I was reading a story reprinted from World's Finest back during the Robin-Olsen pairing, and it made me wonder: just how old was Jimmy supposed to be? He was dating an adult woman, but was also an honorary member of the Legion Of Superheroes, which means he could not have been older than 19 (unless there were different rules for honorary members I'm not aware of, you had to be a teen to join). However, one would assume from his solo adventures that he was in his early 20's.  Presumably he had at least graduated High School. So just how old was he supposed to be?

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"A comma in a series, to me, takes the place of the word 'and.' So a comma AND the word 'and' is redundant."

 

I've never heard anyone defend his non-use of the serial comma before, other than "Well, it's the way I like to do it."  And I have to say---your reason for not using it is remarkably logical and reasonable.  I especially noted it when you emphasized the redundancy.

 

By to-day's standards, I know I'm a bit comma-happy.  In the days when I first learnt how to write, standard writing did use more commas than to-day.  For example, in including the comma in the sentence "Bushrod had to start all over, again."  I do that and I won't change that, but I do go back over my stuff---usually 'way too long after it's been posted---and see other commas that I tossed in and can't justify and I take them out.

 

I've always been a firm adherent to the serial comma.  I didn't see it so much as a pause in the flow (and I understand the punctuation-as-road-signs concept) as much as, visually, giving complete order to the list of objects.  The missing serial comma just seemed "off" to me, somehow.

 

But your justification for leaving the serial comma out makes too much sense.  You fiend!  You targeted my sense of grammatical logic and reason!  I'm going to have to think on this one at length.

 

 

" . . . if you know what I mean."

 

I do, indeed, and it perfectly underscores your statement of the writer's goal and the consequences of not aiming for it.

 

 

"Big words and jargon are different . . . When I'm reading the newspaper and a writer uses some adjective I've never heard of, they've reached too far."

 

Overall, I agree.  It stands out like a sore thumb when a writer employs an arcane word simply to show off that he knows what it means.  And it's pretty easy to tell when he's doing it.

 

At the same time, there are big words and there are "big words".  Remember the jawbreakers that Johnny Littlejohn use to spew in the old Doc Savage novels?  Those are the kind that have no place in anybody's writing.  To use them simply comes across as pretentious.  Even as a character trait of a fictional character, only Lester Dent could make words like that sound even close to natural.  (In fact, one way to tell that a Doc Savage novel wasn't written by Dent is when Johnny's dialogue sounds completely contrived.)

 

Employing words like that brings the reader's flow to a total halt.

 

But here's what also brings my reading flow to a halt.

 

Enormity isn't a big word, nor is it even exotic.  The same for other words, such as bemuse and noisome and fortuitously (O.K., maybe that one's a little big).  Yet, they are constantly used improperly, their writers not knowing what the words actually mean.  That stops me dead in my tracks.  I don't think it's unreasonable, from a reader's standpoint, to expect these words to be used accurately.  From a writer's standpoint, I don't think it interrupts the reader's flow enough if I use them correctly.

 

And if it does, I'm hoping it will inspire him to look it up and discover what it actually means.  I know most won't, but a few might.  I would.

 

But I cannot deny that it does go against what you said---a writer's goal is to be read.  The same goes for my use of British spellings (which I missed in your comments in your earlier post).  It's an affectation, I know. No argument there.  But I don't think it overly impedes my readers.  And I'm not blind to the fact that it does, at least, a little.  That's why I've made some concessions, gladly, in cases that seem too abstruse.  Like gaol and kerb.  And if you noticed, I spelt emphasized above in the American fashion, because "emphasised" just seems too arch.

 

And now, I have to go work out this "serial comma" thing.  Curse you, Mr. Silver Age!

 

 

 

...I suppose that College English teachers will say that ultra-long paragraphs , emulating Henry James and John Updike and the like , are admirable !!!!!!!!!!!

Commander, it's always a pleasure to read your contributions--you write so clearly and informatively about our little hobby, and your brief autobiographical pieces are ever entertaining and to-the-point.

I would think that you'd want to use Noah Webster Americanisms, without the superfluous "u"s of "honour", "colour", and "humour", if only that they're easier to type, unless you don't struggle with the Qwerty keyboard as I do. Of course, this way I get to tell my Essex-born-and-bred girlfriend that I exchanged messages with a Yank who spells "today" with a hyphen.  

 

Robin, I don't know what to make of your last sentence; it means either:

1. Your brother is dead, or

2. Your brother changed his name, or

3. Your brother changed his name and his sex.

Please clarify.

Really sorry to hear about your twin brother, Robin.  It must be especially sad to lose a twin.

 

So your parents called one son Jimmy Olsen and another Robin?  Were they fans of the comics? 

 

Was the late Johnny's middle name "Quick" by any chance?

Robin, I'm very sorry to have spoken so flippantly; please accept my condolences for all of your losses.
 

 

Speaking of using words you don't know what they mean... I'll always recall that I learned the meaning of "Flaming Jackonape" as a result of Stan Lee using it in FF #88, as I recall. He put it in the mouth of the Wizard, and I had to go look it up!  Also, I learned fascimile from the same villian back in an early, early Strange Tales, when Johnny used a fake torch to trick the Wizard!  These days, we use the word in connection with faxs and faxing...

Awkwardman said:

Commander, it's always a pleasure to read your contributions--you write so clearly and informatively about our little hobby, and your brief autobiographical pieces are ever entertaining and to-the-point.

Thank you for the good words, sir. I take them very kindly.

While my preference for British-varient spellings has nothing to do with it, I have a great admiration for the British. The U.K. has been one of America's true international friends and there are a great many lessons in fortitude and culture that we in the U.S. could take from her people.

 

 

Back in the day, it was pointed out that Stan's dialogue exposed many of us to words we had not previously encountered. The public perception of comic readers being illiterate has always been mistaken. The following example always comes to mind. Sometime between my eighth and tenth birthdays, a teacher was asking how radio waves could be disrupted.  I knew that aluminum foil was one way, and volunteered it. I didn't volunteer that I learned it from Donald Duck (actually Carl Barks). 


Kirk G said:

Speaking of using words you don't know what they mean... I'll always recall that I learned the meaning of "Flaming Jackonape" as a result of Stan Lee using it in FF #88, as I recall. He put it in the mouth of the Wizard, and I had to go look it up!  Also, I learned fascimile from the same villian back in an early, early Strange Tales, when Johnny used a fake torch to trick the Wizard!  These days, we use the word in connection with faxs and faxing...

Richard Willis said:

The public perception of comic readers being illiterate has always been mistaken. The following example always comes to mind. Sometime between my eighth and tenth birthdays, a teacher was asking how radio waves could be disrupted.  I knew that aluminum foil was one way, and volunteered it. I didn't volunteer that I learned it from Donald Duck (actually Carl Barks). 

 

Heh. I was around that age when I learnt the same thing from an issue of Blackhawk.

 

 

Roy Thomas was an English teacher before he got into comics, so he had a lot of literary references in his work, especially his titles (most of which probably would have gone to waste if he'd stayed at DC). Stan seemed to prefer Bible and Shakespeare references, possibly because they were literary but well known.

"Brobdignagian" is one of those words that gets use only to show off, because a lot of people won't know what it means (big), which makes it useless. Of course, if it was being used in dialogue, it could have been used to show that the character was pompous or pretentious. It's not fair to hold writers to what their characters say.

DC saved its best vocabulary for its alliterative nicknames. They must've known most of their readers had no idea what they meant when they referred to the Pinioned Paladin or the Vizier of Velocity!

-- MSA

It's pronounced with a short "i"---kind of like the "tri---" in trip followed by "sting".  Yet, over the radio net, I was constantly hearing it pronounced, incorrectly, with a long "i"---as "Try" (as in the word try) followed by "sting".


Ah, tryst, reminds me of a local radio guy here, who is the worst at pronouncing words correctly. He was trying to say tryst one time, and pronounced it "try-ast". He decided to throw an "a" in there. What makes it doubly funny to everyone is that not only is he a professional on the radio he is also runs a magazine. I defend by a little bit by saying he reads them, but never says them.

All tell the about the time he tried to use "onus" one time later.

After refreshing my memory, Brobdingnag is the name of the land of the giants that is visited by Gulliver after his visit to Lilliput. Also from “Gulliver’s Travels”, his trip to the land of the intelligent horses/unintelligent humanoids resulted in the term “Yahoo” to mean a brutish, stupid person, since this is what the violent humanoids are called in the story.

Also, I agree that what characters say should not be attributed as their writers’ beliefs. Shakespeare is often quoted as saying “first, we’ll kill the lawyers” when these are actually the words of one of the characters in his play "Henry VI". This was in the context of a rebellion of virtual slaves against the nobility. Killing the lawyers was only the first step to killing everyone who could read, since reading was associated with their oppressors.

Mr. Silver Age said:

"Brobdignagian" is one of those words that gets use only to show off, because a lot of people won't know what it means (big), which makes it useless. Of course, if it was being used in dialogue, it could have been used to show that the character was pompous or pretentious. It's not fair to hold writers to what their characters say.

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