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Picture of bethree5
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Posts: 2049 | Location: As they say at 101.5FM: Not New York... Not Philadelphia... PROUD TO BE NEW JERSEY!Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Interesting!


"Wishing in gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease." ~from the Metta Sutta
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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I've always been an advocate of the Oxford comma, but our editors frown on our using it. They usually win, though this might be good evidence to convince them otherwise. Wink
 
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http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=31653

The Oxford comma doesn't always resolve ambiguity. Wikipedia gives this real example:

"By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector."

An Oxford comma in the second sentence would not resolve the ambiguity about whether the encounters involved 2 people or 3 people.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: goofy,
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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I'd think with the Oxford comma, it would be three, but without - two. Then again, recall that I am a literalist. This seems very black or white to me, but I am sure it doesn't to others.
 
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quote:
The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod, and a dildo collector."


This is ambiguous because "an 800-year-old demigod" can be interpreted as an appositive describing Mandela. Or it can be interpreted as another item in the list. Mandela is not a dildo collector, but he might still be a demigod.
 
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Who might imagine Mandela to be 800 years old? Logic tells me that there were two people; three would be impossible - unless one were long dead.
It does suggest that there are many frustrated women somewhere along his journey.

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Posts: 4432 | Location: In a cornfield in central IndianaReply With QuoteReport This Post
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Here's a better example (better because we can't use real world knowledge to resolve the ambiguity)
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They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid, and a cook.


Are there 2 people: a maid named Betty and a cook. Or are there 3 people.
 
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Condisering how overpopulated Oregon has become, it must be three. However, I concede that this is a good example for general purposes.
 
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Picture of bethree5
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quote:
...an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector...

I suspect that habit accounts for his having only attained demigod status.
 
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Or perhaps one? Betty who is both a maid and a cook.
 
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