The Slash

The slash is a comfortable being in the world of punctuation.

It may not be obvious from the multitude of alternative names it possesses (“separatrix” suggests panther-grade malice, I tell you), but the slash/stroke/virgula suspensiva (actually that one might just be a species of panther) has a history rooted in equanimity, good cheer, and sweaters.

In the early (though some sources claim mid) 1500s, sweaters were increasing in popularity on an unprecedented scale. Sweatersmiths could barely keep up with the demand and had to make compromises, such as deintegrating doublets, virtually eliminating tri-cross-stitched versions, and using buttons instead of linchpins on the open-front models.

Regardless of their construction, folks always slipped into these hip new cozy coverings with the following steps:

  1. An upward tilt of one arm
  2. A slick twist-and-slide move, the details of which are out of the scope of this list
  3. A downward tip of the contralateral arm, with further fidgeting as required (usually necessary with sweaters that didn’t have buttons/linchpins)

Because of all this work, putting on a sweater required a substantially fit core, which led people to refer to this set of actions as “obliquing”. “Longissimusing” and “multifiding” were also in the running for a while. Over time, the shape one’s arms made during this whole process became known as the oblique.


No one is sure how we got all these other names (except slak, that one’s obvious, thanks Wojkowice), but well, here we are and it’s so nice and warm, come on in. Have a cider or something and let’s talk about the stars.

This article is part of a series on punctuation. It’s pretty much all made up. Don’t underestimate the prowess of a panther, though. You’ve been warned.