December 19th – Venom poured from his eyes, poisoned tears
It’s the comma that gets me.
Or maybe it’s me, and I don’t get it.
I know I’m guilty of overusing the comma. I’m a big fan of the Oxford Comma (or the Harvard Comma, because serial comma elitism is trans-Atlantic). I like a good comma before an ‘and’, and who doesn’t? For me, it just feels right, and that’s what it’s all about. Many people feel differently, and good luck to them. Just don’t come crying to me when you have to sort this one out:
They invited the strippers, Boris Johnson and Theresa May.
Boris Johnson and Theresa May are the strippers? Jesus. Who invited them, and where in the name of all that’s holy did they find that particular adult entertainment agency?
They invited the strippers, Boris Johnson, and Theresa May.
Now, that’s better. Grammatically. As an invite it’s not much better, but at least you’ve got some distraction, in the form of the strippers, from the poisoned twosome of Johnson and May. And it’s that little serial comma there, before the and, that gives us just a little relief. And the strippers might be entertaining, too.
This piece isn’t about strippers. It’s about commas.
Venom poured from his eyes, poisoned tears.
Now, this is not meant in any way to be critical of ‘M’, the James Bond supremo who so kindly puts up stuff for us to write about. If it’s critical of anyone, it’s critical of me. I’m the one with the problem.
I just don’t know what to do with that comma. Is there a verb missing, or some extra information?
Venom poured from his eyes, poisoned tears are very good at cleaning hotplates.
Is it headlinese, as is used in the US, where commas jump in where conjunctions fear to tread?
The above example, although not particularly contemporary, is particularly hideous.
I just don’t know.
But, like I said, I think the problem is mine. I think that’s why I just spent 10 minutes wittering on about commas, when I could have been having fun with some snake-eyed siren.
(That sounds better than what I actually meant. Although I have just had my appendix out. Snake-eyed sirens can keep away.)
Normal service will hopefully be resumed tomorrow.
Inspired by a prompt from here.