Serial Comma Redux

The Serial Comma has been discussed before on Unlikely Words (here and here), so you know I was excited to see Stephen Colbert give Vampire Weekend a hard time for the line, “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” I like how they seem to wilt under the pressure.

Stephen: Can I take you to task for something, for a second?
Everyone: Sure.
Stephen: In one of your songs, you have the lyrics: Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma?
Ezra: Yes.
Stephen: I’m here to tell you, I do. Shall we explain what an oxford comma is to the people?
Ezra: Oh. It’s always a little tough to explain… an oxford comma would be a comma that you’d put before the and or the or, at the end of a list.
Stephen: Red, white, and blue.
Ezra: Exactly.
Stephen: I mean, red comma white comma and blue.
Ezra: Do you really need the comma?
Stephen: Yes, you do need the comma.
Ezra: Why do you need the comma?
Stephen: Because otherwise it’s: red, white and blue. Our flag is not red, white and blue. That’s red and baby blue!
Ezra: There are situations where it’s necessary.
Stephen: All situations. All of them except it’s, like, a law firm. That’s every other— No, listen, have you heard of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style?
Ezra: Yes.
Stephen: Heard of that? I refer you to… [opens book] page fucking two: In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term. [snaps book shut in Ezra’s face]
Ezra: Yeah, but I mean—
Stephen: Does that sting? That’s E.B. White, you heard of him?
Ezra: Respect to Strunk and White, but it’s just protocol. It’s not— there’s no real reason.
Stephen: Yeah, it’s language. Why don’t you just take all punctuation out, be like the Romans?
Ezra: Sometimes we do.
Stephen: Really?
Ezra: I mean, we’re a band. Y’know? [shrugs]
Stephen: I weep for our nation. But, I do enjoy your music. Will you stick around and do one of your songs that is properly punctuated?
Ezra: We’ll see.
Stephen: All right, we’ll be right back with a performance from Vampire comma Weekend!

Via Veni Vidi The Unsustainable

Serial Comma Redux

One thought on “Serial Comma Redux

  1. EmiB says:

    I love how much they wilted under pressure. Then again, I kinda wish they whipped out some sort of descriptivist vendetta against prescriptive views of grammar.


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