Tag: Colbert Report

Given Pause

by on Jun.04, 2010, under philosophy, TV

I was up last night enjoying my double-shot of fake news, and found myself surprised by Stephen Colbert.  Okay, that on its own is not surprising – his brand of humor revolves around being startlingly if mockingly conservative and I for one get and enjoy the joke.  But no, he was in the midst of an interview with the band Vampire Weekend and brought up a reference to one of their lyrics about the Oxford comma.

If you are not familiar with the Oxford comma (I hadn’t been familiar with it by that name until last night myself), it is the final comma before “and” or “or” in a list if 3 or more items (e.g., apples, bananas>,< and cantaloupes).  I’m sure most of you could probably care less about this matter, but its necessity has apparently been refuted and vacillated over the years and I have actually had discussions on this matter with people and happen to share Colbert’s expressed opinion on it.  Apparently the modern American convention is that it is assumed and thus unnecessary.  But traditionalist, Oxford scholars, Stephen Colbert, and myself believe that its inclusion or exclusion change the meaning of the phrase as it is possible to have compound elements within such a list (e.g., ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or tuna fish).

Again, I admit that this is a fairly minor matter and why I have such strong opinions on it I cannot really explain.  But it was interesting to witness such a juxtaposition as this subject matter being discussed between a fake pundit and a young rock group whose music intones nonchalance.  Certainly there are less trivia matters in the world than proper comma use, but I can’t help but be given pause be such matters.  Perhaps it is my affinity to debate any subjects that may have no right or wrong side.  Perhaps in a world where it is easy to feel like the reach and longevity of our impact on it may be minimal, rhetoric can seem as important as anything else.  Or maybe I should just start going to bed earlier.

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