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What Made the Crocodile Cry?, By Susie Dent
Friday 08 January 2010
In last week's New Yorker, a long article on US pop group Vampire Weekend included a quote from their breakthrough song, "Oxford Comma" though the writer failed to say what this was.
For enlightenment, we can now turn to the latest work by Countdown lexicographer Susie Dent. The Oxford comma is inserted before "and" in a list: "superfluous, pedantic, and fussy".
Dent's lively canter round the more curious corners of English roams from contranyms (words with two contradictory meanings, like sanction meaning both approve and boycott). Discussing meretricious ("alluring by false show"), she mentions Gore Vidal's reply when Richard Adams used the word to describe his work: "Well, meretricious to you and a happy new year."
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
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- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
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Guardians of the Galaxy review: A superficial and half-hearted Marvel film
Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants revealed: Meet the baker's dozen
R Kelly 'dropped' from Ohio music festival following backlash
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
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