Missing Oxford Comma Costs Dairy $10 million

By March 20, 2017Language, News

Here at For Reading Addicts we’re often seen promoting the use of proper grammar, but so often we’re told that good grammar doesn’t matter. Well here’s proof it does, as a legal wrangle ends in a $10 million bill for a dairy company, and it’s all over a missing Oxford comma.

For those who don’t know, the Oxford or serial comma is used during lists of items. For instance ‘dogs come in many colours, including black, brown, white, grey, and auburn’. For many years there have been arguments about whether the comma is necessary, but we suspect that Oakhurst Dairy in Maine will be ensuring its inclusion in future after a multi-million dollar court case.

Workers at the dairy decided to sue Oakhurt Dairy because they felt that they should have received overtime pay. Maine state laws says that employers are ineligible for overtime pay if they work in “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution” of some food products.The workers have successfully argued that the law exempted workers involved in packing for shipment or packing for distribution, rather than exempting both packers and distributors.

Think the Oxford Comma isn’t worth much? Well, this one is worth $10 million as the missing punctuation mark will result in a backdated overtime payment to 75 workers who will split an estimated $10 million! That makes this comma, possibly the most expensive dash of ink every known.

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Rudyard Kipling once apparently said: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” and I believe this to be true. Writers create worlds with their words, sparking images in people’s minds, and inspiring others to ponder upon things they may not have done before.

Words can be a wonder.

Sometimes, however, our words can make ridiculous jokes, we can interpret things the wrong way, and laugh at images conjured where they were not intended.

This is one of those times. Welcome to the world of unintentional innuendo…

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She recently caught our attention on BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth with Michael Rosen with their discussion on how US and UK words are being shared, loved, and hated on either side of the pond.

Many people in the UK use the word ‘awesome’, for example, and possibly the same amount cannot stand the hyperbolic use of the word. In the USA the phrase ‘baby bump’ is causing many grimaces as well as many giggles, while UK swear/curse words such as ‘wanker’ are breaking through thanks to social media, film and television.

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In the 1800s a Portuguese man named Pedro Carolino gave a brave attempt to write a phrasebook for those learning the English language.

‘English as She Is Spoke’, or ‘O novo guia da conversação em portuguez e inglez’, was supposed to help those with Portuguese as a mother tongue to converse with English speakers. The only problem was that the writer spoke little English himself, and the end result of his clumsy translations was just a little strange…  Read More

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All Reading Addicts need a bit of a laugh now and again so we have scoured the internet for some of the best literary puns, bookish jokes, and wordy funnies around. A little bit of fun wordplay can brighten up even the dullest days for many readers and writers, especially when it is particularly clever… Or particularly daft.

We hope to make you giggle, groan, and guffaw!

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Language is an amazing thing, it can be used to comfort, to warn, to reassure, to frighten, to make us cry, and make us laugh. The English language is particularly complicated and there have been plenty of rhymes that demonstrate the contradictory nature of British English and how it is easy to confuse even the most knowledgeable of native speakers with just a few well chosen words. Read More



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