Let's try this again.
I recall reading somewhere that one of the major objections to Chesterton (besides the old canard that he was usually wrong about everything) was what they call his "poor style", exemplified by his "over-use" of the semicolon. I have wondered about that; I didn't seem to recall noting any over-use, but then I have my own style anyway, altered (as I have stated) by spending too many hours typing semicolons at the end of every line. Hee hee. Nevertheless, I am just enough of a scholar to wonder how many semicolons GKC really did use - and perhaps you wondered too.
Apparently back in 1998 a study was made of this very matter, and after some searching in old and forgotten piles of paper, I found a copy. In an article by someone named "Peter Floriani" published in the little-known and all-too-short-lived Mideast Chesterton News, for April 25, 1998, I learned that Chesterton wrote 1533 essays for the Illustrated London News, ranging in size from 782 to 2847 words. The average word count was 1459.5. The article included this very interesting graph:
(MeCN 1:3, Apr 25, 1998; used by kind permission of the Editor-in-Chief.)
Finally, the article reported that these essays use semicolons ranging from 2 to 39, at an average semicolon frequency of 14.2 per essay, or just about one every ten words.
However, the article did not report on Chesterton's other use of the semicolon, which I shall now reveal. It turns out that he used the WORD (not the symbol) twice, at least as far as I can tell:
But that Seymour invented anything in the letterpress large or small, that he invented either the outline of Mr. Pickwick's character or the number of Mr. Pickwick's cabman, that he invented either the story, or so much as a semi-colon in the story was not only never proved, but was never very lucidly alleged.Though Maisie Ward had this to say:
[GKC Charles Dickens CW15:81]
With scarcely a semicolon after his hearty thanks, the little man began his recital:
[GKC "The Absence Of Mr. Glass" in The Wisdom of Father Brown]
...Gilbert liked anyhow to distribute the stops and commas and especially the semi-colons on a method rather markedly his own.Oh my. I may be biassed, of course, from writing software, but I am sorry. I do not find the issue worth whining over. Really! Using "semicolon" two times - and once hyphenated - in some eight million words is hardly an over-use.
[Ward, Return To Chesterton 157]