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HD: The Oxford Comma and the Law
Posted: 27 March 2017 01:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Though people in the medieval period weren’t as conscious of litigation as we are today.

Oh yes they were! The medieval mindset was strikingly legalistic - even the plots of some of their romances turn on legal quibbles - and litigation was a constant preoccupation for a wide range of medieval society, verging on a national sport.  Law was the one essential ‘paper’ subject of a nobleman’s education in the High Middle Ages, and the fact that Norman French survived for some time after it ceased to be not only a cradle-tongue but the everyday language of any rank of society including the royal court was partly due to its being the language of the law courts; both nobles and bourgeoisie needed to know it. After the Pleading in English Act of 1362 changed the language of court proceedings to English, the better-off peasantry were able to join in, and 15th-century sources show villagers suing and counter-suing each other with gusto. If medieval English had had Oxford commas, medieval Englishmen would certainly have quibbled about them in court.

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Posted: 27 March 2017 03:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Earlier too. There are lots of records of Anglo-Saxon legal disputes, and charters, and legal documents are perhaps the most common form of surviving texts from the period. Of the 3,000+ texts in Toronto’s Old English corpus, over 1,100 are charters, laws, and legal documents; 1,200 are prose works of other types (homilies, hagiographies, charms, medical texts, etc.); 200 are poems; some 450 are glosses of Latin works; with the rest being inscriptions and miscellaneous types of texts.)

And not just England. The plots of Norse sagas often turn on disputes of the law, albeit not written law as the stories depict a pre-literate society.

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Posted: 27 March 2017 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Very interesting, and I’ve learned something about my legalistic ancestors.  However, the current trend in the UK for suing anyone who infringes some legal right or other is more of a concern nowadays.  Maybe we’re going back to our ancestral roots.  I’ve heard a few comments about the UK taking the lead from the States in that regard because both threatening to sue, as well as actually sueing someone, appears to be on the increase compared to several years ago, as the legal bloodhounds advertise their wares.  No, I don’t have actual statistics to back that up, just an observation.

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Posted: 09 February 2018 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Update:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/us/oxford-comma-maine.html?action=click&contentCollection=Politics&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

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Posted: 10 February 2018 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Ending a case that electrified punctuation pedants, grammar goons and comma connoisseurs, Oakhurst Dairy settled an overtime dispute with its drivers that hinged entirely on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law.

No it didn’t hinge entirely on the lack of an Oxford comma.  The appeals court decision is a good read and explains it quite well.  The serial comma may have been instrumental in bringing the case to the court but it was hardly the deciding factor in the final decision.  The appeals court decision is a good read and not at all difficult for the layman.  They cover a number of points of grammar and usage other than that infamous comma.  By the way, the Maine Legislative Drafting Manual discourages the use of the Oxford comma.

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Posted: 10 February 2018 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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I’ve got a detailed explanation of the grammatical aspects of the case in the article that sparked this thread, written a year ago but updated with this news.

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Posted: 10 February 2018 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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To maintain my status as an “electrified punctuation pedant”, I join Dave’s view that the NYT got it wrong.  Way up top, before the breathless article begins, they have a photo caption that tells us that Oakhurst is “family-owned”.  It is not.  The Times further states that the dairy is “independent”.  Of what and whom they do not say.  Oakhurst is owned by a Missouri agricultural cooperative.

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Posted: 10 February 2018 08:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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It is still run by the family that founded it, and it operates as an independent unit of the cooperative that owns it. The dairy’s web page describes it as “farmer-owned,” which is accurate as it is a cooperative venture of farmers that owns it.

Also the statement that it is a “family-owned, independent dairy” is in a photo caption. Captions (and headlines) are rarely written by the reporter (and probably never so at the Times). So while this is a mistake by the Times, it’s not a mistake by the reporter who made the error about the nature of the law case.

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