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N Hads

Posted by R. Berg on February 22, 2003

In Reply to: Nine Tortuous Hads posted by TheFallen on February 22, 2003

: : : : I realize that the language does evolve and sometimes rules become blurred. I had always thought that a comma is used between all words in a series except when connected with "and." For instance, red, blue, yellow (no comma) and green lights. In a new textbook here in the U.S., the comma is used before the "and."
: : : : As in, red, blue, yellow, and green lights. Which is correct?

: : : I'm with you 120%. Separate the items in a series with commas, except for the final one, where "and" makes the comma both unnecessary and wrong.

: : : This reminds me of the famous "five ands" conundrum, where the idea is to think of a grammatically correct sentence that contains 5 sequential uses of the word "and". To cut a long story short, the landlord of a pub called "The Pig And Whistle" is having a new sign lettered to hang outside his hostelry. The signwriter calls him outside to give approval to his work. The landlord eyes the newly lettered pub sign critically and says "There's too much space between 'Pig' and 'And' and 'And' and 'Whistle'."

: : : There's another with 9 sequential uses of the word "had", but I'd have to dredge that one up from the memory banks.

: : I've seen one with seven, something like this:
: : On the English test, John had had "had," and Jill had had "had had." "Had had" had been the correct answer.

: : In the U.S., using that comma before "and" is a matter of the publisher's house style. The comma is considered more formal than the n-comma. Generally, university presses and academic journals use it; newspapers don't. Newspaper editors are always trying to save space.

: Ms Berg's on the right track, though the puzzle calls for a single sentence. Her scenario is accurate though. Bill and Ted are discussing an exam that they'd recently taken, involving translating French to English. Ted got a better grade than Bill, and after comparing papers to work out why, Ted says this:-

: "The fact that I, whereas you had had "had", had had "had had", had had a noticeable effect on our grades."

I somewhat remember another version that ends "'Had had' had had the teacher's approval.

  • n Hads Harikrishnan Menon 02/28/03