Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Classic Comma Catastrophe

Last night, my mom told me about Goodnight Bush, a parody of Goodnight Moon, one of her favorite picture books. We all love the children's classic by Margaret Wise Brown, but shouldn't its title contain a comma? In fact, the author doesn't use any commas at all. Check out this page from the inside of the book:


The lack of commas keeps the kid-oriented text simple, but it's grammatically incorrect. Without commas, the phrase "goodnight socks" appears to be a noun, as in "Where are my goodnight socks? I can't sleep without them!"

I still love Goodnight Moon, but I have to point out errors wherever I see them.

11 comments:

Jane Sutton said...

The outing of Margaret Wise Brown as a punctutation criminal is tragic, but it had to be done. What is your opinion about "goodnight" as 1 word? I'm wondering if that renders it an adjective...

Becky said...

Wow, I hadn't even thought about the "goodnight" issue. The dictionary says it's not a word! There should be a hypen in between "good" and "night." Interesting....

jesse said...

I dunno, isn't that a stylistic thing? Authors use run-ons and fragments for effect to the point where I wouldn't feel comfortable calling it "incorrect" as long as you can tell it's intentional. I'll go to bat for you, Margaret!

Becky said...

I think it's safe to say that leaving out the commas in Goodnight Moon was probably intentional, but I still say it's wrong. :)

Marisa said...

I think that's like saying that the line breaks in poetry is wrong. I'm with you for most of these errors, but I disagree with this one.

Also, this isn't a punctuation error, but I wish I could take a picture of the sign I pass on my way home. It's spray-painted and says "Goggle me, I'm an artist," and has a name after it.

Jane Sutton said...

Ah, but by the logic you use to defend Goodnight Moon, "Goggle me, I'm an artist" gets a pass because an artist wrote it. As a Bob Dylan song says, "I'm an artist; I don't look back."

Becky said...

"Goggle me"! Haha, I love it. Unless there is some sort of artistic reason for omitting the commas, I still think it's wrong.

Marisa said...

Not to keep harping on this, but I think there is an artistic reason for not using commas. It directs the way you read it out loud, which is important for children's books.

Jay said...

And in order to keep harping on this, Marisa, like the stinker who spots a dying fight and makes it his business to fan its flame, let me cry balderdash, humbug, poppycock, codswallop, as loudly as I am able. The comma before the noun of direct address is *more*--not *less*, by thunder--*more* important in oral than in silent reading. What else could provide the board from which the voice, after pausing for a sweet split second in midair, springs into a dive? By what other means could the conscientious reader distinguish the compound noun from the noun of direct address? Read the phrase in question aloud, Marisa, first as it stands, and then with the controverted comma, and, well--I should think that even the naughtiest Marisa would return with tears in her eyes and an eagerness to make amends in her breast, to the scene of the crime of her ignorance, upon discovering that not only had she been in outrageous error but also had deceived potentially millions of readers. I shudder to think of it; still, we may do some good yet.

Jay said...

Sorry about that, Marisa. It was uncalled for. Although I stand by the mechanics behind what I wrote about the comma, I had no reason to write about it in the way I did, or to involve you in the post.

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