Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Comma After "Called"

Over at Language Log,  Roger Shuy reports on a movement to ban certain words from the courtroom in an attempt to prevent those words' pejorative natures from unfairly influencing juries.

He writes this sentence:

They call the forbidden words, "loaded terms."

I would not have put the comma there, nor would I have used quotation marks. I consider the word "called" to have alerted readers to the "word as word" nature of the term that followed. This fits the rules I was tauhjt.

And yet, when the terms are as multipart, is it confusing? I think i would buy an argument for quotes, but not for the comma. What about you?


The Ridger, FCD said...

Were it mine it would have been "They call the forbidden words 'loaded terms'."

Well, except it would be "loaded terms." But I can't quite type .'" and like it.

I think Shuy put a comma there because there'd be a pause when you say it, but that's what the quotation marks do.

TootsNYC said...

And of course, lots of people have been led astray by the instructions to "put a comma anywhere you would pause when you say it."

I wonder also if people who put a comma there are influenced by the idea of having a comma after the word "say" and before a direct quote.

Because one *could* argue that the quoted material is a direct object of the verb "say," and of course we don't put a comma between a transitive verb and its object.

ince the "say" construction is an exception to that rule, perhaps they think of "called" similarly.

(I love using the term "transitive verb"--it makes me feel so work-geeky.)

JD said...

I'm with the Ridger, FCD on this one. No comma, single quotes (call 'em 'inverted commas' if you like).

TootsNYC said...

Ah, the Brit angle.

Us Yanks would only use the inverted commas if the term were already inside pre-existing double quotes.

About the only place we get single quotes is around plant varietal names.

I once worked w/ a style in which we put *thoughts* (instead of speech) inside single quotes, but that didn't last long, and it was very non-standard.

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