After I wrote an overview of semicolon use, a friend pointed out that the mark is also commonly used in winking smileys: ;). He described it as a “salacious flirt”, a kinder term than the late Kurt Vonnegut’s “transvestite hermaphrodites“. I admit that I have used and occasionally abused the semicolon in emoticons – always in a highly informal context – but have yet to decide if that constitutes a lapse of some sort.
The semicolon is also used in computer programming code (e.g. is HTML code for a type of space), but in this guise is rarely seen by the non-programming public. Whatever about the mark’s private life, its incorporation into emoticons and coding language has given it a new lease of life, albeit an odd one, and rumours of its demise are greatly exaggerated.