in reply to 'use strict' without a semicolon can be interesting

It seems to me like it would be nice if this gave some sort of an error.

The syntax for use is use Module EXPR;, where EXPR is an expression that returns a list of symbols to import (or a list of strictures to enable in strict's case), and that's exactly what you provided. How can Perl possible know that what you meant something other than what you told it?

still behaves the same way in perl 5.8.12.

5.8.9 is the highest release of 5.8. You probably meant 5.12.0 or 5.12.1.