This Is Really Weird: Al Yankovic Hits No. 1 and Re-Ignites the Ancient Debate over the Oxford Comma

UPDATE: A New Annoying ‘Word’ to Add to the Buzzword Generator!

Weird Al Yankovic, Word Crimes, parody, songs, No. 1 album, comedy, punctuation, Oxford comma, comma, serial comma, Like a Surgeon, Eat It, My Bologna

Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic has the No. 1 album in the country. Not only is it a first for the ’80s MTV stalwart, it’s the first time since 1963 that a comedy album has claimed the top spot.

That was good enough for an article yesterday in The New York Times, which makes some interesting points about the changing record industry and Internet/video marketing.

Turns out Queen Beyonce could learn a few things from Weird Al, whose funny parodies of songs and videos include “Like a Surgeon” and “Eat It,” after Madonna and Michael Jackson hits.

But what’s been most interesting to me about Al’s comeback is this: He singlehandedly has reignited a debate that has raged for generations of grammar nerds and former copy editors (like me): To use or not use the Oxford comma.

Weird Al Yankovic, Word Crimes, parody, songs, No. 1 album, comedy, punctuation, Oxford comma, comma, serial comma, Like a Surgeon, Eat It, My Bologna

Screen grab from the “Word Crimes” video

His current song “Word Crimes” is a sendup of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” and it’s clever and fun and full of smart, pointed tips about speaking properly, all to a snappy reproduction of last summer’s ubiquitous hit.

I read your e-mail
It’s quite apparent
Your grammar’s errant
You’re incoherent

The line that’s causing so much discussion (seriously — Google it) is “But I don’t want your drama / If you really wanna / Leave out that Oxford comma…”

I can’t tell if he’s for or against — in this debate that ignites passion in people who care passionately about, well, commas.

What’s the Oxford comma?

It precedes the conjunction in a sentence listing three or more items.

I love parodies of The Knack, Michael Jackson and Madonna.

OR

I love parodies of The Knack, Michael Jackson, and Madonna.

It’s an ancient argument, with some authorities in favor of its use and others, like The Associated Press, against it. I’m an AP baby all the way.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Use a comma also before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases: The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.

If you don’t need it, don’t use it. Seems clear to me.

And anyone who disagrees is obviously crazy, illiterate or just plain wrong.

What do you think?


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One thought on “This Is Really Weird: Al Yankovic Hits No. 1 and Re-Ignites the Ancient Debate over the Oxford Comma

  1. Kevin Hills

    Definitely for the Oxford comma. Drives me crazy when people don’t use it! Also, “and ham and eggs” is, like, the worst example you could use. Should read “toast, ham, and eggs”. They’re separate things, people! Calling it “juice and toast” doesn’t make them one entity!

    Reply

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