The Dreaded Comma Splice

As my husband and I passed by this monument in downtown Conway yesterday, I knew I had to share it with you.  My husband, who is the real grammar Nazi in the family, pointed out the comma splice in the first sentence.   If you are like me, your high school teachers drilled into your head that comma splices are EVIL.  But the British have quite a high tolerance for them, and here is one, marring the beauty of our local public facility.  What gives?
The key lies in parallelism.  One of the main purposes of punctuation is to indicate the end of a thought: hence periods, exclamation points, etc.  Commas typically indicate a slightly shorter pause.  Comma splices are indeed evil if they link two structurally dissimilar sentences.  For example, “Dr Harper sang a song, she was a terrible singer.”  However, if the two sentences linked by a comma are short and very closely related, the comma can help indicate that parallelism.  Consider the following:

“That’s not a plane, that’s Superman!’

“You say potato, I say po-tah-to.”

So does the sentence on the monument pass this test?  I would say it does–barely.  What do you think?

(More on this at The Economist, of all places, and also a followup here.)

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