Sunday, February 11, 2018

;;;;;;;;

From the Department of Wait, What: Do you remember the 2017 court case in which the absence of an Oxford comma (or serial comma) was crucial? The section of the Maine law at issue in that case has been amended in an unusually ungainly way: by the addition not of one comma but of eight semicolons.

Before:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
After:
The canning; processing; preserving; freezing; drying; marketing; storing; packing for shipment; or distributing of:

(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
What I would consider a real improvement:
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment, or distributing of:

(1) agricultural produce,
(2) meat or fish products, or
(3) perishable foods.
Replacing the semicolons is common (or comma) sense. Replacing and with or forestalls the persnickety argument that the provision (which governs overtime pay) applies to work with meat and fish products or to work with all three categories of foodstuffs. The legislature did get something right in changing distribution to distributing: the new word lines up with the other gerunds.

comments: 7

The Arthurian said...

Changing seven commas to eight commas might be seen as an admission that an error had been made. Changing seven commas to eight semicolons, well, that's obviously a revision. Not a correction.

Nice find. Also, nice catch of "and" versus "or".

Michael Leddy said...

“Obviously a revision. Not a correction.” Yes. :)

Fresca said...

I saw that article and thought of you!
I almost sent it to you, but then I thought, naw he'll see it, there in Newcastle. ;)

Michael Leddy said...

Newcastle? That sounds like a reference to something, but I’m lost.

Frex said...

I felt that pointing out the article to Orange Crate Art would be like carrying coals to Newcastle. :)

Michael Leddy said...

Oh! I thought it might be a line from a novel, “He’ll see it, there in Newcastle.”

Fresca said...

There's a fiction-writing prompt!