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Punctuation poll and music mysteries - A Sorta Fairytale
October 2013
 
 
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hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 11:10 am
Punctuation poll and music mysteries

*admires alliterative title*

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have the time for a fairly pointless post, though the impression that I have some free time is probably a bit of an illusion. *sigh*

I was grading my students' grammar papers the other day, and I found myself somewhat in disagreement with the Teacher's Guide. I think, perhaps, that the Teacher's Guide is going by a rather outdated method of comma usage, but I'm not sure. Anyway, instead of doing proper research on the matter, I have decided to poll my flist!

First please examine the following sentence:

John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, began on October 16, 1859, and was crushed on October 18.

Then answer the questions:


Poll #987744 Fun with commas!

The comma after "West Virginia" in the above sentence...

must be there.
8(44.4%)
should be there, but is not absolutely required.
3(16.7%)
is acceptable, but not really needed.
4(22.2%)
should not be there.
3(16.7%)
Other
0(0.0%)

The comma after "1859" in the above sentence...

must be there.
3(16.7%)
should be there, but is not absolutely required.
2(11.1%)
is acceptable, but not really needed.
10(55.6%)
should not be there.
3(16.7%)
Other
0(0.0%)



Feel free to add additional information or justification in the comments. Come on grammarphiles, I need your help! :D

The other item I wanted to post about is music. I’m sure I’m not the only person who, from time to time, is watching some movie or TV show wherein some piece of classical/art music is used as incidental music, and feels sure that the piece is familiar, but can’t name it. For some reason, it appears that TV shows in particular can get away with using music and not giving any credit, so that one is left wondering what the piece of music was even after scouring the closing credits.

But in this day and age whenever one is presented with any sort of trivial mystery like this, one can always ask Teh Interwebs—and will be very likely to find the answer! So I am pleased to announce that the gorgeous swelling of symphonic music heard when Kenshin bids farewell to Kaoru before departing for Kyoto is the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. While it is not by Puccini, as I had first thought, it is by one of his contemporaries in the verismo school of Italian composers, and it is certainly just as appropriate a musical selection for the “Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story” as Puccini would have been (except for the fact that Mascagni did not write Madame Butterfly).

Also, the piano sonata that underscores Kenshin’s battle with Shishio at the end of the Kyoto arc is, as I thought, one of Beethoven’s named piano sonatas. But it is not the Pastoral, as I originally thought, nor another movement of the Moonlight Sonata, as I later guessed. It is the Adagio Cantabile movement of the Pathetique. I clearly remember studying this piece in Dr. Kindred’s killer Music Theory II course, and I remember thinking, at the time, that the song “Somewhere Out There” had ripped off parts of the melody. *smirks* Cantabile, indeed.

And on a related note, markbrannan, I thought you might like to know that the theme song for House, which you thought you recognized the other day, is by Massive Attack, according to the closing credits. Does that help you place it?

Joie

Tags: , , , ,
Current Mood: content content
Current Music: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni

24CommentReply

springdove
springdove
Kristi
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC)

I honestly can't remember the rules about the West Virginia one. I think it helps with the flow of the sentence and keeping the city of "Harper's Ferry, West Virginia" as a separate idea and entity from began (because West Virginia didn't begin on said date), but I don't know that grammar strictly requires it.

I do remember that grammar rules state that commas should always appear after year dates. Sometimes it seems rather absurd to me and disrupts the flow of the sentence, so perhaps I should have said "should be there but is not absolutely required." But I was going with the assumption that you wanted to know what we remembered as grammar rules.

Interestingly enough, Bailey, Jared, and I had an intellectual "discussion" (read friendly argument) about grammar usage the Tuesday we left Lake Mary. Bailey argued that there is no academy for English, so there is no strictly correct usage, and it changes based on what works within the everyday usage of the language. I argued that we do, in fact, learn a precise grammar that is generally accepted as the correct grammatical usage of English, even if it is not used in everyday speech. We agreed to disagree because I was coming at it from a practical standpoint, and he was coming at it from a theoretical/philosophical standpoint, and we weren't going to get anywhere. It was interesting, anyway. :)

Okay. Long comment. :) I love you dear. I'm glad you found the answers to the music mysteries you were seeking. :)


ReplyThread
hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)

I know there is a rule that commas should appear after all [City], [State], references and after all [Month] [Day], [Year], references, which is what the grammar textbook I use teaches. However, I have a vague recollection of hearing or reading somewhere that this rule is now considered outdated.

Moreover, as you say, those commas sometimes seem to make sentences unnecessarily cumbersome. In the example I gave, I don't mind the comma after 1859 too much, since it's followed by a conjunction anyway, and it's normal to see commas before conjunctions. But the one after "West Virginia" bugs me.


ReplyThread Parent
tibbycat
tibbycat
Mark
Sun, May. 20th, 2007 01:16 pm (UTC)

That's an interesting point. We don't have an English equivalent of l’Académie française so who decides what is "correct English"? :/ I disagree with my year 2 teacher that "jail" is incorrect in Australia and that it's an exclusively American usage. That was 1987, and I don't know anyone my age or younger in Australia who spells it "gaol" these days, so, I was right, and it's true that language is the purest form of democracy.


ReplyThread Parent
orcapotter
orcapotter
Orca キンバリー
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)

The way I've been taught and practice it, I've always used these types of commas for a sentence like that. The first comma you questioned is required because if you read it out loud, you naturally pause there. That's always a good indicator regardless when you read things out loud. The second comma is debatable but I do believe that the "rules" require it to be there, too.


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hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 04:37 pm (UTC)

Do you really think so? One of the reasons I question the placement of those commas is because I use that rule of thumb as well and I *don't* feel a natural pause there (especially after "West Virginia"). Therefore, I feel that, as springdove put it in her comment, those commas disrupt the flow of the sentence. Hmm...I guess YMMV on the "put comma where natural pause occurs" rule.


ReplyThread Parent
orcapotter
orcapotter
Orca キンバリー
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 04:54 pm (UTC)

Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name), and titles in names.

Birmingham, Alabama, gets its name from Birmingham, England.
July 22, 1959, was a momentous day in his life.
Who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC?
Rachel B. Lake, MD, will be the principal speaker.

(When you use just the month and the year, no comma is necessary after the month or year: "The average temperatures for July 1998 are the highest on record for that month.")


(From a text book ^^)


ReplyThread Parent
hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC)

Yep. That's basically what the textbook I use says. I still don't like it. ;)


ReplyThread Parent
angua9
angua9
Quite a Machiavellian Figure
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
you wanted a long discussion, right?

Comma after West Virginia:

I believe that the argument for it being there would be that "West Virginia" is what I believe is called an appositive (?) which needs a second comma to "come back from" the comma that set it off in the first place.

The argument against the comma would be that "Harper's Ferry, West Virginia" is a place name just like "West Virginia" or "Harper's Ferry" and in that case you would NOT put a comma after it. This is what I believe.

You can't put a comma for pause purposes because "John Brown's Raid on X" is not a complete clause. Although you could, if you wanted, put commas both before and after the location, like this:

John Brown's raid, on Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, began on...

I think that would be acceptable, but weird. Normally (applying the "my sister Carol" vs. "my sister, Carol," rule), you wouldn't do that unless it was the only raid he ever was involved in. Which maybe it was!


Comma after 1859:

I believe it is acceptable (though not recommended) to put a comma there for pausing purposes, because "and was crushed on October 18" is a complete clause. You could also see it as a serial comma (as in "John washed his face, and brushed his teeth") which is acceptable but wouldn't normally be used unless needed for clarity.

Contrariwise, you might argue that a second comma is needed to set off "1859" as with "West Virginia" but again I don't follow that rule. I see "October 16, 1859" as a single date that would be treated the same as "Tuesday." To my mind, the sentence should be punctuated the same as this sentence:

John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry began on October 16 and was crushed on October 18.


ReplyThread
hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
Re: you wanted a long discussion, right?

I was hoping for an answer from you, actually. And a long one is fine. :D

Yes, I pretty much see it the same way: "Harper's Ferry, West Virginia" is just a place and "October 16, 1859" is just a day. The comma after 1859 looks all right to me because of its placement next to "and", but I could be just as happy without it. I don't like the "West Virginia" comma at all, though I understand the justification for it.


ReplyThread Parent
ginny_t
ginny_t
Too cute for evil
Tue, May. 29th, 2007 11:52 am (UTC)
Re: you wanted a long discussion, right?

While we're pulling out the grammar language … (sorry for late reply - last week was crazybusy)

Apposition is renaming a noun. There are two nouns for one thing. (Unfortunately, in my pre-tea state, I cannot come up with an example of this that isn't lame. *hangs head*)

In my recent grammar class, I tried to suggest explanations for the commas Joie's discussing, but the teacher (a bit of a wet blanket, really) rejected all of them and insisted on calling it an arbitrary rule.

On the commas around "on Harper's Ferry", we're getting into defining vs. non-defining (or restrictive vs. non-restrictive) information now. If John Brown led only one raid, then the commas are good — it's extraneous information that's not required for understanding. If there was more than one raid, then the commas are bad — the location is necessary to understand which raid the sentence is talking about.

Eep. And I don't mean to be always shooting down your suggestions, but in "John washed his face, and brushed his teeth", since there's only 2 items in the list and no new subject, then no comma.


ReplyThread Parent
thewhiteowl
thewhiteowl
Could use a little more cowbell
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)

The comma after West Virgina is there because you could take out West Virginia and the sentence would still make sense, so it's like a parenthesis. It avoids parsing it as 'West Virginia began...'

Comma before 'and' is fine but not essential. The one that looks wrong to me is the one in the middle of the date. Of course I would write it as 16 October 1859, but I think once you have a comma before 1859 you have to have one after it.


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hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)

Yes, I see. That justification makes sense to me. I just feel that it's so natural to treat [City], [State] as one unit, that it's unnecessary to treat "West Virgina" like an appositive and more sensible, as angua9 explained above, to treat "Harper's Ferry, West Virginia" as a place name.

The one that looks wrong to me is the one in the middle of the date.

Now that one I *know* is right. It just looks wrong to you because you write dates differently. Again, I think it's natural, if you're used to seeing dates written this way, to view "October 16, 1859" as one unit, rather than treating "1859" as an appositive.


ReplyThread Parent
dianora
dianora
Liralen
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)

After re-reading the sentence, I'd like to change my response to the second question to "is acceptable, but not really needed." I often include a comma between coordinating conjunctions with 'and' (even though some grammar freaks tell me not to). However, this comma has nothing to do with 'October 16, 1859.' For example, there is no comma after '1859' in the following sentence:

October 16, 1859 was a bright and sunny day.

My reasons are more or less the same as Angua's, so I won't reiterate -- especially since I would apparently be preaching to the choir!

Also, the Teacher's Guide may disagree with us, but I believe the omission of the comma is in concordance with Associated Press style. It's been a while since I was a copy editor, though, so I could be wrong. :)


ReplyThread
hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)

Yes, I realize that there are other reasons why a comma might be placed after "1859", so I'm glad you clarified.


ReplyThread Parent
hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)

A very hasty google search tells me that the AP stylebook disagrees with us.


ReplyThread Parent
dianora
dianora
Liralen
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 07:27 pm (UTC)

My google search tells me the same thing. Alas!


ReplyThread Parent
sarynx
sarynx
Jared
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC)

I don't know any of the comma rules mentioned above, as such. So let me tell you about neural networks in computer science (and cognitive psychology.)

You have input neurons, middle neurons and output neurons. Each neuron constantly takes each input, multiplies it by a per-input weighting, adds all of these products, and that is its output. (The neuron "knows" its weights.) The outputs of the input neurons are hooked up to the inputs of the middle ones, and likewise with the middle neurons and output neurons.

So what you do is you figure out a set of "training inputs" for your network and what the outputs should be. You run the inputs in, check the actual outputs, and follow some rules to adjust the weights in the neurons, and do it again. Once your neural network is trained, it will produce the outputs you wanted for the inputs you provided; and, possibly, if you throw a new set of inputs at it, it will produce the correct outputs for those inputs. If it doesn't, either you didn't train it sufficiently, or it doesn't have enough neurons.

It's impossible, as far as I know, to tell whether (or how) the neural network "knows" the rules that transformed your training inputs to the correct outputs. It's just a bunch of numbers jangling about through multiplication and addition, right? How can numbers know anything?

Having said all that, I can say this: I have been extensively trained as to the correct use of the comma in various situations, and usually produce the correct outputs. (Given, the century, that I find myself in. Mark Twain, iirc, was trained, quite differently, for example...)


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sarynx
sarynx
Jared
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 10:46 pm (UTC)

oops, "(and cognitive psychology)."

oops 2, overediting caused this pivotal sentence to be lost: "Each neuron has one or more inputs and one output."


ReplyThread Parent
hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sun, May. 20th, 2007 02:55 am (UTC)

:) Yes, my grammar usage was like that until I became a teacher. Then I had to learn The Rules. Or a lot of them, anyway.

In some cases, I openly flout the rules because I don't like them. But for my students' sake, I do try to know and convey to them what the real rules are. In this case, it seems I have, in fact, been too lax. angua9 argued a good case for what I want to believe, but every authority I've checked so far has disagreed with it.

I may have to start marking my students off for omitting those commas, darn it.


ReplyThread Parent
attaining
attaining
Kat
Sat, May. 19th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)

This website is often used in the English classes at a high school here.


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hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Sun, May. 20th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)

Ah, yes. Yet another source that disagrees with me, angua9, and dianora.


ReplyThread Parent
major_dallas
major_dallas
Nate the Great
Sun, May. 20th, 2007 12:16 pm (UTC)

OK I voted, so do exactly the oposite of what I voted for since I'm terrible at Grammer and Spell abilitys :P


ReplyThread
ginny_t
ginny_t
Too cute for evil
Mon, May. 21st, 2007 01:06 pm (UTC)

Not reading the comments that've come before, apologies if I repeat. When you have month/day/year, the year gets wrapped in commas. Same if you have city/state (or province, or (I assume) country). It was presented as an arbitrary grammar rule, but I suspect it has something to do— wait, nope, there goes that theory. >_<

Arbitrary rule that you just have to learn. (I don't think that's something that's different south of the border.)

eeeeee! "grammarphile"


ReplyThread
hymnia
hymnia
Joie
Wed, May. 23rd, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)

Thanks for your input. Other commenters have given some good reasons for the rule, actually, if you care to scroll up and read them.

I, for the reasons stated in angua9's comment and in various replies of my own above, still do not like the rule and do not intend to make any particular effort to follow it in my own informal writing.

But from now on I will at least make sure to use it in formal writing and to impart it to my students as best I can. *sigh*


ReplyThread Parent