Wednesday, 8 February 2012

...take a bow, MrsM...

Four Men Around A Table
Max Beckman (1884 - 1950)

It is that time of year again.
The Exam Paper Committee is meeting
to check the draft exam papers.
It is a very, very serious business.
MrsM sits at the end of the table
quietly and respectfully taking notes,
while the Exams Officer leads the discussion
with the Young Scottish Academic,
the Geographer of Vertical Space
and the Quaternary Scientist.

There is no detail which is too insignificant
for their attention and MrsM notes down
the comments about extraneous spaces,
suspended hyphens, date conventions
and italicised quotation marks.
MrsM is astounded by the erudition
of her young academic colleagues
and dreams of the time when
she can contribute to the discussion.

And then MrsM sees her opportunity
and says diffidently...
"I think Question 4 on this paper
should have an Oxford comma..."
and the Examinations Officer,
the Geographer of Vertical Space,
the Young Scottish Academic
and the Quaternary Scientist
nod sagely and murmur their agreement.

It is the high point of MrsM's career.


  1. Take a bow indeed :D

    A smile before bedtime ... thank you ;D

  2. Well done Mrs M, they don't employ you just for the cake.

  3. I hope the candidates are appreciative of the perfect punctuation.

    How will you trump an Oxford comma next year? You've set the bar now. Parenthetical dashes with en rules rather than hyphens?

  4. Wonderful! I simply love the title "Geographer of Vertical Space", it sounds like something from a Mervyn Peak book.

  5. I am so glad that Oxford commas are getting the notice that they deserve - Angela at Tracing Rainbows posted about them last week, and I am very careful on that count for fear of offending her sensibilities. Perhaps we could do an Oxford Comma Linky Party in best Blogland tradition?

    Pomona x

  6. I suppose that the definition of an Oxford comma is pause for effect. Personally I think the Cambridge variety has a lot more to commend it.

    This could be the grammatical equivalent of Mornington Crescent I think

  7. it is interesting to note that Americans refer to it as the Harvard comma.

  8. Oxford and Harvard commas ...
    what do I know.
    Maybe I should declare the Positano comma!

  9. I now harbour a secret wish to be declared a 'Geographer of Vertical Space'.

  10. Well done MrsM, you are a woman after my own heart.

  11. chortle out loud. congratulations!

  12. ... I was impressed by the title of Geographer of Vertical Space... but then you got to the Oxford comma... well, I'm not worth it.

    I shall go and have another cup of tea.

  13. rather reminiscent of mediaeval monks enumerating the angels on a pinhead ...

  14. I caught the atmosphere, Alice! Definitely take a bow.

  15. Do we? Call it the Harvard comma? The thing is, I can never remember if one is or isn't supposed to use the Oxford comma. I guess British geographers do, but do other people? I think we don't. I can never remember if it's grey or gray either. Very confusing.

  16. You're the Lisa; I suspect I'm the Homer......

  17. so funny! high point indeed. next time you'll have to dazzle them with your em versus en dash knowledge.

  18. Brava, MrsM! I love the serial comma and deplore the newish convention here in the States that's doing away with it. I just edited our church's annual report and put one in everywhere needed, including in the rector's report. We'll see what the rector says when he reads the final draft.

  19. God bless the Oxford comma, and all those who honour it :) Bravo Alice!


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