Cake and the Oxford comma

…and a few other bits and pieces.

As you’re aware I’ve not been getting about much at the moment so there’s been little to report and nothing at all in the way of kitchen activity; we’ve been eating mainly from the freezer. Last night I sat pondering the subject of my next post;  I’d rather enjoyed writing about the ‘nice’ word  and wondered if there was something similarly grammar-related that might interest readers. I came up with ‘the Oxford comma’, wrote the post and then decided that whilst linguistic debate fires my enthusiasm,  it could well have a somewhat negative effect on my loyal little following.  Time to get back into that kitchen! By now my foot is a little more flexible, a little less uncomfortable and, whilst the boot remains when outdoors, I have stopped wearing it at home and can hobble around on my heel .

First I made cake – iced lemon & lime sponge. There were two of these – one for Husband and the other for a friend.  Then I made a third cake. Knowing that a tidy up in the ingredients cupboard was overdue, I removed the baskets which hold said ingredients and gathered up all the odds and ends – the 10g of this, 20g of that that always seem to get forgotten about – and I made a dump cake (i.e. you dump it all in). To a basic sponge mixture was added dried apple, crunchy caramel bits, chopped brazils, the almost- powdery bit that sits in the bottom of a bag of walnuts, a handful of dried mixed fruit, two chunks of stem ginger (chopped) and its last few drops of syrup. To this I added the grated zest and juice of an orange. Once out of the oven I cut it up into squares for the freezer as ’emergency cake’.  Husband ate the first piece warm and declared it ‘really good’. Then he asked what it was! I’ve told him he is unlikely to ever get exactly the same mix again.

Unfortunately I nearly forgot that this cherry Bakewell pudding was in the oven and saved it only in the nick of time. You might notice that the corner’s missing; well, it was essential just to check that it wasn’t too overdone! That’s also now portioned up and in the freezer. We don’t eat puds very often and I usually only make something when my brother’s coming for dinner, but every now and then Husband does like a bit of something with custard.

MAY - Bakewell batter

The cooking bug was not yet satisfied so I looked around for something else to play with. The result? Four individual portions of savoury minced steak also to be frozen. It makes sense to freeze in small portions as I cannot stand the stuff, but Husband enjoys it in many forms. To the defrosted base mix can be added chilli flakes & kidney beans for Chilli, tomato for bolognaise or mashed potato for cottage pie.

MAY Mince

Then I made vegetable soup – one each for tomorrow’s lunch and two to freeze. I have around two dozen individual glass containers which earn their keep both in the freezer and oven.  And finally, a cheese & potato pie for this evening.

Husband kindly did a lot of the clearing up; I am a very messy cook. (I thought about taking a photo to show you just how messy but decided that it was so bad you’d think it staged)! He said I was overdoing it and needed to sit down. I carried on but now, reluctantly admit he was probably right. The foot ACHES!

And now for anyone who is interested (no way am I discarding it after making the effort to write it) – the Oxford comma. Feel free to dip out at this stage – I won’t know! 

Incredibly, it’s three years since I finished university and I still miss it. I loved the lectures and even more, the research and working on assignments. I still enjoy reading the various linguistic-related articles which pop up on my email and from time to time I really feel the urge to write something linguistic-y (made up word)!    So, continuing the theme of what my schoolteachers said I must never do … in addition to resisting the word ‘nice’ and not starting sentences with ‘So’ (guilty) or ‘And’ (of which I am also guilty, but in my defence this is now accepted in general convention if not academia), a comma should not be used before the conjunctions ‘and’ or ‘but’. However, without getting into the technicalities of academic styling, I am firmly in favour of the Oxford comma i.e the one that does appear before conjunctions, and now widely accepted in the world of academia (if not yet of journalism…yet).

In speech, there will is a natural micro-pause before using the conjunction which links two otherwise separate sentences. It is the pause that makes sense of the utterance, and in writing, not using a pause (i.e. a comma) can cause confusion. You could, of course, adjust the syntax slightly and use a semi-colon in many cases,  but we’ll leave that for now.

The Oxford comma is explained really well in the following example from http://www.grammarly.com

I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty. Without the Oxford comma, the sentence above could be interpreted as stating that you love your parents, and your parents are Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty (perish the thought)!

How much more sensible to write:  I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty. The comma causes one to pause, thus making sense.

Of course you could rephrase the sentence altogether but the order in which one expresses emotion (love, like, dislike etc.) tends to be diminishing i.e. least important last, and few people would rate Lady Gaga above their parents. 

Enough! I’m indulging myself here.

Comma

16 comments

  1. My bugbear is people not using clauses correctly. Or using the right words but in the wrong order. I still remember a university application where a girl from a VERY posh and VERY expensive private school wrote in her personal statement that she was her school’s ‘Vice Games Captain.’ I think not dear, not unless it’s a very strange kind of school …………..

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  2. I have enjoyed reading your grammar posts and find myself nodding, happy to find a kindred spirit! My bugbear is often used in house details where the estate agent uses “comprises of” instead of comprises.

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    • I’m glad to hear you’ve enjoyed them Lyn. Thank you. Yes, ‘comprises of’ is a common mistake in all kinds of publications.

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  3. I have been known to insist on using the Oxford comma when editing reports! One of the words I was taught not to use to start a sentence was “Because”! I would usually change that to “Since” when I edited. I am not sure who made those rules, though!

    My goodness! You went to town with your cooking and baking! All that in one session? Your version of dump cake sounds better than the one I made!

    Hope you are resting your foot, Eloise.

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    • Oh yes, I’d forgotten that we mustn’t use ‘Because’ to start a sentence. I got the name ‘dump cake’ from yourself, Bless! The next one will likely have fewer ingredients now that I’ve used most of the odds and ends up. I was forced into resting a bit more because I did all that cooking in one session…..and paid for it afterwards!!

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  4. I am a yes vote on the Oxford comma. These days we have just become too lazy to do things the right way, so taking a stand and insisting on it is good! PS I am clumsy enough to be considered a child of Humpty Dumpty, but have absolutely zero in common with Lady Gaga!

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    • Haha. I have nothing in common with her either. Given that I am currently sporting a broken foot after falling downstairs, I can identify with poor Humpty!

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  5. Glad to know that the foot is progressing, if slowly! Love the idea of a ‘dump’ cake. I use the dump method (!) when cooking savoury dishes but haven’t dared – yet – with cakes. Must be braver.
    I love ‘language’ and I love this post about the Oxford comma. I had no idea this was its name. One of my many personal bugbears is when people say ‘off of’. No!

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    • Oh yes, ‘off of’ is a weird one and one that I’ve heard many times. I’m sure we could come up with a long list of no-nos! I read about a dump cake on Bless’s blog and thought I’d do my own version. It will be different every time, of course. I always seem to need almost a whole pack of something and then the little bits end up being nibbled so as not to waste them! I thought this a better use. I often a potato tortilla which contains savoury leftovers. I really do hate food waste.

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  6. I’ve read about the Oxford Comma before and since then don’t put a comma before the word ‘and’, although I am really tempted to. I also don’t like starting a sentence with ‘and’ and ‘but’, but have read novels where the author has done just that. I think as long as it makes sense to the reader anything goes, within reason. I’m not very good with grammar, but feel that I pass okay, hopefully.

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    • I think you hit the nail on the head when you say ‘as long as it makes sense to the reader’, Joan. Which, after all, isthe whole point of written communication.

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  7. I’m all for the Oxford comma, and use it myself although I’d no idea it was referred to as “the Oxford comma”. And I begin sentences with “and”! We were taught not to do this, too, but sometimes it can be done for effect, as with the word “so”. Dirk Bogarde, in his autobiographical books, uses single word sentences to great effect (not that he was a great writer, of course, but an interesting one.) It is when you know the rules that you can break them, such as the split infinite (as in “to boldly go”, perhaps the most famous split infinite). One grammar faux pas that bugs me, though, is when writers (or speakers) say “compared to” rather than “compared with”. But I’m being pedantic … as usual!
    Margaret P

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    • I’m glad that we agree on so many of these Margaret. My bugbear is “would of” instead of “would have”. And even though I KNOW it’s “compared to”, I have actually found myself saying “compared with”! Oh dear.

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