Friday, March 17, 2017

Preening with grammar

A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded — or totally necessary — Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks.
Is the Oxford comma really that polarizing? My impression is that there are a bunch of people who are passionate in their pro-Oxford comma stance, and then there is everyone else who just doesn't give a shit. There is no pro vs. con Oxford comma debate because the latter doesn't seem to exist. Think about it, have you seen any evidence of an anti-Oxford comma constituency? There are a ton of pro-Oxford comma memes that circulate on social media (e.g.). I have never seen any anti-Oxford comma memes.

Grammar pedants love to get up in arms about minor linguistic details. But this "debate" is not a debate at all. Instead, we have one side making a barely veiled claim at moral or intellectual superiority, and the other side... um, there is no other side. It's just a show.