Friday Funny – pandemonium

Steve McIntyre writes: Lynn Truss‘ book on punctuation “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” received astonishing coverage.

The title of the book is based on the following joke:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons. ‘Why?’ asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. ‘Well, I’m a panda,’ he says, at the door. ‘Read the manual.’ The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.’

Had the manual been written by Peter Gleick, the manual would have read “eats, shoots, and leaves”.

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Read the rest of the entry at Climate Audit here

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104 thoughts on “Friday Funny – pandemonium

  1. Ho ho. Read this earlier at the other place. It’s a joke I remember from my childhood but in the UK in the 70’s it did not involve any firearms but was a tale of impromptu masturbation.
    put the commas where you will.

  2. Had the manual been written by Peter Gleick, the manual would have read “eats, shoots, and leaves”.

    Hey, wait a minute! I also use a comma before the last item of a series, before a conjunction, as do many publishing houses that follow The Chicago Manual of Style (in my 13th Edition, it’s item 5.50). But I don’t put commas between verbs and objects—did Gleick?
    /Mr Lynn

  3. I believe it’s called the ‘Oxford comma’ – I was taught (in UK) that in a list you did not have a comma before the ‘and’ at the end because the ‘and’ was itself the final comma. However some at Oxford University disagree with this.

  4. My wife picked up Lynn Trus’ Eats, Shoots and Leaves last year and after reading it, handed it to me one evening. I didn’t put it down until I read it cover to cover. It takes a genius to write a gripping book on grammar and punctuation.
    I don’t know why everyone’s going on about Peter Gleick’s punctuation. but then, I tend to over-punctuate, I’ve been told. It’s an older style and if I recall correctly, Lynn’s advice on when to punctuate is that there is no hard and fast rule and that the best way is to use punctuation to break-up and make sense of the sentence in a way it would be most easily understood.

  5. Yes, my job is to proof-read, and our in-house style is to take out all commas before the conjunctions in a series. So we would punctuate it “eats, shoots and leaves.”

  6. The Australian version of this typically involves a wombat rather than a panda. The word, “roots”, is inserted after the word, “eats” – properly commatised (?) each side! “Roots” is a standard Aussie euphemism for “doing the deed”, thus making is a slightly naughty line!

  7. I will note that Microsoft Word has a setting that requires the comma before the last item in a list. Does that mean Gleick and Microsoft are working together?

  8. Mr Lynn says:
    March 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm
    Good point, although I would normally refer to The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. Gleick may be correct in his usage of the comma but his ethics leave much to be desired.
    Modern usage of the comma is more laid back and forgiving. For example, proper usage would be:

    red, white, and blue

    but modern usage allows for a more forgiving style:

    red, white and blue

    It’s a pity that Gleick’s ethics aren’t as correct as is his punctuation.

  9. wrt the panda joke, I don’t really find it funny, because I cannot believe anyone would write a phrase like that – clearly there should be no comma in those words at all – or am I just being too simplistic?

  10. Compare this to the Australian Wombat : ‘Wombat,. a large short-legged, short-tailed, muscular burrowing marsupial approximately 1-metre long, native to south-eastern Australia.
    Eats, roots, shoots and leaves.’

  11. Oh. Lettuce assume then that you have no punny bone, and thus, must have each phrase explanated to ewe more clearly.
    True, true. Your phrase is exactly write: “Eats shoots and leaves” IS what your average run-of-the-mill panda-wombat does.
    The yolk is in the clever parsing of the phrase by adding an unneeded, and incorrect-in-the-context of a panda-wombat not entering a bar with a handgun and shooting the patrons, comma.
    What is most indignant, to the eye of the much-suffering waiter as the protagonist in this telling of the story, is that the panda-wombat does all the above … Without paying for his meal!

  12. Wow… no one puts a comma after the verb. It should be “Eats shoots, and leaves” although Oxford is falling out here. Still use it and it annoys and the 20 somethings.
    And I had heard it was Eats, Roots, and Leaves the first time I heard it 🙂
    Also look for the WWF panda with logo and another panda standing behind it about to hit it with a chair (a la World Wrestling Federation)

  13. My 8th grader is struggling through Romeo and Juliet. My older daughter was trying to get him to pay close attention to the commas in the text since if he knew how to recognize the use she thought he would have an easier time with the text. He was confused so she wrote two sentences for him:
    Let’s eat Grandma!
    Let’s eat, Grandma!
    My son understood it perfectly then!

  14. The problem with leaving the comma off before the and, is that occasionally the and works to join elements within the list.
    For example,
    The teams will be made up of James and John, Jack and Jill, and Rowan and Martin.
    For me, the lack of a comma before the and means that the final two words are supposed to be a single element within the list.
    Your mileage may vary

  15. Sorry to say, but perhaps substituting ‘to fire it at the other …….’ with ‘to fire it at the establishment’s light fittings’ might be more appropriate for some (tragically) impressionable American school kids who may read the blog.

  16. If I should ever migrate to the US, I am going to settle in a right-to-carry state.
    I bet that bloody panda would never risk return fire…

  17. I saw cars that were red, green and blue.
    How may cars did I see?
    Commas are important, when used properly.

  18. Australians have a different spin on that joke – Eats roots shoots and leaves.
    Roots has a sexual meaning as does shoots – I’ll say no more.

  19. In Australia the joke is “why is the aussie male like a wombat?” – A. because he eats roots and leaves. ( explanation, “root” is an australian colloquial metaphor for copulate)

  20. I wonder if there’s a connection between serious climate interest and lack of spelling and punctuation ability? John Coleman and Joe Bastardi, important workers on the honest side of climate, are famous for needing an editor.
    It’s generally true that interest in a subject is a deeper characteristic than which side of the subject you choose. For instance, militant priests often become militant atheists and vice-versa, but militant priests/atheists never become fanatical stock-car drivers.

  21. In the bar there were two strippers, Joe, and Adam.
    In the bar there were two strippers, Joe and Adam.

  22. A woman without her man is nothing.
    A woman: Without her, man is nothing.
    They use the same words in the same order, yet the 2 sentences have opposite meanings. In the written word, punctuation is everything.
    I was taught in my formative years in the early 80’s to always use this so-called “Oxford Comma.” I’ve seen it becoming more common in recent years to not use it, but in my opinion using it does give greater clarity, and the comments above mine already give several examples of places where NOT using it is a bad idea.
    And now you’ve reminded me of the poem called “The Chaos.” It’s about pronunciation, not punctuation, but. . . . it’s all English class, right?

  23. I was learnt grammer back in the 50s, when the Oxford comma reigned supreme. And it stood me in good stead for writing business software.
    a, b and c, d, e and f.
    b and c – obvious, no ambiguity.
    e and f – Hey! User! Do you mean e AND f, or do you mean e, f ? Should I flip a coin?

  24. The panda is supposed to eat shoots. And leaves. Bamboo shoots. Bamboo leaves. There should no no commas at all in the sentence, Oxford or otherwise. 🙂

  25. Commas are greatly overused and are normally incorporated into the written word to excuse laziness. The written word should permit nothing but clarity.
    To quote an example given above, “I saw cars that were red, green and blue.
    How may cars did I see?”
    The correct expression of what I think that the author meant is, ” I saw three cars; one was red, one was green and the other was blue”.
    The usage of the comma is reasonably precise, the problem is that writers use the much-abused punctuation mark to disguise their poor sentence construction.

  26. @Kasua
    The ambiguity is also resolved by more-traditional punctuation:
    In the bar there were two strippers, Joe; and Adam.
    In the bar there were two strippers: Joe and Adam.

  27. The version I remember has the panda visiting a prostitute and leaving without paying. Fill in the details for yourselves.

  28. @Stephen Brown
    “Commas are greatly overused and are normally incorporated into the written word to excuse laziness. The written word should permit nothing but clarity.”
    Man! I bet you’re a real hoot at dinner parties. Do you put an apostrophe in Finnegans Wake?

  29. Smokey says:
    March 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm
    I would like to thank my parents, Peter Gleick and Madonna.☺
    _______
    Fortunately for Peter Gleick, Madonna is no longer married to Sean Penn.☺

  30. It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.
    ~ Karl Popper

    Pretty much the same for writing.
    . . .
    eg, Steven Brown: “I saw cars that were red, green and blue. How may cars did I see?”
    Maybe two?

  31. @ Stephen Brown March 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm
    I could easily interpret that to be two classes of cars, one red and the other green and blue. “Properly punctuated”*, there would be no ambiguity. “I saw cars that were red, green, and blue.
    How may cars did I see?” In this example there are three classes of cars.
    cheers,
    gary
    * Strunk & White’s Elements of Style rule #2

  32. Stephen Brown says:
    March 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm
    . . . The usage of the comma is reasonably precise, the problem is that writers use the much-abused punctuation mark to disguise their poor sentence construction.

    Reminds me of a common offense on this blog, even in lead posts—a certain WE comes to mind—namely, the use of a comma to separate what are really run-on sentences; it’s almost as though the semicolon didn’t exist.
    /Mr Lynn

  33. Gary Turner,
    “I saw cars that were red, green, and blue.” There might be two cars [since ‘cars’ is plural]. They could each be red, green, and blue.

  34. Even Oxford isn’t sure when to use the Oxford Comma:
    http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/oxford-comma-dropped-by-university-of-oxford_b33357
    As others will have learned, I am of the opinion that ‘style’ is something for individual choice; so ALL style guides are exactly that: A guide, for those unable to decide for themselves…
    In German, Nouns are Capitalized (but not ALL of them – using the emphatic – some say shouting – All Caps) and as English is derived from German, one can reasonably reach back to our common past and choose the capitalization level of their wishes… Then we have the fact that modern English is shared among many nations and peoples; so ought we disqualify them from adding their unique flavor to the mix? Is “Shall I knock you up in the morning?” not “allowed” as folks in America think it is asking “Do you want me to make you pregnant tomorrow morning?” while folks from more UK influenced lands, such as New Zealand where I was greeted at hotel check-in with that phrase, tend to hear it as “Ought I give you a wake up call in the morning?”
    The simple fact is that ALL natural languages have natural ambiguity. Legal Speak more so than most 😉 (Oh, and is the use of the smiley ” 😉 ” also forbidden as it was not in my Style Guide in high school?)
    And therein lies the rub. Languages change over time. ALL Style guides are, by definition, out of date. At the moment the last line is written, some neologism has become accepted. Thy truth be nay mine, an ken me not yer ire.
    So all the Style Police are advised to transition to one of the artificial languages where all is defined, constant, and subject to Authoritarian Control. Otherwise you will simply frustrated be for the rest of your days, largely from people like me, who are quite happy to make style our own; and use it to good effect.
    FWIW, after learning a half dozen natural languages, getting OK at one synthetic language, and some dozen+ computer languages (including creating a preprocessor so that I could write in my own custom way and still run in another computer language): I feel I have some right to pick up particularly good bits from wherever I might find them and use them as I will; including the Polish habit of a sentence several paragraphs long, so long as it holds my point and makes it entire.
    Or ought I revert to writing in Olde Anglish as she were so lang syne? It is, after all, quite proper…

  35. Oh, I likely ought to add an example from my linguistics class, oh so long ago:
    Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.
    Fix that with punctuation…
    And and the cars point: It’s easy to disambiguate, if you wish:
    I saw cars of three solid colors: red, blue and green
    I saw cars of three solid colors: red, blue, and green
    Same meaning.
    I saw two tone cars in: red and blue with green.
    I saw two tone cars in: red and green, or blue and green
    I saw two tone cars in: red or blue, with green
    Same meaning. Overloading punctuation is just lazy. Add some words to disambiguate (or remove them to become a good politician…)
    FWIW, those natural ambiguities in natural languages are unambiguously removed in computer languages. Having learned a great number of them; I can assure you no living human would want to speak in a language that precise and unforgiving… Even fewer would want to listen them such a person. I know…

  36. I get it … a balance is required, sort of a ‘punctuated equilibrium’, as it were, or, not …

  37. Her book included a letter punctuated two different ways, illustrating the importance of punctuation.
    Dear John:
    I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours?
    Jane

    and
    Dear John,
    I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
    Yours,
    Jane

    ^_^

  38. Smokey says:
    eg, Steven Brown: “I saw cars that were red, green and blue. How may cars did I see?”
    Maybe two?

    Well, as an illustration of the fundamental ambiguity of natural languages, the set of ‘reasonable interpretations’ ranges from: 2 to infinity
    It could be 2: One red, one blue and green. It could be three: One red, one green, one blue.
    It could be 4: two red, two green and blue (or more precisely, but violating the style guides: Two red, two “blue and green”. ( I frequently use non-standard parenthesis and quotes to remove ambiguity – so is that better or worse? (Answer is “yes” 😉 ) ).
    It could be an infinite number: Some large but unknown number that were red, and another large and nearly infinite number that may be either Blue and Green; or some combination of blue cars and green cars; or all of the above…
    Ambiguous speech is not fixed by punctuation rules; though they may test the degree of indoctrination of the writer and reader and the conformity of their respective camps…

  39. That’s an old Aussie joke. Our version is a wombat who eats roots, shoots and leaves. (Is “root” US slang ?)

  40. I’m with E.M. Smith. A style should not be rigidly adhered to, but varied with appropriate time and place.
    If you always write totally precisely, as advised by Stephen Brown, you will usually be understood. Unfortunately what they will understand in general is that you are a pompous fool who doesn’t know the correct register.
    The worst is to follow out of date (and frankly incorrect) advice from “style” manuals, such as Strunk and White. No good writer writes like that. It will overburden you with lots of stupid rules (avoiding the passive, go “which” hunting, etc) and not make you any better as a writer.

  41. Mr. Lynn: I’ve got the audio CD. Very funny and interesting and, oddly, replay it sometimes!!!

  42. Aussies eh? Loved that skit in the UK where a guy’s interviewing an actor impersonating Russel Crowe shortly after the real Russel appeared in Maximus. He answers in that deep voice to the following question: Were you ever in a fight at school when you were younger?
    “Oh yea. I got in this huge fight once during lunch break; lasted about an hour and we went round and round and round. It was brutal and i’ll tell you what: that Koala will never look at me like that again!”

  43. E.M.Smith says:
    March 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm
    As others will have learned, I am of the opinion that ‘style’ is something for individual choice; so ALL style guides are exactly that: A guide, for those unable to decide for themselves…
    . . . And therein lies the rub. Languages change over time. ALL Style guides are, by definition, out of date. At the moment the last line is written, some neologism has become accepted. Thy truth be nay mine, an ken me not yer ire. . .

    Aye, but there is some virtue in standards, which help to define care and elegance in writing. Language is always changing, and so standards must be pulled along, if reluctantly. In the interim, though, the discerning ear can tell what is well-wrought, and what is not. Most speech—and fair to say, in the Internet age, most writing—is ephemeral. But some will still aspire to what E. B. White called “the odor of permanence.” How will we recognize it, if not for standards? What is more potent: the helter-skelter of indiscipline and careless babble, or the well-turned phrase that surprises us by breaking the rules? And how shall we know it, if there are no rules to be broken?
    /Mr Lynn

  44. I have a much simpler theory about commas and lists.
    When I went to school in England, I was taught to omit the comma preceding the “and”.
    In the USA, my kids are told by their teachers to include the comma.
    It’s a simple English .v. American English thing
    It took me some years to make the conversion. Fortunately, my transition was swifter when it came to the matter of driving on the wrong side of the road 😉

  45. Two days of commas, first at CA and now at WUWT; I’m ready for “:”, and “;”!Short deliberate pauses and longer pauses before lists…
    Always fun here with the smart and very fun characters that frequent these blogs.
    Come to think of it, people with a great sense of humour(Canadian spelling), make for better conversations!

  46. From Stephen Brown on March 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm:

    To quote an example given above, “I saw cars that were red, green and blue.
    How may cars did I see?”

    I would be at a loss, since, as I have been taught and taught myself, I would view the logical construction to say there are cars of type “red” that are green and blue.
    And besides, since there is no indication of only one car of each color being seen, there could have been, say, two blue cars and the sentence could have had the same construction, no count can be inferred.
    As to style, such as mine is, I use punctuation to make my written words read like my spoken words sound. And as I speak I pause, gesticulate, or… whatever, to break up the flow of words, to allow better understanding, by providing moments for reflecting on and digesting the previous words, and I craft my writing thusly. Indeed, the pattern of the flow may contain as much or more content and meaning, as the words themselves.
    ===
    Edgar said on March 2, 2012 at 4:05 pm:

    @Kasua
    The ambiguity is also resolved by more-traditional punctuation:
    In the bar there were two strippers, Joe; and Adam.
    In the bar there were two strippers: Joe and Adam.

    That first line is supposed to work? The speaker is addressing Joe, and… saying there were two strippers and Adam in the bar? It seems clumsy in construction. If it was me, and in context that would be what should be said, I would have used a comma instead of the semicolon.

  47. Mooloo says:
    March 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm
    The worst is to follow out of date (and frankly incorrect) advice from “style” manuals, such as Strunk and White. No good writer writes like that. It will overburden you with lots of stupid rules (avoiding the passive, go “which” hunting, etc) and not make you any better as a writer.
    ———-
    Amen to that! I learned to go ‘which hunting” in grade school, but I like ‘whiches’ as I prefer English writing conventions. For many years, though, I felt vaguely delinquent using the word instead of “that”, thanks to early indoctrination.
    I was going to recommend Bill Bryson’s book on the development of English, The Mother Tongue, as a really enjoyable read; I still do recommend it (strongly). But in looking up the title at Amazon.com I note that there are a host of 1 star reviews by pedants and those who find his information less than factual, for example, when he describes the meaning of foreign words or other language conventions. The vagaries of English seem be as controversial as CAGW!

  48. GreatAnarch says:March 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm
    The version I remember has the panda visiting a prostitute and leaving without paying. Fill in the details for yourselves.

    That’s how an Aussie gets the nickname “Wombat”

  49. When CAGW is but a shameful footnote to history, WUWT? will still have a role to play in the world with its broad spread of people who comment here, and our host’s eye for a story across the whole spectrum of society.
    Congratulations, Anthony; and thanks.

  50. Way back in the 50’s we were taught that commas indicated a pause in a natural speech pattern, therefore “eats shoots and leaves” describes an eating habit and “eats, shoots, and leaves” indicates three separate actions.

  51. From Webster’s New World Guide to Punctuation:
    Jones where Smith had had had had had had had had had had had the examiners approval.
    Jones, where Smith had had “had,” had had “had had.” “Had had” had had the examiner’s approval.

  52. E.M.Smith says: “I saw two tone cars in: red and blue with green.”
    Er, don’t you mean: “I saw two-tone cars in: red and blue with green.”?

  53. This, (I assume), presumes that the comma, brackets obsessed, Gleick, is able to punctuate.
    Which he is not.
    He has the typical hippie attitude towards the consensus structure of language.
    What a dolt.

  54. Smokey says:
    March 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm
    eg, Steven Brown: “I saw cars that were red, green and blue. How may cars did I see?”
    Maybe two?

    Smokey gets it. The point is that language, be it written or spoken, is a two-way thing. It requires that both parties understand the language used. It requires thought of both parties. That is (sadly) a rare commodity these days.

  55. A Texan visiting Cambridge, Mass. asks a preppy, “Hey bud, can you tell me where Harvard Yard is at?”
    The young preppy replies, “I’m sorry, but I do not respond to questions ending in a preposition.”
    The Texan says, “Ok, can you tell me where Harvard Yard is at, a**hole?”

  56. Smokey has it right way back here:
    Smokey says:
    March 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm
    One ALWAYS adds an Oxford comma in order to separate the points one is making…
    …climate websites such as Watts Up With That, Real Climate, and Climate Audit.

  57. Jeez, I’m sorry but I lost count of the number of people who somehow believe this joke has anything remotely to do with the “Oxford comma” situation. At least with the Oxford comma, there’s a debate on whether or not a comma is required. Meh! Who cares?
    But in this case we have a comma being inserted between the transient verb and the object of that verb (“shoots”). Sure, the joke works, and I like it, but Oxford commas don’t even enter into it.
    FInally though, the closing line makes no sense:
    Had the manual been written by Peter Gleick, the manual would have read “eats, shoots, and leaves”.
    In the joke the manual does already say exactly that – so the last sentence should really have said something like: “The manual was written by Peter Gleick.”

  58. Re my last comment:
    D’uh I’m so stupid! Sorry – I went back and re-read it. *blushes*

  59. The ‘opposing benches’ layout of the British Parliamentary system encourages verbal dexterity to a far higher degree than the ‘semi-circular floor’ structure of most modern legislatures.
    I am reminded of R.B. Sherridan’s response to a rival, on being required to apologise by the Speaker:
    “Mr Speaker, I said the honourable member was a liar it is true and I am sorry for it. The honourable member may place the punctuation where he pleases.”
    Then, of course, there is always Disraeli responding to the order to withdraw his declaration that half of the cabinet were asses. “Mr. Speaker, I withdraw. Half the cabinet are not asses.” ….

  60. Why concern yourself with commas
    when you can switch off the whole speech?

    A mute button for people? ‘Speech jamming gun’ that stops people talking by freezing the brain
         Research has found it works best during a speech, making it ideal for shutting up unpopular politicians

    Which meets Anthony’s criteria (Commentary on puzzling things in life, …) and is a nice fit with this topic. Science, punctuation, speech…
         Or am I stretching it?

  61. Oxford comma? I was born, raised and educated in Oxford. According to Mr Lee, who taught me punctuation at the City of Oxford High School for Boys back in ’62, it should be… “Eats roots, shoots and leaves”. My puctuation has deteriorated since then, but is that wrong?

  62. It’s called the Oxford Comma and the book (Eats, Shoots and Leaves) does discuss it. I fear I have (possibly unfortunately) a character trait in common with. Gleik. The book gets it half wrong, by the way, in being utterly indifferent to the use of the Oxford Comma. In much casual writing it is easy to understand sentences correctly when it is not used. But in technical writing sentences are often very confusing and possibly ambiguous without it. Sentences structures like:
    … A and B, C, and D and E…
    become completely confusing without the Oxford Comma. The comma (Oxford or not) to separate items in lists. So another particularly confusing circumstance is when sentence structures that compare or contrast two lists one or both of which contain 3 or more items get very confusing and/or ambiguous very fast.
    It’s been some years since I last checked, but I believe the ACS style guide is ambiguous about use of the Oxford Comma and the APS style guide says to use it.
    I have had discussions with science authots on this and they readily admit that they completely understand that the comma is necessary in some cases but advocate only using it in cases that require it. The problem with that, well, two problems, are that it advocates two rules for the same case which therefore require yet a third rule to distinguish cases or it teaches the reader to assume that the inadvertent absense off a necessary comma MUST mean that the author explicitly wanted to communicate the meaning inferred by the comma’s absence.
    In short. It’s a construction that is not univeral among but strongly limited to technical writers, so yes this likely is Gleik’s handywork.

  63. Now you know why Australians blush when when someone asks if they would like a root…beer!
    Now one gets to an age when commas are just something you fling at a sentence, like mixing currants into a bun!!
    At a very young age we were given this to punctuate so it made sense.
    That that is is that that is not is not is not that it
    Should be easy for the punctuation police!!

  64. Then there was the politician itching for a vigorous debate, who appealed through the Chair “Mr Speaker, are you going to take all this lying down?” The Speaker replied “No, the man from Hansard does that.”

  65. Slightly O/T here, but I can’t help but envision the warmistas reading this post, with its 75 comments, going absolutely out of their minds.
    Seventy-five comments about punctuation, panda sex and hand guns, and most of the warm-monger sites would have a hard time getting five comments on even an article that once and for all determines that AGW is really athropogenic. Can’t you all just see Michael Mann’s bald little head turning bright red and spinning around like a man possessed?
    This very morning, several of them are mumbling in their coffee, “Seventy-five comments? Seventy-five comments about an effing comma? What am I doing wrong? We’re going to have to fake more documents from Heartland just to get attention.”
    It seems that people that get too wrapped up on the wrong side of a cause (or is it wrapped up in a wrong cause) oftentimes take themselves too seriously to even be able to have fun with something like this. It’s a shame because life’s too short not to enjoy it.

  66. George says:
    March 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Wow… no one puts a comma after the verb. It should be “Eats shoots, and leaves” although Oxford is falling out here. Still use it and it annoys and the 20 somethings.
    George, you are certainly correct in that the Panda eats shoots, presumably bamboo shoots. But then, in the joke, the hand gun becomes redundant so how does the panda shoot the other customers? Thus the correct phrase for the panda’s actions is “eats shoots, shoots and leaves.”

  67. What’s more pathetic, putting an extra letter on potato, calling the wee-weee-weeee police about it or choosing presidential candidates because of it?

  68. A comma, is a pause. It can be used to clarify or emphasize. “And” is used to denote the end of a series; with a comma before the ‘and (final item)’.
    Just read back your sentence to see if it conveys what you wish it to, or if it sounds awkward.

  69. @ David U.K.
    Congratulations on your intellectual honesty.
    I too have often wanted to call back posts after I have irrevocably created them. I console myself with the thought that I’d be an even bigger fool if I tried to conceal that error.
    I cannot help but contrast your attitude with that of Michael Mann. The post-modern scientist who perpetrated the ‘hockey stick’ which used inappropriate proxies and inappropriate statistical methods, exacerbated his error by adding a novel data set upside down apparently to try to prove he was ‘right all along’.

  70. Since the topic ;has strayed from Peter Gleick’s Oxford commas to language in general, I’ll throw in a few Steven Pinker isms.
    Fruit flies like a banana.
    Time flies like an arrow.
    Another type of sentence addressed by Steven Pinker is the “garden path” sentence.
    One example is
    “The horse raced past the barn fell.”
    Believe it or not, that’s a grammatically correct, though poorly constructed sentence.
    (The horse ridden around the house stayed on its feet, but the horse raced past the barn fell)
    More garden path sentences:
    The man whistling tunes pianos.
    The cotton clothing is made of grows in Mississippi.
    The government plans to raise taxes were defeated.

  71. Of course we would have a big discussion about a comma. You should see what we do about a decimal point 😀

  72. Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue prints that great Samuel Johnson quote:
    “His writing is both good and original; unfortunately the parts that are good are not original, and the parts that are original are not good.”

  73. A thread about grammar and I’ve misused the verb prints. The word should be “contains”, “includes”, or even “has”.

  74. Alan D McIntire says:
    March 3, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Ok, how about: The number of your fingers are more prone to frostbite.
    The brain commits to one pronunciation, then realizing that doesn’t work, it is necessary to go back to resolve the ambiguity. The problem is avoided with context: “Be careful in winter. Cold conditions can reduce feeling in extremities. The number of your fingers are more prone to frostbite.”
    But of course, you would probably never want to write that last sentence.

  75. aharris says:
    Yes, my job is to proof-read, and our in-house style is to take out all commas before the conjunctions in a series. So we would punctuate it “eats, shoots and leaves.”
    Is it possible to have a grammatically correct sentence with the word ‘and’ written five times in succession? Apparently it is. A sign writer writes out a new sign for a pub thus: The King, and, Queen. When the publican views the work he comments “there is no comma between the King and and and and and Queen”.

  76. I never knew that this was called the Oxford comma, but it is how I was taught in school in the mid-sixties, in the US, I use it most of the time, but I notice that on the internet commas are almost never used, so sometimes I don’t use any.

  77. When I was a kid, I was alwasy tremendously bored out of my mind, sitting in a class room, listening to some drone mowing on like there was no tomorrow or next period even.
    So sitting kindly, nicely, at the back row, so as not to be a distraction (it was thought) to everyone else in back looking front, without clawing my own eye balls out out of utter abysmall boredom, I stood up, raised my hands as far as they could strecth, to each side, and said upon them, in a booming, deathly, hollow voice, from the other side:
    I A M G O D
    Everyone was dumbstruck, trying not too laugh out loud, but snickering none the less. The teacher, in linguistics, teaching english to this here simpleton, walk up, looked ever as stern, and gave me a good smacking.
    I was gobsmacked. WTF was that all ’bout, I shouted, in disbelief!
    Son, the evil operating oxford deamon of the english system said, that was the point to your exclamation!

  78. That that is is that that is not is not is not that it –
    Gee, I thought the punctuation pro’s would easily provide the correct punctuation. Is it too easy?

  79. Butt your comment was not the end ….. (And what is the point of calling a row of periods ellipses? Do I call a triangle a trypaziod that failed to do it?)

  80. MarkW says:
    March 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm
    The teams will be made up of James and John, Jack and Jill, and Rowan and Martin.
    A better way of punctuating this would be “The teams will be made up of: James and John; Jack and Jill; and Rowan and Martin”.
    Do you want to express an array of three dimensions? You’re on your own.
    Regarding capitalization, try reading the Constitution of the United States and (for once) paying attention to which words have capital first letters.

  81. I will use commas to illustrate.
    That that is, is, that that is not, is not, is not that it?
    There are other ways to punctuate to make sense, I’ll leave that to the experts. (smile)

  82. Cartoon, in a wide circulation Australian newspaper where the original joke would never have been allowed: a zoo cage, with a sign that says “Italian Wombat Manga radici e foglii.” (And my spell checker is only set for English).

  83. Nice to have a bit of humour, but you guys sure get carried away with trivia.
    BTW, as others have pointed out, the Australian version of this joke (I wonder which came first?), is about our wombat which “eats roots and leaves”.
    So in referring to a male who has several girlfriends, as a ‘wombat’, a comma is introduced after “eats” and “roots”.
    In our street language ‘roots’ = fornicates.
    This is quite interesting to Aussies, in the context of the US sports fan who ‘roots’ for his team.
    And when Elvis sings “I want a rootie” I use to shudder!

  84. Boyandgirl
    To correct the phase
    Pls put a space between boy and and and and and girl.
    5 and’s in a row..

  85. Just for reference, the word ‘pandemonium’ comes from a word meaning ‘City of All (pan) Demons,’ which is the capital city of the infernal region in John Milton’s epic poem, ‘Paradise Lost,’ (1667).

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