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They used to get paid on Wednesdays, but the factory had recently altered the schedule, and the shoemakers – the skivers, vampers, cutters, and stitchers; the trimmers, turn lasters, cementers, and assemblers – were looking forward to having more money in their pockets at the end of the day.

(Source: In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti by Susan Tejada)

I have the problems with the list of professions within the dashes in my sentence. In my opinion all the jobs there should be the ones that are related to shoemaking which are only the four of them. I think that it would be more logical if the sentence would have this form:

They used to get paid on Wednesdays, but the factory had recently altered the schedule, and the shoemakers – the skivers, vampers, cutters, and stitchers – , as well as the trimmers, turn lasters, cementers, and assemblers were looking forward to having more money in their pockets at the end of the day.

PS: I am not able to find out what a turn laster does.

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    A last in cobbling is a form used to shape shoes. A laster is a someone whose job is to stretch leather on the lasts. There are different types of laster jobs that seem to depend on the part of the shoe you work on. The only thing I could find after a quick search for "turn" in cobbling was turnshoe. Here's a page that includes a description of the turn laster's tasks: replacedbyrobot.info/44270/turn-laster – ColleenV Sep 8 '17 at 11:25
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  • They used to get paid on Wednesdays, but the factory had recently altered the schedule, and the shoemakers – the skivers, vampers, cutters, and stitchers; the trimmers, turn lasters, cementers, and assemblers were – looking forward to having more money in their pockets at the end of the day.

We can't know for sure the reason for placing a semicolon and separating the skivers, vampers, cutters, and stitchers from all the rest. I'll break the sentence into parts so that you notice the "and", and the ";":

  • They used to get paid on Wednesdays, but the factory had recently altered the schedule, and [the shoemakers] – [the skivers, vampers, cutters, and stitchers]; the trimmers, turn lasters, cementers, and assemblers were – looking forward to having more money in their pockets at the end of the day.

So we get five main categories: the shoemakers, the trimmers, the turn lasters, the cementers, and the assemblers. And we have a clarification of shoemakers: the skivers, vampers, cutters, and stitchers.

A turn laster is a workman whose business it is to shape boots or shoes, or place leather smoothly, on lasts. (laster) Turn is short for turnshoe - a type of shoe, made of leather, that was used during the Middle Ages. It was so named because it was put together inside out, and then was turned right-side-out once finished. This hides the main seam between the sole and vamp—prolonging the life of the shoe and inhibiting moisture leaking in through the seam. (turnshoe)

  • @ColleenV the dash and semicolon are similar to, "and the shoemakers (the skivers, vampers, cutters, and stitchers), the trimmers, turn lasters, cementers, and assemblers" – SovereignSun Sep 8 '17 at 12:10
  • I deleted my previous comment, because I'm not exactly sure, but this sentence is not OK for me. The dash should be before the "were" I think. That semicolon makes no sense at all. All of those jobs are shoemakers. I think the author is trying to be poetic by making a rhythm of the list of shoemaking jobs, but the punctuation is odd. If a stitcher or cutter is a shoemaker, so is a turn laster. – ColleenV Sep 8 '17 at 12:18
  • @ColleenV Ah, yeh, the final dash is indeed awkward. I do agree. However, i can see nothing wrong with using a semicolon there. We aren't aware of the reason for such separation. – SovereignSun Sep 8 '17 at 12:22
  • But the purpose of punctuation is to make the meaning of written text clearer. If we can't figure out why that punctuation mark is there, it's probably wrong. – ColleenV Sep 8 '17 at 12:25
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    Just FYI, the question has been edited to move the dash, which invalidates that part of your answer. – ColleenV Sep 11 '17 at 22:03

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