Even in politics, the Brits recently had the Trumpishly buffoonish Boris Johnson. Not that he was silly on purpose.
Nor was “Jacob Rees-Moog, Another Brit, Another Real Piece of Work” purposely silly. It just turned out that way. Indeed, Rees-Moog gets a Honorable Jab in today’s SimanaitisSays, though the primary whack-a-doodles here are at Britain’s Department of Health and Social Care headed by Thérèse Coffey, newly appointed as deputy prime minister and health secretary in Liz Truss’s post-Boris government.
A Point of Punctuation. Euan Ward gives details in “U.K. Health Ministry Wants No Oxford Commas. Period,” in The New York Times, September 15, 2022. He writes, “The government department that oversees Britain’s state-run health care system is confronting a number of urgent problems: too many unfilled positions for doctors and nurses, too many patients waiting for treatment, too many aging hospitals—and, according to a new directive, too many commas.”
In a farcical establishment of priorities, the department sent hundreds of its employees guidance about avoiding the Oxford comma; that is, the second comma in “A, B, and C.”
Ward cites Jawad Raza, a chief representative of the health agency’s civil servants: “Comments like this from the Health Secretary do nothing to help the morale of an already tired and overstretched work force.”
Who Done It? Ward reports, “A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care disputed one element of the Financial Times’s account, saying that the guidance had been issued by Ms. Coffey’s office, but not her.”
“Still,” Ward continues, “Ms. Coffey seems unlikely to disagree with it: She has made no secret of her distaste for the Oxford comma, with social media posts from more than a decade ago making clear where she stands.”
Ward says, “In 2011, she wrote on Twitter that she ‘cannot bear it and constantly remove it,’ and two years later said in separate posts that ‘I abhor the Oxford comma and refuse to use it’ and referred to it as ‘one of my pet hates.’ ”
My Favorite Oxford Comma. Geez. I realize Twitter isn’t exactly the House of Commons, but …. My favorite example of an Oxford comma preference is the sentence “Georgetown is frequented by Obama, Clinton, and whores.” Leave out that second comma and ponder the nuance: “Obama, Clinton and whores.”
Gad.Ward cites “fierce support for the one-comma approach that was rooted in national pride—a second comma was seen by many as an Americanism.”
Gee, but it’s the Oxford comma, not the Harvard or Worcester Poly one.
Rees-Moog Again. Ward writes, “Jacob Rees-Mogg, recently appointed as Britain’s business secretary, was also quick to outline his grammatical grievances when he became leader of the House of Commons in 2019. He was mocked at the time for banning the use of phrases such as ‘equal,’ ‘very’ and ‘I am pleased to learn.’ ”
Hmm…. In this particular quote in The New York Times, Ward eschews the Oxford comma. ds