The Comical Comma

The Comical Comma

If music is the food of the soul, maybe the comma is the food of the sentence.  As long, as you don’t eat, too much you know—hiccup (you have to drop and add commas).

There are many humorous examples of the misuse of commas—sometimes with hilarious results. So let’s have fun and take a look at some of them.

One of the best examples is the title of the book,

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

by Lynne Truss. Isn’t it amazing how much the meaning changes when you drop the comma?

Here are more examples where commas need to be added or removed. Sometimes adding a comma may lead to a disaster! Can you find where corrections are needed?

“Rachael Ray

finds inspiration

in cooking

her family

and her dog.” (words exactly as they appeared on the cover of Tails magazine)

“Sign this sucker!” (contributed by Trent Wilkes)

“USE CAUTION WHEN HUNTING

CHILDREN ON BIKES.”

“Most of the time travelers carry cell phones.”

“Baby seals the zoologist’s passion.”

“Patient’s complaint: Unable to eat diarrhea.”

“Help a thief!”

Do you have any comments about commas or other writing errors? Stories about schoolwork or English teachers? Difficulties with grammar (not granma) or other aspects of writing? Anything else along these lines? We’d love to hear them.

 

11 comments

  • Wasn’t there a 50’s era song about commas? “Comma, comma, comma, do wa something or other”?

    Like

  • .
    Yes, Frank Too,

    I think there may have been more than one of them. I found one sung by James Taylor that goes:

    “Here is the main thing that I want to say,
    I’m busy 24 hours a day.
    I fix broken hearts, I know that I truly can.
    Comma, comma, comma, comma, come, come, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Comma, comma, comma, comma, come, come
    They’ll come running to me.”

    Not sure if comma is a play on come or a punctuation mark, or both.
    Thanks for dropping us a line!

    Like

  • A PUNCTUATION DREAM

    ‘Twas the night before publication as I fitfully slept,
    A loud sound awoke me; to the study I crept.

    Standing there over my manuscript’s pages
    Stood a little old man, clearly one of the sages.

    He had in his hand a red editor’s pen,
    And he wielded it round with a cute, impish grin.

    When I sneezed, he jumped and made quite a racket
    As he sprang to his sled that was shaped like a bracket.

    “Now Comma, now Colon, now Hyphen and Dashes,
    On Ellipsis, on Period, on Braces and Slashes!

    To the top of the page, to the top of the clause!
    We’ve much more to do before we can pause.”

    Then I saw on the page with red ink he had writ.
    “You’ve done a good job, girl. Now don’t ever quit!”

    Like

    • Very clever, Kay. You’ve stirred my literary juices.

      Your Santa Claus pearl
      set my fancy awhirl;
      I surely didn’t know it
      but you’re quite the master poet.

      I noticed you wrote it just after your nap:
      You went from bed to verse!

      Thanks for your ballad.

      Like

  • Do you like the Oxford comma or the regular comma? Oxford comma seems to make sentences unambiguous. I did not learn it in school in India. Is/Was it taught here?

    Like

    • If my brain fog allows me to reach back to the last Ice Age when I was in school, I thought we were taught the comma was like an and; so both should never be used together. Hence, “Nancy, Bill, and Judy were at the party.” was incorrect. For the Oxford comma, the opposite is true. I can see there also might be a question of clarity. If I said, “I enjoy reading, sleeping and walking.” that might turn me into a sleep-walker :).

      Does anyone know if there is more to the story?

      Thanks for your input, Kishore.

      Like

  • Reading the comments was just as much fun as reading the original post! Who knew punctuation was such fun! Ha!

    The examples were funny–and the time traveler one had me stumped for a bit (I think I was automatically inserting a comma when reading it!). I really enjoyed the poem–so, Kay, if you wrote that, that is so impressive!!

    Thanks for this post, Frank.

    Barbara

    Like

  • Anand Krishnamurthy

    Here is an apocryphal story of a class assignment where the teacher wanted the students to add punctuation to the following sentence:
    “Woman without her man is a savage”

    Male students’ response: “Woman without her man, is a savage”
    Female students’ response: Woman, without her, man is a savage”

    Like

  • Thanks for your comment and submission, Anand. Isn’t it amazing how much difference that little punctuation mark, barely distinguishable from a period, can make?

    Like

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