Maybe I’m naive, but I have no idea how to type those two little dots over the word naive. Nor do I know what they’re called or why they’re there.
Fortunately, I’m a pro at cutting and pasting.
Normally, there’s just one dot over the letter i. This is called a tittle. Adding a second dot turns the tittle into an umlaut. An umlaut is a type of diacritic mark – a glyph added to a letter – that is used to change the sound value of that letter. Other examples include façade (the dangly glyph is warning us we are to pronounce the c like an s instead of a k) and fiancé (that glyph, called an acute accent, tells us it’s a instead of e). Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. And I’m a professional writer. Man alive, the English language is complicated enough with apostrophes and commas. Start throwing dots and curls and tildes and hooks into the mix, and you’re just asking for trouble.
Why all the grammar talk when there are far more pressing issues in the world, like how many hours a night the Royal Baby is sleeping now? Because I recently went toe to toe with the owner of the company, waging a battle over the Oxford comma…and lost. For the record: I’m pro-Oxford, he’s against it. What is an Oxford comma, you ask? I’ll let the experts at the Oxford Dictionary (appropriately enough) tell you.
The ‘Oxford comma’ is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list:
We sell books, videos, and magazines.
It’s known as the Oxford comma because it was traditionally used by printers, readers, and editors at Oxford University Press. Not all writers and publishers use it, but it can clarify the meaning of a sentence when the items in a list are not single words:
These items are available in black and white, red and yellow, and blue and green.
The Oxford comma is also known as the ‘serial comma’.
There ya go. We writer types get very passionate over this sort of thing. Which means
we writer types are nerds…umm, yeah. We writer types are nerds. There’s no two ways around that. Luckily, some women find nerds attractive. Am I right, Penny?
Anyway. I’ve been writing articles for my company for eight months now, but until recently wasn’t involved in editing. And then suddenly, I was. While looking over something management had written, I added all the Oxford commas they had omitted, and returned it to my boss. Who returned it to me, with all the Oxford commas I had added omitted. Thus began a battle in which, sadly, I never had a chance of winning. I mean, it’s their company. They sign my paycheck, not vice-versa. So if they say Oxford commas are stupid, then Oxford commas are stupid.
Only they’re wrong. Because by their logic, This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God is correct. Ayn Rand and God are not your parents. Say instead, This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.
It’s crystal clear. I’m right, and they’re wrong. But whatever.
In happier news, today is a very important day for Tara and I. Not just because we filled out our application for a marriage license (we did, and we’re only working a half-day tomorrow so we can go into Portland and get it signed), but also because August 22nd was the day when Everything Changed. Two years ago this evening, Tara “stopped by” my place on her way back home from Seattle. Our initial date 11 days earlier had fallen through because she decided to go and get gallstones. The gall of her! (As revenge, I got them myself 3 months later, when she was visiting for Thanksgiving). I’ve written before of our gradually evolving friendship that had reached new levels via phone and text in the weeks preceding her visit, but I still had no expectations other than a nice dinner out, a couple of drinks, and some small talk. All of which happened, but then back at my townhouse we were suddenly kissing, and that was completely unexpected and thoroughly amazing. I still get shivers thinking about the first time our lips met. It was (and still is, every single time) electric. So there we were, making out on the couch, things were getting passionate, yada yada, she didn’t end up leaving until the next morning.
About that goodbye: I don’t think I’ve ever written about this, but when I walked her to her car, we hugged tightly. And then something happened that stopped my heart.
“I love you,” she said.
There was a hastily added addendum – “as a friend” – but I’ll always remember the rush of adrenaline that coursed through my veins when I heard those words. No, I didn’t really believe she loved me, loved me. But it gave me a little thrill to hear. When her car pulled away, I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again. I certainly had no idea I’d be pulling up in front of her house 16 days later, or she’d be moving in with me in 8 months, or – best of all – we’d be headed to the courthouse to pick up our marriage license two years to the morning that we said goodbye.
It’s poetic. All of it. And the story is still being written.
- Oxford Comma (perrismith1211.wordpress.com)
- Don’t sweat it: Serial comma (madamgrammar.com)
- 31 Undeniable Truths That Journalism Majors Can All Agree On (buzzfeed.com)