Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Oxford Comma

I loathe the Oxford Comma. Its presence in written texts is highly irritating, inept, inapt and unnecessary (note the absence of one of the little blighters after "inapt"). But then, I suppose I'm one of only a very few who gives the proverbial "continental" about such arcane matters.

What, you may ask, is the Oxford Comma?

The graphic explains all. It concludes that if you live in the United States, then you can use it with a clear conscience. This is wrong. You should never use it: period. Not even in Texas.


  1. I started writing a comment, but it degenerated into a discussion of correlative conjunctions versus subordinate conjunctions, and the concept called operator precedence, found in algebra and computer programming, which you can override with parentheses. So I threw that comment away, and will say only that I was taught in school in Canada, half a century ago, not to use the Oxford comma. I still do it and cringe whenever I see anything written otherwise. I agree with you, Gavin.

  2. Replies
    1. Aaaarrrggghh! Mea culpa. Correction made.

  3. The Online Schools chart includes New Zealand as part of Australia. How does Macquarie/NZ deal with Gaol/Jail?

    1. A diverting question. My personal gut reaction is to go for 'jail'. The Reed Dictionary of NZ English preferred 'gaol' back in 1989, but the current NZ Oxford prefers 'jail'. The Ocker Macquarie lists both but notes "In general the spelling of this word has shifted in Australian English from 'gaol' to 'jail'. However, 'gaol' remains fossilised in the names of jails, such as Parramatta Gaol, and in some government usage."

    2. I was curious about that, it's exactly the mix-up I would have expected. So the rule must be if Blighty moves to an Americanism, the Commonwealth soon follows (in reality something her own intellectuals have long lobbied for). And if she doesn't [program(me)], there will be an endless pie fight in the (ex)colonies. Often the colonies are more conservative/retro than the master nation, like former US colony Philippines retaining hyper-radical "Filipino" ("Use F for PH").

    3. In the song 'Tan shoes..." there is a pause before the 'and..' showing they had a comma in there.

  4. As a baptized Lutheran attending a Roman Catholic parochial school for my first 11 years of educational bliss, I am horrified that anyone would use this... this... Oxford Comma! How uncivilized! What will happen next? Spit infinitives? Dangling participles? We are already drowning in a sea of gerunds! Clauses of all sorts will be separated by dashes (gasp!), instead of commas!

    It must be those dratted liberals! We are regressing into the Stone Age from the Bronze Age! The next thing we know, we'll all be using chisels and stone instead of paper -- and then where will we be? They'll stop using Oxford commas because it's too hard to make more chisel marks!

    All this nonsense up with which I shall not put!

    It's just another symptom of conjunctivitis!

    Finally, I ask: What is a difference between a cat and a comma?

    It's simple: A cat has claws at the end of its paws, but a comma has a pause at the end of a clause!