Friday, September 20, 2013
In what I can only assume was an exaggerated-for-comic-effect piece on Slate, David Haglund bemoans the lack of an Oxford comma, a.k.a. serial comma, in Earth, Wind & Fire and Crosby, Stills and Nash and the like.
With a straighter face, he asserts that "right-thinking usage nerds everywhere" dutifully use that comma. Red, white, and blue, not red, white and blue. Well, I'm as right-thinking a usage nerd as you'll meet, if I do say so myself, and although I'll concede I'm in the minority, I just don't care much about serial commas one way or the other. Neither do my right-thinking-usage-nerd friends Merrill Perlman and John McIntyre.
I've spent my career in newspapers, which generally omit the serial comma, and perhaps that's why I lean slightly in that direction even when I'm off the clock.
Fans of the serial comma will point to comical examples such as "my parents, Ayn Rand and God" to demonstrate how its absence can create ambiguity. But, as many before me have pointed out, you can just as easily come up with an example of the comma's presence creating ambiguity. Think of "my mother, Ayn Rand, and God."
Fans of the serial comma will say "Crosby, Stills and Nash" inappropriately pairs Stills with Nash while leaving Crosby isolated, as if he's in prison or something. I would counter that "Crosby, Stills, and Nash played last night" carries a whiff of Nash alone playing. I'm mentioning Crosby for some reason, I'm mentioning Stills for some reason, and then, in an unrelated matter, I'm informing you that Nash played last night.
Yes, I'm reaching. But so are the Oxfordian serialists and their divine libertarian parents.
Oh, and there is an asterisk. There's always an asterisk. Even the anti-serial-comma Associated Press Stylebook uses serial commas in series that contain at least one embedded conjunction. You should, too. She worked for the departments of State, Labor, and Health and Human Services. AP also reserves the right to use a serial comma when sentences get complex, and that's also a good idea. If each clause in a series could stand alone as its own sentence, use that comma: I've worked at this place for 20 years now, I'm tired of it, and I'm going to quit.
Monday, August 26, 2013
When I was too young to drink malt liquor, Colt 45 was "a completely unique experience." As opposed to partially unique? That sounds dodgier, but an experience can be partially unique, can't it, if four out of five of its elements are one-of-a-kind?
However persuasive the historical and linguistic justifications, there’s something uniquely absurd about using the one word that most clearly means “I am not making this up” when you are, in fact, making something up.
Monday, July 01, 2013
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Finally, the book is out! Look for it at one of the dwindling number of bookstores near you, or follow the links in this sentence to get me a few referral pennies from Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com or an indie bookstore. (There are also Kindle and Nook versions, of course.)
If you've somehow missed the media blitz (the Kardashians' tweets alone probably have you sick of me by now), this is a book in which I defend the petting of peeves but caution the sticklers that they're not always as right as they think they are. (And much, much more.)
Will there be a tour? Why, yes! Or at least a little one. The following reading/signings and radio interviews are scheduled:
At 6 p.m., I'll be at an invitation-only $10,000-a-plate dinner at a friend's house in Bexley, Ohio, just outside Columbus. If you'd like an invitation, just ask. (I'm kidding about the $10,000 dinner. It's actually way more expensive. And there's no dinner.)
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
With "Yes, I Could Care Less" coming out June 18, I expected to be doing some interviews and getting some attention round about now. And while there have been a few early reviews, some kinder than others, the Bill Walsh project that seems to have taken the world by storm is not my year-or-so-in-the-making, 256-page book, but rather 18 seconds of video captured by the camera that I affixed to my helmet when I was blogging for Bicycling magazine and have kept using while commuting by bike because, well, why not?
Last Thursday, which happened to be the day before the official Bike to Work Day, I was in the bike lane that bisects Pennsylvania Avenue, about halfway to work, when, as happens more often than it should, a cabbie (it's usually a cabbie) decided to make a U-turn across that bike lane. Which is dangerous and illegal. And so I shouted "Illegal!" (I've shouted worse.) And he looked at me and thought about it and ... made the U-turn anyway. And, instantly, I heard a siren. Yes, right behind that cabbie was a police car, and he was being pulled over. It was the FBI Police, as it happens (the District of Columbia has a lot of police forces you've never heard of), but that'll do.
I thought the instant karma was mildly amusing, and so I edited my video and put it on YouTube.
I had no idea. Quickly there were licensing and partnership offers. (I hope I did a good job accepting and declining.) There was coverage. I made Reddit, then Washington City Paper and DCist and Greater Greater Washington and Romenesko and the Orlando Sentinel. Even Kenneth in the 212. And a TV show! Before long there were a million views. A million.
This is just wacky. If a million people know my book exists, I'll be pretty darn lucky.