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Friday, April 13, 2007

Bad Grammar Makes Me [Sic]

This is the most original, clever, and humorous t-shirt I've seen in a long time.

(Speaking of grammar, please note my use of the Oxford comma in the above sentence. I hold firmly to my belief that it is not optional or obsolete, regardless of what certain writing organizations and associations may have to say about the matter.)


  1. Can you explain to this, your uneducated sister, what exactly an Oxford comma is?

  2. melissa5:16 PM

    I love that shirt too.
    I've been struggling with the Oxford comma ever since my advanced Spanish composition class at Gordon, where we were told that we should not use the equivalent comma in Spanish. I haven't been able to determine if that was a preference of the teacher or a general rule for Spanish grammar, but it seems that it is more likely the latter. I can't decide whether it is out-of-date or still necessary. Tell us why you insist on it!

  3. I absolutely insist on it too.

    I love the shirt too. I might buy one for my mother - she's an English teacher.

  4. Emily -

    The Oxford comma is the comma used before the conjunction (usually 'and' or 'or') preceding the last item in a list of three or more items.

    Sometimes it really doesn't matter whether you use it or not, like in the sentence on my blog:

    "This is the most original, clever, and humorous t-shirt I've seen in a long time."

    "This is the most original, clever and humorous t-shirt I've seen in a long time."

    The two meanings are identical, but I still prefer to use the Oxford comma.

    As Melissa says, it's never used in Spanish or many other foreign languages, but I believe it can be used in German and French as well as in English.

    I love the Oxford comma for several reasons. First of all, it reduces ambiguity. Let's say you're dedicating a book:

    "To my parents, Melissa, and God."

    Makes sense, right? But what about:

    "To my parents, Melissa and God."

    Not quite so clear anymore, eh?

    How about:

    "I like sandwiches made of turkey, roast beef, cheese and jelly and peanut butter."

    See how use of the Oxford comma would clarify in this situation?

    I also think it flows more naturally with the rhythm of how we speak lists, anyway.

    That said, there are times when use of the Oxford comma actually introduces ambiguity rather than eliminating it. The famous list everyone uses as an example is something like this:

    "Emily, a soprano, and a dog"
    "Emily, a soprano and a dog"
    The first list makes it unclear whether we are discussing two people and an animal or one person - Emily, who is a soprano - and a dog. Although I suppose it's feasible that the sentence could be read that you are both a soprano and a dog, haha.

    Anyway, everybody fights about it but I use it religiously. :)

  5. I like the Oxford comma, too (though perhaps not enough to join the Facebook group dedicated to it). I didn't know there was a name for it, so thanks for that. Just to clarify your comment above: you can't use it in German. This means that none of my students use it when writing in English, but I always correct it for them. And it makes me mad when native English speakers don't use it. Actually, on second thought, maybe I do like it enough to join the Facebook group. :)

    A question: Nate and I aren't sure we "get" this amazing t-shirt. Is it anything more than a play on the words sic and sick? Is there some brilliant hidden meaning, like, "I look like this because of bad grammar," or, "Bad grammar makes me," which is not actually a sentence and therefore bad grammar? Please enlighten us.

  6. Leave it to Kate and Nate to over-analyze... or maybe it just isn't as funny as I thought! I think it's just a play on words with [sic] and sick.

    Anyway, who doesn't like to use [sic] whenever possible to show off the errors of the person being quoted? :-)

  7. Renee3:03 AM

    I share your sentiments regarding the Oxford comma. Stupid Vietnam does not. Still, I continue to insert the unwanted things to my little heart's content.