Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jock talk

In honor of the NCAA tournament, here are some more great quotes from athletes and coaches.

Irish football (soccer) player and coach Johnny Giles:
"I'd rather play in front of a full house than an empty crowd."
So make sure you enjoy a pint before the match.

Dick Butkus:
I wouldn't ever set out to hurt anyone deliberately unless it was, you know important — like a league game or something."
As in National Football League?

Joe Theismann
"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
Case in point.

Terry Bradshaw
"I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid."
Case in point II.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spot the AP error

What's wrong in these two paragraphs from AP stories?

1. After two tumultuous seasons under Billy Gillespie, Wall and Calipari led Kentucky to its 44th regular-season SEC championship, 26th conference tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

2. Asked if the issue was dead this legislative session, Thayer said, "That remains to be seen."

More on the Oxford comma

Would it help in this statement from the Lady Vols player who scored the winning basket?
"I'd like to thank my parents, Coach Summit and God."
Well, with those bloodlines, no wonder she's so talented.

Some Stylebooks, AP included, call for eliminating the Oxford comma in most cases but make an exception when "an integral element of the series requires a conjunction." The AP example:
"I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast."
I don't think the writer of this entry spent a lot of time thinking up the example. Why is the first conjunction — between "toast" and "ham" needed? Ham and eggs are still two different items, aren't they?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Punctuation saves lives

Some of my Facebook friends recently pointed out a Facebook group entitled:

"'Let's eat Grandma!' or 'Let's eat, Grandma!' Punctuation saves lives!"

The page contains amusing examples of mangled English and unintended messages, as well as discussions on usage. One discussion is on the Oxford comma.

An Oxford comma is the comma before the conjunction in a series. In the following sentence, the Oxford comma is immediately after the word "barbecue":

He bought corn-dogs, barbecue, and cotton candy at the fair.

Newspapers that use the Associated Press Stylebook eliminate the Oxford comma, deeming it unnecessary. The purpose is conserving space — all those commas add up, you know.

But leaving it out can have unintended consequences. An example from the Facebook discussion, sourced to a Peter Ustinov documentary:

"Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector."

Either that describes a most eclectic tour or it reveals things I never would have suspected about Nelson Mandela.