Staggering Genius

Dante’s Divine Comedy was one of the great works of Western literature – a key building block in the intellectual tradition of the West.

This update, re-imagining Dante’s nine circles of Hell as applied to linguistic offenses, may actually be better.

Circle two – regarding the eternal, infernal debate over the “Oxford Comma”, is a good example:

Second Circle:
The Serial Comma

One half of this circle is populated by souls who are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons and the infernal mistresses of hell. The other half are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons, and the infernal mistresses of hell. The difference between these two situations seems to matter a lot to both halves. Neither side will listen to you when you suggest that they could avoid this level entirely.

Circle ten; those who circulate memes on social media about how putting two spaces after a period is “wrong”.

10 thoughts on “Staggering Genius

  1. The second group is correct in all respects. The first group are ignorant heretics who threaten the downfall of civilization.

  2. Too bad about the F-bombs in Vampire Weekend’s song “Oxford Comma”: it would be perfect bumper music for the NARN.

  3. Oh sure, rail against we provincials and our queer punctuation, you simpering fop.

    Just wait until the Continent needs bailing out again. Enjoy that fish jello.

  4. Here’s the thing about AP style: when presented with one of those rare instances where a serial comma would make the sentence clearer, you have two options:

    1. Add the comma. No blood, no foul
    2. Change the order of your list, or word your sentence differently, which isn’t always an option but usually makes the sentence better

    Anyway, the point isn’t about how you punctuate – let a thousand lights shine, twinkle and glimmer. It’s about the endless, mindless argument about it.

    Sort of like my other favorite; “Typing two spaces after a period is teh fascist!”. No, it’s not.

  5. I learned typing many years ago in school on a manual typewriter and was taught to double-space at the end of a sentence. I also had a course in printing in junior high and we were taught to double space after the period when setting type. Maybe the advent of word processing changed the convention.

    Note my sentences above end in double spacing. It pleases me to no end if that triviality pisses off some arrogant schmuck!! NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!!

  6. There need be no argument, Mitch. Punctuation is Peace. Simply submit to doing it our way, the RIGHT way, and everything is fine.

  7. Maybe the advent of word processing changed the convention.

    It did, but no big deal. Use two spaces if you’d like. Most word processing programs figure it out anyway.

    Now if you want a battle worth fighting, let’s talk about the misuse of ampersands.

  8. Maybe the advent of word processing changed the convention.

    Nope. It was the advent of ubiquitous on-screen keyboards on ubiquitous mobile smart devices. We never heard about how evil double spacing after a period was until it became inconvenient to type. The voice dictation to text function when entering text on my phone still double spaces after I say period or question mark or exclamation point.

  9. Nope. It was the advent of ubiquitous on-screen keyboards on ubiquitous mobile smart devices.

    Respectfully disagree. I first encountered the change in thinking in the early 2000s, well before we saw smart devices. Those devices accelerated the change, but it was already well underway.

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