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?
Stephen: In one of your songs, you have the lyrics: Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma?
Stephen: Iâ€™m here to tell you, I do. Shall we explain what an oxford comma is to the people?
Ezra: Oh. Itâ€™s always a little tough to explainâ€¦ an oxford comma would be a comma that youâ€™d put before the and or the or, at the end of a list.
Stephen: Red, white, and blue.
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 itâ€™s: red, white and blue. Our flag is not red, white and blue. Thatâ€™s red and baby blue!
Ezra: There are situations where itâ€™s necessary.
Stephen: All situations. All of them except itâ€™s, like, a law firm. Thatâ€™s every otherâ€” No, listen, have you heard of Strunk and Whiteâ€™s The Elements of Style?
Stephen: Heard of that? I refer you toâ€¦ [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 Ezraâ€™s face]
Ezra: Yeah, but I meanâ€”
Stephen: Does that sting? Thatâ€™s E.B. White, you heard of him?
Ezra: Respect to Strunk and White, but itâ€™s just protocol. Itâ€™s notâ€” thereâ€™s no real reason.
Stephen: Yeah, itâ€™s language. Why donâ€™t you just take all punctuation out, be like the Romans?
Ezra: Sometimes we do.
Ezra: I mean, weâ€™re a band. Yâ€™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: Weâ€™ll see.
Stephen: All right, weâ€™ll be right back with a performance from Vampire comma Weekend!