In a post 2 days ago, I took 2 commas out of a sentence written by Scott Adams. He wrote "Trump is well on his way to owning the identities of American, Alpha Males, and Women Who Like Alpha Males." For what I thought was clarity, I changed it to "Trump is well on his way to owning the identities of American Alpha Males and Women Who Like Alpha Males."
I missed the first commenter who showed my mistake, but noticed, just now, Kristo Miettinen, who said: "Ann, by taking out the commas you changed Scott's meaning. In Scott's taxonomy of identities 'American' and 'alpha male' are two separate things."
I still thought I was right and said:
... I think, in one sense, "male" is the noun and "American" and "alpha" are adjectives, which would make putting a comma between "American" and "alpha" the conventional punctuation. But, like you, I see "alpha male" as a single entity, really a noun. Then "American" modifies "alpha male." Taking out the comma makes that clearer. The picture were supposed to have is of one of the alpha males of America. Think of the animal called the American Water Spaniel. You wouldn't even consider writing "American, water spaniel."I noticed the earlier commenter, frose, who'd said:
Professor,Because I didn't reread the full Adams quote, I still thought I was right and said:
You're usually spot-on with grammar and punctuation questions, but I think you erred this time in removing the commas in the Scott Adams statement. I believe Adams is using Oxford commas to delineate three distinct "identities" -- American[s], Alpha Males, and Women Who Like Alpha Males. I believe Adams erred in leaving off the "s" in "Americans" and that "Americans" is in contrast to "immigrants," which is one of the identities "owned" by Clinton."
Adams quote: "Trump is well on his way to owning the identities of American, Alpha Males, and Women Who Like Alpha Males. Clinton is well on her way to owning the identities of angry women, beta males, immigrants, and disenfranchised minorities."
I understand that idea, but I don't think that's what Adams meant to say. He's got 2 groups, not 3. One group is male and the other is female. The males are alpha and the females are the females who love them. There's no reason to dump "Americans" into that discussion. And the idea makes so little sense that I'm contemplating whether you're doing humor. If so, I get it.Finally, reading that second sentence — "Clinton is well on her way..." — I said:
Okay, I looked back at the context, and I can see that both of these commenters are making the same point.Seriously, thanks. And thanks to all readers who've been interested enough in commas and meaning to read this whole post. Hello to all who've come this far — all you commas-and-meaning enthusiasts.
"Trump is well on his way to owning the identities of American, Alpha Males, and Women Who Like Alpha Males. Clinton is well on her way to owning the identities of angry women, beta males, immigrants, and disenfranchised minorities."
"American" is one of the identities that Trump "owns." And he owns 2 others: Alpha Males and Women Who Like Alpha Males.
The identities Clinton owns are people who may be American citizens, but they don't have "American" as their identity.
I concede the point. I think you are right and didn't see it that way before.
Thanks for commenting!
AND: Was an "s" was needed on "American"?, as frose said. The identity is "American." But everything else Adams lists is put in the plural. Parallelism would have helped me see "American" as a separate identity. And, of course, "Americans" could not be mistaken for an adjective, which was my original mistake. I think I'd like the 2 sentences best if all the identities were singular, so that each thing on the list calls up a specific archetype — the Angry Woman, etc.