OXFORD COMMAS: GRAMMATICAL LEPIDOPTERA


Comma Butterfly (Keith Salvesen)

This is a Comma butterfly that happens to have been photographed in Oxford. There are plenty about right now – I’ve been seeing them in London, coastal Sussex and Dorset. This one in Oxford was enjoying Nepeta (catmint), and providing a lazy excuse to reference the seemingly interminable ‘Oxford Comma’ grammar debate – the question whether, in a list of items, a comma is mandatory before the eventual ‘and’. See below (if you can be bothered in all this hot weather / while the World Cup is on).

Comma Butterfly (Keith Salvesen) Comma Butterfly (Keith Salvesen) Comma Butterfly (Keith Salvesen)

“I love my parents, Jesus Christ and Lady Gaga”. Does this make any kind of sense? No. Exactly. You are not the progeny of Christ and a self-enobled and cannily bonkers popular singer. You need a comma before the ‘and’ for the sentence to make sense. Only then are you clearly loving each of those specified independently. I rest my case.

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