• Mon, Sep 19 2011

Is The Oxford Comma Something You Care About? What About Stripper Outfits?

oxford comma

 

I’d like to imagine JFK and Stalin care about the Oxford comma in this instance, even if we never do anymore. And, in an effort to make this a fashion/beauty based post, instead of just “a fun shout out to people who love grammar and think commas are sexy” – which stripper outfit is better, JFK’s or Stalin’s? The answer is Stalin’s, obviously, although I think it’s fair to say one would feel more comfortable wearing JFK’s. So. There are going to be two polls on this now, one on whether you are for or against the Oxford comma one on whether Stalin or JFK has the better outfit. Here are the polls.

Sorry! This poll is now closed.

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Sorry! This poll is now closed.

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And check out another wonderful oxford comma graphic.

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  • Meghan Keane

    I think I’m biased because Stalin’s pose is also superior.

    • Goldie

      The mustache really ties it all together.

  • jack

    Mind you, I studied math–not English–but wouldn’t the omission of the Oxford comma in this case only cause confusion if JFK and Stalin were the only two strippers that existed? The only reason to offset “JFK and Stalin” with a comma is if it’s meant as a nonrestrictive clause.

    I we had a party and invited two strippers, and their names were JFK and Stalin, the sentence would read, “…we invited the strippers JFK and Stalin.”

    • Ella Mode

      You might be right! Some math people are good with English, too. :-)

  • Eileen

    I am and have always been firmly pro-Oxford comma. Also, there are two spaces after a period, not one. I’m attached to my punctuation rules.

    • Bill

      Actually, it’s one space after a period. It used to be two spaces in the days of typewriters, where they strictly used monospaced fonts. The two spaces would help create a more obvious break in the flow of text. But with today’s typography on computers, most fonts used are variable-width which automatically applies enough space after a period.

      With that said, I still put two spaces after a period out of habit. This habit came in handy when I wrote my papers in college ;)

    • Eileen

      I know that argument but do not accept it (hence, “attached to MY punctuation rules”). Two spaces just looks better.

    • Bill_in_Omaha

      And I, who is 83 and set in my ways, also much prefer the Oxford comma. I find it to be much preferable to the confusion, irritation, and other misunderstandings that might occur in its absence. It doesn’t take much time to type it, so why omit it when inclusion might obviate those possibilities?

  • tara

    I saw those english dramas too. they’re cruel.

    • Emma

      So if there’s any other way to spell the word it’s fine with me.

  • Ella Mode

    This situation is more complicated.

    What about this:

    “We invited (no “the”) strippers, JFK and Stalin.”

    If I wanted to say that the strippers were JFK and Stalin -strippers, I’d write:

    “We invited the strippers; JFK and Stalin.”

    I’m not even sure it does read as the strippers are the two men without a semi-colon or colon.

    Usually, grammarians prefer without, correct?

    When in doubt, just try your hardest to be most understood!!!

    • whathwat

      that is not how you use a semicolon, my good friend.
      think of a semicolon as something that comes between two *full* sentences that are closely linked. in many cases (but this rule is slowly dying out), you use the semicolon when the former sentence modifies or somehow enhances the meaning of the second.
      cheers!

  • Ella Mode

    Yeah, the ads on the bottom left make the page really slow. I just now couldn’t scroll it. I don’t think I’ll be viewing this site anymore.

  • miinxi

    sorry i didnt go to Uni (college)… what is the oxford comma???

  • nat

    The oxford comma is important!

  • LDacon

    Great example. Now try this one relating to the oh-so-common tendancy to capitalize nouns in the middle of sentences:

    Proper capitalization is the difference between:
    Helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.

  • Kate

    No, no! If I’m talking about two strippers named JFK and Stalin, I would say, “We invited the strippers JFK and Stalin.” The stripper JFK and the stripper Stalin. So simple!

  • Rachel

    What a provocative, illustrative example! Love the comma drama! I went to journalism school at the University of Florida (not Oxford), so I’m a proponent of AP style. Unless it’s a complex series of things, I usually forego the comma before the conjunction. This eHow article sums it up quite nicely: http://www.ehow.com/how_2337761_use-commas-associated-press-style.html

  • Bill

    Ugh. This is NOT a valid argument, internet. The Strippers/JFK/Stalin sentence is confusing because it lacks PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION. Here is another confusing sentence:

    “We invited the stripper, JFK, and Stalin.”

    See how the oxford comma makes it seem as though we are identifying JFK as the stripper? It’s not the comma’s fault.

    When listing things, you need to make sure your lists use parallel construction. Here are a few examples:

    We invited a stripper, a US president, and a Soviet dictator.
    We invited a stripper, a US president and a Soviet dictator.
    We invited Cherry, JFK, and Stalin.
    We invited Cherry, JFK and Stalin.

    See how the oxford comma’s presence does not affect the meaning of these sentences?

    • Michaela

      Actually, Bill, when you separate a proper noun by commas it indicates a direct reference *to*. Like how I just referred to you in the previous sentence. You should not separate the proper name of any noun by commas.

      Example:
      “We invited the stripper, JFK, and Stalin.” One would say this when addressing a person named JFK.

      “We invited the stripper JFK, and Stalin.” One would say this if it were a stripper named JFK.

    • Casey

      Parallel does not mean all singular or plural nouns. You can mix singular and plural within a single list.

  • Cara

    The Chicago Manual of Style, the bible for American book publishing, indicates that the Oxford comma (the serial comma) is necessary to avoid confusion in listing. Additionally, when in a construct such as “My sister, Mary, is a pediatrician” the name “Mary” is offset by commas if she is your only sister. If you have three sisters and you are just referring to the one named Mary, you would not set it in commas.

    The serial comma is important because it prevents ambiguity, particularly when the last two elements are joined by a conjunction, otherwise the union of these elements by a conjunction creates a separate clause — hence the ambiguity.

  • Marcel

    I had never heard off an will not use that unnecessary, ugly comma.

    The example given is funny, but incorrect. If you want to say 2 strippers named JFK and Stalin here, you write :
    “We invited the strippers JFK and Stalin”

    • margaretbarreca@gmail.com

      You’re wrong and you misspelled of. It’s not off, it’s of.

  • Jbird
  • IggyO

    Would be wonderful if we all argued about such things. The Oxford comma is hot….JFK is best in those hose. Such arguments are the mark of an advanced civilization.

  • Language Arts Teacher

    We have two national writing standards, MLA and APA. (Note my correct use of the comma.) Correctness seems to be a bygone idea today, but with the competitive business of getting into the best universities, students will need to double check their comma usage! Formal writing demands correctness. The Oxford comma is correct.

  • Jay
  • Fox

    Jennifer Wright, you and this article just got blasted by Maddox. Sorry, but everything you do now will end in utter failure, and you should probably kill yourself.

  • OldDogNewTits

    Okay. The irony is that, without the comma, I actually read it a third way. Direct address. As in some lackey was informing these two leaders of men that the entertainment had arrived.

    Ah, miscommunication. Providing organic comedy since the beginning of time.

  • Eliezer Rajoy

    Use a colon. Ambiguity solved.
    “We invited the strippers: JFK and Stalin”

  • lesssmug

    I’d love to know if there was a correlation between the poles.