Let’s Eat Grandma

John Birmingham’s latest is a joy to the grammarnazis of the internetz. I hope y’all like it!

“Who gives a fuck about the Oxford Comma?” Vampire Weekend asked on their eponymous first album. The hard-working truck drivers of the Oakhurst Dairy company in the great state of Maine, that’s who. A dispute with their bosses over whether they should be paid overtime came down to the lack of an Oxford comma in the state’s law regulating who gets paid a little bit more for working extra hours.

What is the Oxford comma?

It’s the one that parks itself before ‘and’ in a series of three or more things. If, for instance, you are planning a private party in the Moscow Hilton and you sent a note to the concierge asking him to “invite the hookers, Trump and Putin,” he can rightly blame you when the only guests who show up are a couple of transsexual despot-cosplayers.

You should have invited “the hookers, Trump, and Putin”.

That one little comma makes all the diff.

If you work in the food biz in Maine you can’t get overtime for all sorts of things, including “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution.”

So basically, you can’t get overtime.

Except, as the word nerds in the truckers’ union argued, and the First Circuit Court of Appeals recently agreed, the lack of a comma after the word ‘shipment’ turned “packing for shipment or distribution,” into a single activity.

And since milk truck drivers are really fuckin’ hard characters who don’t mess with none of that unseemly, low status, packing bullshit—like those lazyass, broke-dick, cheese juggling fools from the dairy product packers union—they are legally entitled to, and totally gonna get, their overtime.

Because they only distribute. They don’t pack.

Circuit Judge Barron agreed.

“For the want of a comma,” he wrote in his judgment, “we have this case.”

And the drivers suddenly had millions of dollars owed them in unpaid overtime.

Vampire Weekend be damned, the Oxford comma is important, people. (And anyway, the bitey weekenders go on to sing “So if there’s any other way/To spell the word/It’s fine with me,” which confirms for me they have no idea what they’re talking about because their stupid song is supposed to be about grammar not spelling. 0 out of 10. Must try harder, emo-weenies.)

The comma itself was invented by Aldo Manuzio, a printer working in Venice, in the early 1500s. Aldo was a man ahead of his time, an intellectual property pirate when most pirates were still climbing over the gunwales of fat merchant galleons for a living. Aldo was bootlegging copies of the Greek classics which were chock full of lists of things; the different types of snakes in Medusa’s deadly wonder weave, all the things that Hercules punched, the forty-five times that Xerxes the so-called God-king was really just a dick. Aldo thought it would help his readers if he could separate Medusa’s snakes from Xerxes dick moments.

He was right.

But do you still need it? How many commas will you fire at the page or screen this week as you go about your work, post your Facebook updates, tweet your low opinion of the contestants on Married at First Sight? Are you likely to find yourself millions of dollars in debt to scary milk van drivers if you mess up?

Maybe not, but there’s two ways to come at this. Use commas for clarity, or cut them for flow.

My favourite comma story belong to the foundation editor of The New Yorker, Harold Ross, who insisted on the first comma in the sentence, “After dinner, the men went into the living-room.” When asked why, Ross answered that the comma gave the men in the story time to push their chairs back and stand up. This, and our Moscow hotel room party gone horribly wrong, are examples of using commas for clarity.

Removing them from the phrase “the old red white and blue,” demonstrates the flow that can be unleashed when all of Aldo Manuzio’s little grammar pebbles are swept out of the stream.

The bottom line?

Suit yourself. But if you don’t use the Oxford comma, get ready to pay off that overtime bill and those Russian trannies.

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306 thoughts on “Let’s Eat Grandma

  1. Good grief!

    It looks as though Melbourne is about to be hit by a thunderstorm from the NNE.

    Most unusual.

  2. We don’t need it’: Pauline Hanson takes aim at SBS

    Pauline Hanson says taxpayers’ money could be better spent on things other than ‘leftist propaganda’.
    By Georgina Cooke

    20 Mar 2017 – 4:06 PM UPDATED 3 HOURS AGO
    Tweet

    During a Facebook live video, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson declared that multicultural broadcaster SBS should be privatised, declaring “we don’t need it”.

    “Defund the ABC and SBS, I’m tired of their propaganda,” one person commented.

    “Totally agree,” Hanson replied. “You know, I think everyone is sick and tired of it. That’s why, you know – okay, at the ABC, I’m sick and tired of them with their leftist attitude. They are so left.

    “And the SBS, it’s costing the taxpayer close to $400 million a year to fund the SBS. Sell it. Privatise it. Let them run it themselves and we can better use that money elsewhere.”

    For the 2016-17 financial year, SBS was allocated $282 million, a decrease of almost $6 million from the previous year, with almost $98 million in funding sourced elsewhere, including from private advertising.

    “Get rid of the SBS, we don’t need it. People can hook in via their iPads or whatever and they can look at it from their country of origin. Why we are funding that? I don’t think we need to,” she said.

    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/03/20/we-dont-need-it-pauline-hanson-takes-aim-sbs

    • Someone tell her the ABC and SBS belong to all of us and we aren’t interested in selling them just because she has a confected gripe.

      The silly cow has a very over-inflated opinion of herself. Who does she think she is? Putin?

  3. http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2017/03/20/government-to-examine-18c-changes.html

  4. Anyone following FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming testimony to the House Intelligence Committee should keep this in mind…

    https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-listen-jim-comeys-testimony-monday

    How to Listen to Jim Comey’s Testimony on Monday
    By Benjamin Wittes Saturday, March 18, 2017, 1:40 PM

    Let me start by saying that I have absolutely no inside information about the testimony FBI Director Jim Comey is going to give Monday morning before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. I have not discussed what Comey might say with Comey himself or with anyone else who is in the know, and I’ll thus be watching the hearing with the same level of uncertainty as everyone else will. If this were not the case, I almost certainly would not be writing this piece.

    But free as I am from the shackles of any actual knowledge, let me offer readers the following user’s guide to Comey’s testimony, which can be summed up in one simple sentence: Comey’s communicativeness with the committee—and through it with the public—will almost certainly be inversely proportional to the seriousness of the Russia investigation.

    That is, if Comey says a lot, makes a lot of news on Russia matters, and cheers a lot of anti-Trump hearts by maximally embarassing the President for his outrageous comments on Obama’s alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower, that will very likely be a sign that Comey has relatively little to protect in terms of investigative equities in the Russia matter and is thus free to vent. Conversely, a quiet, reserved Comey—one whose contrast with the relatively loquatious FBI director who talked at length about the Clinton email matters will infuriate a lot of liberals and frustrate those who want to know what’s going on with Russia—may well spell trouble for the President.

    (read the full article to understand why)

  5. Good morning Dawn Patrollers. Lots to get the snout into today!

    Oh oh! The latest Essential poll has Labor leading 55/45 and the news is not good for the government on a number of measured perceptions.
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/mar/21/labor-stretches-to-10-point-lead-over-coalition-guardian-essential-poll-finds
    Jay Weatherill speaks truth to power; while Turnbull comes up with NBN 2.0. Urban Wronski’s look at the last week in politics.
    https://urbanwronski.com/2017/03/20/jay-weatherill-speaks-truth-to-power-while-turnbull-comes-up-with-nbn-2-0/
    FBI Director James Comey said there is no evidence to support President Donald Trump’s allegations that the Obama administration “wiretapped” Trump Tower last year, moments after confirming the bureau is probing potential ties between Trump associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign. And idiot Trump is not happy!
    http://www.smh.com.au/world/james-comey-confirms-fbi-is-investigating-russian-interference-in-election-and-links-to-trump-campaign-20170320-gv2hv8.html
    The big winners at the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia were Democrats, who were on the offensive, while Republicans were left to deflect and offer a non-defence of Trump.
    http://www.politicususa.com/2017/03/20/democrats-big-winners-republicans-left-reeling-trumprussia-hearing.html
    Peter Hartcher writes about Trump’s Jekyll and Hyde duality. He says we won’t see the worst of Trump until we need him the most.
    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/donald-trumps-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde-formula-wont-work-forever-20170320-gv2btu.html
    Jenna Price says that of all the pathetic jellyfish representing us in Federal Parliament right now, Malcolm Turnbull must be the worst. Last Friday, His Spinelessness said he couldn’t work with the ACTU’s new secretary, Sally McManus, after she told the ABC on Wednesday it was OK to stand up to unfair laws. She says he picks on workers but never corporates.
    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/malcolm-turnbull-v-sally-mcmanus-why-he-picks-on-workers-but-not-corporates-20170320-gv1zx7.html
    The SMH editorial puts it to us that Turnbull, in light of the right wing rump he has to contend with, is evoking Howard over multiculturalism.
    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/smh-editorial/turnbull-evokes-howard-on-multiculturalism-20170319-gv1ofu.html
    Julie Bishop contradicts the out of control Duterte over reports of their recent meeting and what was and wasn’t discussed.
    http://www.smh.com.au/world/julie-bishop-contradicts-rodrigo-duterte-says-human-rights-were-discussed-at-their-meeting-20170320-gv282s.html
    Border Force could soon be looking for a new commissioner if incumbent and former ACT top cop Roman Quaedvlieg wins his bid to be commander of Australia’s largest police force.
    http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service/romans-conquest-could-prove-tricky-for-pezzullo-20170320-gv1xxa.html
    Nicholas Stuart laments the lack of political will that is plaguing us.
    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/a-failure-of-political-will-20170319-gv1qlu.html

  6. Section 2 . . .

    Katter and Christensen team up and are confident they can get legislation for a banking inquiry through both houses.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/im-very-confident-bob-katter-and-george-christensen-team-up-on-banking-inquiry-20170320-gv29ek.html
    Andrew Street writes about the current style of politics.
    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/view-from-the-street/why-talk-facts-when-you-can-just-yell-20170320-gv1x8x.html
    How disgraceful is this !!!! And I bet none of the workers are permanent employees.
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/airport-staff-sleeping-in-third-world-conditions-inside-sydney-airport-20170320-gv20nd.html
    And this! Teenage McDonald’s workers have been exploited at a Brisbane store, instructed to complete three hours of unpaid “compulsory cleaning” at the threat of having their hours cut back.
    http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2017/03/20/mcdonalds-unpaid-work-cleaning/
    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is suing the former government-owned entity Medibank Private in the Federal Court over misleading and deceptive conduct.
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/medibank-hits-back-against-deceptive-conduct-allegations-20170319-gv1pj2.html
    Labor, Greens and Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie will introduce a Bill on Tuesday to invalidate the Fair Work Commission’s decision to reduce Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers. Stand by for a virtuoso performance from the screeching Michaelia Cash!
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/cross-benchers-urged-to-put-up-or-shut-up-on-penalty-rates-20170320-gv2c2p.html
    Nice goings on at this elite Liberal incubator. Google.
    /news/nation/elite-sydney-schoolboy-faces-rape-claim-video-posted-online/news-story/fbf6f43df4b7f86fc60028e4f6eee949
    After a hard Brexit and the end of the union, the English will need to define what they stand for – and how they are ruled. Can Great Britain avoid a meltdown of national identity?
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/20/can-england-avoid-a-meltdown-of-national-identity
    A decade of rampant illicit drug use by West Coast Eagles stars and the club’s attempts to cover it up has been laid bare in a top-secret AFL report. Google.
    /sport/afl/teams/west-coast/west-coast-scandal-exposed-in-topsecret-afl-report/news-story/160abfb806dc09c885f472c3f183f520
    Here is some very good advice to Centrelink and its management and masters.
    https://theconversation.com/after-the-robo-debt-debacle-heres-how-centrelink-can-win-back-australians-trust-74256

  7. Section 3 . . .

    And here is a telling graphic of the Centrelink experience for customers.
    https://theconversation.com/infographic-the-truth-behind-centrelinks-waiting-times-74700
    Alan Austin writes that almost everything the Turnbull Government says about the economy, employment and their priorities is refuted by the evidence and he uses the latest employment figures to make the case.
    https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/how-the-latest-job-figures-expose-the-turnbull-governments-lies,10124
    Stephen Hawking fears he may no longer be welcome in the United States now Donald Trump is president.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/03/20/stephen-hawking-fears-he-is-no-longer-welcome-in-trumps-america_a_21903097/?utm_hp_ref=au-homepage
    The international tech giants who dominate Australia’s federal government IT spending are to be forced to share a big slice of the $9 billion pie with small local players, the Coalition has pledged. Some nasty recent experiences perhaps?
    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/tech-giants-to-lose-900-million-in-aps-work-20170319-gv1ru2.html
    Michael West writes that sensibly, the federal government abandoned plans to privatise the database of the corporate regulator just before Christmas. Almost inexplicably, the NSW government continues to pursue its plan to privatise the state’s land titles registry.
    http://www.michaelwest.com.au/sensibly-the-federal-government-abandoned-plans-to-privatise-the-database-of-the-corporate-regulator-just-before-christmas-almost-inexplicably-the-nsw-government-continues-to-pursue-its-plan-to-pri/
    As if the ABS was not already neutered up to 100 more jobs are set to be axed.
    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/up-to-100-more-jobs-to-go-at-bureau-of-statistics-20170320-gv23hw.html
    Now there’s trouble in the North Sydney Council.
    http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/north-sydney-councillors-walk-out-on-mayor-jilly-gibson-as-she-calls-for-unity-20170320-gv2hvg
    Insurance companies are charging up to $1700 more than each other for home and contents policies covering identical houses in the same suburb, prompting calls for greater transparency. Some would say that’s a market success for some companies. I don’t.
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/call-for-transparency-over-variations-in-home-insurance-premiums-20170320-gv1v3m.html
    Laura Tingle says politicians never take notice of the polls – yeah sure! Google.
    /news/politics/politicians-say-they-dont-take-notice-of-polls-yeah-right-20170320-gv25uq
    George Pell is pissed off with the Senate.
    http://www.smh.com.au/national/cardinal-george-pell-lashes-unjust-senate-call-20170320-gv2h0g.html

  8. Section 4 . . .

    Home doctors fear the axe is about to fall on Medicare-funded, after-hours visits to millions of Australian households each year, resulting in after-hours patients being pushed towards already stretched hospital emergency departments.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/home-doctors-bracing-for-medicare-cuts-in-budget-20170320-gv1z92.html
    Now Seven is in more strife as accusations of fraud to the tune of $8m are made against its commercial manager. Google.
    /business/media-and-marketing/john-fitzgerald-mystery-employee-accused-of-stealing-8m-from-seven-20170226-gull5w
    Did the ACCC’s Rod Sims overstep the apolitical line when he endorsed Barnett’s proposal to privative electricity just before the election?
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/accc-chief-rod-sims-hit-with-complaint-he-breached-apolitical-role-during-wa-election-20170320-gv2b6k.html
    A nice piece from Tony Wright on Wacka Williams’ disclosure of having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/i-cant-hide-any-more-what-drove-john-wacka-williams-to-disclose-his-parkinsons-battle-20170320-gv24u1.html
    Harvey Norman’s share price tanked yesterday with insiders selling. Google.
    /business/retail/harvey-norman-shares-tank-as-insiders-sell-shares-20170320-gv26dn
    Another cock-up from the Department of Parliamentary Services as the private phone numbers of MPs and their staffers were published on line.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/private-mobile-phone-numbers-of-nearly-every-federal-mp-accidentally-published-online-20170320-gv1x85.html
    A push to weaken Australia’s race hate laws has ignited tensions inside the Turnbull government despite the changes having little chance of passing Parliament, with key Senate crossbenchers indicating they will block any major reform. The Coalition is tearing itself apart on this issue.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/section-18c-senate-crossbench-poised-to-kill-off-substantial-changes-to-race-hate-laws-20170320-gv1yv5.html

  9. Section 4 . . . &&(*

    Home doctors fear the axe is about to fall on Medicare-funded, after-hours visits to millions of Australian households each year, resulting in after-hours patients being pushed towards already stretched hospital emergency departments.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/home-doctors-bracing-for-medicare-cuts-in-budget-20170320-gv1z92.html
    Now Seven is in more strife as accusations of fraud to the tune of $8m are made against its commercial manager. Google.
    /business/media-and-marketing/john-fitzgerald-mystery-employee-accused-of-stealing-8m-from-seven-20170226-gull5w
    Did the ACCC’s Rod Sims overstep the apolitical line when he endorsed Barnett’s proposal to privative electricity just before the election?
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/accc-chief-rod-sims-hit-with-complaint-he-breached-apolitical-role-during-wa-election-20170320-gv2b6k.html
    A nice piece from Tony Wright on Wacka Williams’ disclosure of having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/i-cant-hide-any-more-what-drove-john-wacka-williams-to-disclose-his-parkinsons-battle-20170320-gv24u1.html
    Harvey Norman’s share price tanked yesterday with insiders selling. Google.
    /business/retail/harvey-norman-shares-tank-as-insiders-sell-shares-20170320-gv26dn
    Another cock-up from the Department of Parliamentary Services as the private phone numbers of MPs and their staffers were published on line.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/private-mobile-phone-numbers-of-nearly-every-federal-mp-accidentally-published-online-20170320-gv1x85.html
    A push to weaken Australia’s race hate laws has ignited tensions inside the Turnbull government despite the changes having little chance of passing Parliament, with key Senate crossbenchers indicating they will block any major reform. The Coalition is tearing itself apart on this issue.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/section-18c-senate-crossbench-poised-to-kill-off-substantial-changes-to-race-hate-laws-20170320-gv1yv5.html

  10. Good morning, BK!

    I’m up earlyish for a change and have been keeping an eye on the Spam Monster. So all your posts are now visible.

  11. So I’m hearing Essential has Labor up 55-45. Now we can have two political narratives running concurrently – one in which Turnbull’s recent grandstanding and brainfartism has worked for him and won over voters, and another in which it’s losing him voters.

    I expect the press to run both lines as if they’re equally valid. Or vapid, as the case may be.

  12. Just had a thought. Back when Turnbull replaced Abbott, citing the poor polling as the reason for the challenge, somebody should have asked him, “Given the reasons you’ve stated, for consistency’s sake do you undertake to step aside in the event polling becomes this bad under your leadership?”

    He would have been so puffed up with the poll boost, I bet he would have made that promise.

  13. I don’t understand why the government is still pushing on with changes to 18c. No-one except Andrew Blot gives a damn about it. The government is setting itself up for yet another defeat in the senate. So why do it? What is really behind it all?

    it gets even worse. Why pursue a watering-down of the Racial Discrimination Act,on United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination? Who thought that was a brilliant plan?

    Even worse – it comes the day after Turnbull released his very much overdue statement on multiculturalism. It was a fizzer, like everything else Turnbull does. Just a lot of ‘youse have all got to speak Strayn’ rubbish and a lot of talk about terrorism. A lecture on tolerance from the man who wants to water down laws that encourage tolerance. Work that one out.

  14. BK,

    Unfortunately the Spam monster is uncommunicative. I will try interrogating WordPress after today’s meetings.

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