Oxford comma saves Beatles from tribble hell

Until tonight, I was always in two minds about the Oxford comma. Sometimes, I realised, it could be useful to clarify matters. But that didn’t mean you had to be fanatical about using it all the time. Then I picked up ‘Turn Off Your Mind’, Gary Valentine Lachman’s excellent, absorbing history of occultism in the 1960s. And found this in the preface:

As a kid in the States in that turbulent decade, ‘the sixties’ for me meant Marvel Comics, Conan the Barbarian, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., James Bond films, the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and Star Trek – in a word, great pop culture.

“I never knew the Beatles had appeared on Star Trek,” I said. Shana agreed that the lack of an Oxford comma in the appropriate place did indeed make the passage ambiguous. Maybe, though, the Fab Four’s moptop haircuts were used as extras in episodes featuring the dreaded tribbles. How come we missed that one!

By the way, bonus points to anyone who spotted that ‘great pop culture’ is in fact three words, not one. But I have to say, you are being a bit harsh, because the book is a first class read. Anyone who has yet to read it, go get a copy pronto.


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