We Need, Commas.
There used to be a small grocery store in Evanston I walked by just to look at the display of giant turtles. You know, those slabs of chocolate and caramel and pecans too delicious to need a particular shape. These were especially huge—as big as a baby’s head and twice as scrumptious. In my heart, I knew I could eat five. But the handwritten sign under the display was unclear.
“Try one big mama.”
Now, are they saying that the turtles are big mamas and that you, the customer, should try one? Like, “Try one big mama and you will die of pleasure”? And did this mean I couldn’t eat five after all? In my confusion, my appetite disappeared, and I walked on.
A week or so later, I passed the store again, and the sign had mysteriously changed. Now it read
“Try one, big mama.”
Oho! So now I, the prospective customer, am the big mama, in which case, maybe I don’t exactly need to be eating giant chocolate slabs. Far too sensitive to admit to being a big mama, I once again passed up the delectable treats.
But my curiosity and chocolate craving brought me back. Again! The sign had changed!
“Try a big mama.”
OK, so now I’m fairly confident that the turtles are, indeed, the big mamas, not me. The next step: to actually go into the store and ask for a big mama. But what if I was wrong? Could I trust the sign after all these changes? Could I trust a vendor with such a shaky understanding of the all-important comma? I thought it safer to wait and see if the sign underwent any more changes, possibly the addition of an exclamation point.
The next time I passed the store, the “big mama” sign was gone and the chocolate slabs were replaced with fruit.
I hate fruit.
If you want to punctuate things:
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss is an amusing and informative read.
If you want to skip the boring grammar lesson and join the Big Mama Club:
Delicious turtles came from here