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The rogue Irish comma


The comma is not the only punctuation that is habitually abused in Irish printed media.

• An apostrophe pluralizes about one out of every three nouns on public reader-boards. The so-called greengrocer's apostrophe advertizes, for example, "apple's 3 for €1."


• Quotation marks often emphasize important terms: Tired of renting? Buy "YOUR OWN HOME." (Many elsewhere, of course, would read such punctuation as indicative of irony or sarcasm.)

Pedestrian Irish writers use the comma without apparent awareness that it has logical functionality.

These writers, these journalists, seem to feel a compulsion to insert a comma where none is required — almost as if they're using it just in case they need one.

From the Irish Times, March 2010:


"We realise, that in order to do this we must rely on our greatest asset..." — quoting the Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Brian Cowen.


That comma does not represent anything spoken.

The following is from the Cork Evening Echo in December 2008:


"[The plaintiff] told Judge Leo Malone, that late night loud music [was causing a disturbance.] ..."


This kind of usage appears to be rather consistent — based upon whatever inscrutable rule governs it.

There seems to be nothing organic — nothing that you can "hear" when you read the sentence... and yet there seems to be an odd sort of a rule — one that I cannot figure out.

Maybe the rule is merely "when in doubt, stick in a comma."

This is from the reader-board outside a pub:


"Come enjoy our warm, cozy, atmosphere."