Merle Haggard and the Gay Serial Comma

I am unabashed in my affinity for the serial comma.

The caption reads: “The documentary was filmed over three years. Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.” The case for the final serial comma, which would have made it abundantly clear that Kristofferson and Duvall were not, in fact, Haggard’s ex-wives, rests.

Thanks, Matt!

Merle Haggard and the Gay Serial Comma

Manute Bol Popularized the Phrase ‘My Bad’

Last week, it was reported that 7’7″ Sudanese basketball player Manute Bol passed away at the age of 47. Among several interesting tidbits about his life, Bol is also credited with popularizing the phrase ‘my bad’.

-St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 10, 1989: When he [Manute Bol] throws a bad pass, he’ll say, “My bad” instead of “My fault,” and now all the other players say the same thing.
-USA Today, Jan. 27, 1989: After making a bad pass, instead of saying “my fault,” Manute Bol says, “my bad.” Now all the other Warriors say it too.

Here’s a feature about Manute from the SI Vault, which I continue to suggest is one of the better resources on the web.

Thanks Andy and Jonah.

Manute Bol Popularized the Phrase ‘My Bad’

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

No Apostrophe in “Veterans Day”

The fact that there isn’t an apostrophe in Veterans Day is fascinating to me, probably because I’m simple. Via the FAQ of the Department of Veterans Affairs (also no apostrophes):

Q. Which is the correct spelling of Veterans Day?
a. “Veterans Day”
b. “Veteran’s Day”
c. “Veterans’ Day”

A. Veterans Day (choice a, above).
Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an “s” at the end of “veterans” because it is not a day that “belongs” to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.

No Apostrophe in “Veterans Day”

The Serial Comma, The Oxford Comma, and The Harvard Comma

You know, the comma before ‘and’ or ‘or’ in a list? It’s the Harvard Comma, and I use it! I was taught to use it, though I was aware that some did not, but I never knew why. Recently, a boss told me not to use it, and I can only assume he has had some training as a newspaperman, or, at least, learned his grammar from someone who was.

The Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, most authorities on American English and Canadian English, and some authorities on British English (for example, Oxford University Press, and Fowler’s Modern English Usage) recommend the use of the serial comma. Newspaper style guides (such as those published by The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Times newspaper in the United Kingdom, and the Canadian Press) recommend against it, possibly for economy of space.

The Serial Comma, The Oxford Comma, and The Harvard Comma