The serial comma, more commonly referred to as the Oxford comma, has been recognized as the standard for descriptive sentence structure in English writing. Despite this acceptance, some critics claim it still holds a potential of introducing unnecessary ambiguity in certain contexts. These critics fail to realize that sometimes a little ambiguity is far better than complete and total miscommunication.
For instance, take this classic example of when foregoing the oxford comma goes terribly wrong:
‘Here we see the hookers, Hitler and Kennedy.’
Wait, since when have Hitler and Kennedy been prostitutes? First Washington’s wooden teeth, and now this?! What else have my history professors been lying to me about?! Next you’ll tell me most of the founding fathers were slave owning plantation owners. Blasphemy!
There is a glitch in the Matrix, people; this world’s not real, and it’s all because someone didn’t use the oxford comma when they really, really should have. Now let’s see how the sentence reads when we include the oxford comma:
‘Here we see the hookers, Hitler, and Kennedy.’
Wow! Much better! Instead of introducing a strange alternate universe wherein two of the most charismatic political leaders of the 20th century have resorted to selling their historically topical bodies for cash, we are relieved to see that the patriarchal nature of western society has been restored. Well, not exactly relieved, but still. South Park-esque stag parties in the underworld aside (let’s not forget about that whole Marilyn Monroe thing), the importance of the oxford comma has never been clearer.
Here’s another disturbingly off-putting Oxford comma mishap, courtesy of clevergirlhelps.tumblr.com. Context is everything, people.
We picked up tonight’s dinner, rat poison and nitroglycerin.
Now it’s your turn! Try to come up with your own ridiculous examples of when not keeping it Oxford goes wrong, and leave them in the comments section below! And always remember to keep it Oxford!