The Oxford Comma

Examples of why the Oxford comma is absolutely necessary:

Among those interviewed were Merle Haggard’s two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Rober Duvall.

This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

Alexander MacDonald via Twitter


Liberty And License

Liberty is not license. And license is not plural.


So: The New Now?

So, as I listen to podcasts, participate in conference calls, and even talk to people face to face, I find that it is becoming more and more common for people to begin sentences with “so.” For no apparent reason.

So, the form is not something like, “This happened, and then this. So, I did this.” At least in this case, there is a causal relationship to what he/she just said.  

No, people are beginning podcasts with, “So, I’m talking to Herb Plumdiggy from Whack-A-Mole, Inc.” Managers are beginning meetings with, “So, we want to talk about the problems with our automated cotton candy spinner.” When an interviewer asks, “How can earthquakes be prevented with sheep’s bladder?” the interviewee answers, “So, this is a very interesting application. …” People are beginning stories with, “So, you guys have to hear what Gigi’s dog can do with a tricycle and a Slinky.”

So, why are people sticking this word to the fronts of their sentences? It serves absolutely no purpose.  Is “so” the next “y’know” or “like”?

So, all this got me thinking about whether we use any other words like this “so.” It occurs to me that we use “now” in a similar way:

  • Now Jason decided that red licorice just would not do for an industrial application.
  • Kids, you’re gonna regret playing with the cat with those toothpicks, now.

So, the first example is a little different from this totally useless employment of “so.” In the first example, “now” is something of a transitional word from the previous sentence. People tend not to begin a story with “now,” only continue it. You could argue that it serves no grammatical purpose; it is merely aesthetic. In the second example, on the other hand, “now” really is utterly pointless. “Meaningless!” as Orson Welles might say.

So, maybe “so” is the new “now,” but for the beginning of the sentence.

Whatever the reason, it is really annoying.


Apostrophic Failure

OK, class, let’s review: apostrophes indicate possession, not plurality.  Therefore when you write, “Wilson’s,” you are not referring to a group of Wilson family members; you are referring to something that belongs to someone named “Wilson.”

Let us consider an example in which the writer intends to say that members of the Wilson family are accompanying his own family:

The Wilson’s are coming with us.  (incorrect)

The Wilsons are coming with us.  (correct)

If you are writing in the form of first sentence, stop it.  Right now!

And while I’m at it, regardless of how strange it may sound, add es to pluralize surnames ending in s (for that matter, x or z, too):

The Collins’ invited us to dinner.  (incorrect)

The Collinses invited us to dinner.  (correct)

As you can imagine, having a last name ending in s myself, I have suffered this transgression many a time.

Back to apostrophes.  Yes, to pluralize a single letter, add ’s (e.g., p’s & q’s), but I haven’t seen any surnames consisting of just one letter. (Well, except for Mr. T, but there’s just one of him.)

Your reading assignments for this evening:

Class dismissed.


Loosing the Language

Am I the only English speaker who still knows how to spell the word “lose?”  Some samples from the Internet:

McCain Loosing His Mind! — McCain VS Fact

Israeli Army Chief Not Loosing Sleep Over Iraq Fears —

Housing, which had set sales records for both new and existing homes for five consecutive years, has been rapidly loosing altitude this year, as consumers were battered by rising mortgage rates, soaring energy prices and a slowing economy. — Associated Press /