There's been much debate, in the circles in which I run, about the Oxford comma of late. Because I run in circles with people who debate about commas, I'm ashamed to say. And listening to this debate I've learned one important thing. People get really, really worked up over one tiny piece of punctuation.
Here's the deal. The Oxford, or serial comma, is the punctuation that comes right before and, but, or nor in a list of things. As in "I like puppies, rainbows, and drag racing." Not all people think that the Oxford comma is needed, that the sentence is just as clear if written "I like puppies, rainbows and drag racing."
I have an opinion on this. I've tried my hardest not to, but I think it's in my English major DNA. I'm not going to push my opinion on you here though, because the point of this entry is to demand, loudly, to know why the hell anyone cares about such a thing.
Now I'm not above pointless debating. I've dedicated more of my life than I care to admit to debating what would happen if Wolverine got a tattoo, what with the mutant healing factor. I mean, would it just seep in, or slough off, or would it stay. It's like a scar, but it's not a scar... I mean what it all comes down to is that we'd need to figure out first exactly just how his mutant healing factor works. If his cells just regenerate really quickly, then the skin that contains the ink would come to the surface sooner first...
Okay, wait, no. Not the point. The point? Oh, the point is punctuation. And how damned silly it is to get worked up about it.
This seems hypocritical coming from someone like me, who froths at the sight of misplaced apostrophes (apostrophes aren't used to make plurals, for God sake. Your establishment doesn't serve fajita's, it serves fajitas. Unless, of course, your restaurant serves thinks that belong to a fajita, in which case, part of your sentence is missing). Can I be forgiven based on the fact that I get paid to care about these things?
You know that book Eats, Shoots, and Leaves that everyone seems convinced I'll love? I hate it. The woman, I kid you not, picketed outside the movie Two Weeks Notice to complain that it should be Two Weeks' Notice. Like, maybe she's a lovely person with a great social conscience, but I really wonder as to the last time she held up a picket sign in favor of something important, you know? I might complain loudly, and at length, outside of an establishment that abuses apostrophes, but holding a sign? Please. Never. Okay, maybe under the right circumstances.
But then, I do care about things like little things like punctuation. If a piece of business literature is filled with little punctuation errors, it will make me think twice about the company. If they can't be bothered to proofread their copy, what else are they lax about? I know a knitter who won't use a knitting pattern if there are a lot of mistakes in the text between the pattern bits - minute details are very important in things like sock patterns, and if someone's lax in the area of grammar, well, it might be the red flag that prevents you from making socks the size of your head. And there are times when punctuation is important. Take the age old case of "Let's eat grandma," vs. "Let's eat, grandma." In that case, a lack of punctuation may lead to some very expensive therapy bills down the line.
Also, my friend sent this to me, which is what got me thinking about minutiae in the first place. And the cartoonist really does have a point.
Okay, fine, I'll say it. I'm pro-Oxford. And I'm not afraid to admit it.