Excessive-profile writer Philip Pullman tweeted on Sunday in regards to the new 50 pence English coin due for launch by the Royal Mint on Friday, January 31.
“The ‘Brexit’ 50p coin is lacking an Oxford comma, and must be boycotted by all literate folks,” he stated.
An Oxford comma is the comma inserted earlier than “and” or “or” in an inventory to separate the ultimate merchandise in an inventory from the objects that go earlier than it.
Sir Philip lives in Oxford, which voted to stay within the European Union. He has written a number of bestselling books, together with the fantasy trilogy His Darkish Supplies. He argues that the commemorative coin requires a comma between “prosperity” and “and” – a really controversial opinion.
When The Guardian republished his tweet in an article, tons of of responses have been posted inside hours. Moderators eliminated many feedback – presumably probably the most heated ones.
The point out of the Oxford (or Harvard or serial) comma unfailingly attracts passionate advocates (of which I’m one) and decided detractors.
As Comma Queen Mary Norris, former copy editor at The New Yorker, says:
Nothing, however nothing — profanity, transgender pronouns, apostrophe abuse — excites the eagerness of grammar geeks greater than the serial, or Oxford, comma. Folks adore it or hate it, and they’re equally ferocious on either side of the controversy. Particular person publications have tips that sink deep into the psyches of editors and writers. The Occasions, like most newspapers, does with out the serial comma. At The New Yorker, it’s a copy editor’s responsibility to deploy the serial comma, together with a lot of different lip-smacking bits of punctuation, as a bulwark towards barbarianism.
Though its use is widespread in North America, the Oxford comma just isn’t as broadly utilized in Australia and the UK.
The Australian authorities’s Model Guide for Authors, Editors and Printers merely says “generally a comma is positioned between the final two objects to make sure readability” and doesn’t use it within the handbook’s title.
The UK Nationwide Curriculum authority warns college students shall be penalised in the event that they use a serial comma in an inventory of straightforward objects corresponding to “apples, cheese, and milk”.
Most of the detractors say: “I used to be taught in school to not use it.”
To them I’d say: “Nicely, you have been taught fallacious!”
As one poster on The Guardian article feedback:
The usage of the Oxford comma just isn’t customary apply [in the UK], merely due to the ignorant, narrow-minded grammar college lecturers we had.
Many imagine it must be used solely to keep away from ambiguity, as in Robert Fulford’s instance of a blooper that occurred in a newspaper reporting on a documentary about Merle Haggard: “Amongst these interviewed have been his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.”
My argument is deciding whether or not or to not use the Oxford comma is an pointless burden. I advocate utilizing it always, though most journalists aren’t followers of the comma – maybe as a result of they will save a few areas by omitting it.
Grammarians rejoice within the $10 million comma
The 50p coin
To return to the quote on the coin in query, “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”, inserting an Oxford comma after “prosperity”, as Pullman advocates, doesn’t go far sufficient, in my view, to kind out the issue with the quote.
The intent of the quote appears to use “with all nations” to the three nouns, however by parsing out every part we are able to see this doesn’t work.
Does “Peace with all nations” make grammatical sense? No.
Does “Prosperity with all nations” make grammatical sense? No.
No matter committee tailored US President Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 inauguration ideas “peace, commerce, and trustworthy friendship with all nations” by merely deciding to drop the Oxford comma and echo the remainder of his phrases has resulted on this egregiously inept wording.
As admirable (or pedantic, relying in your emotions in regards to the Oxford comma) as Pullman could be in advocating for using the Oxford comma on the coin, it’s clear this coin has dedicated a couple of crime towards the foundations of grammar.
Roslyn Petelin doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.