Common Sense vs. the Comma Commando

“I’m so glad you could join us, Lolius, and give an interview. Now tell me, how did you get to be the Comma Commando?”

“Just read the sentence out loud. If you pronounce the comma, write it. Otherwise, leave it out .”

“I see. But aren’t you trying to write dialog the way people actually talk?”

“Mostly. My cousin was talking to her friend Edna about the best place to shop for high fashion:

‘You see, Edna, you never want to look anywhere else.’
But I know what she really meant! Think about that sentence. Then say it without the first comma:
‘You see Edna, you never want to look anywhere else.’

“I’d like to meet her. Now isn’t it true that religious wars have been fought over a comma? That seems pretty extreme to me.”

“You’re right. Look at Luke 23:43:

‘And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with me in paradise.’
This verse was O.K. until the Protestants snuck in and moved the comma. Here’s what it really means:
‘And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.’”

“Did they even have commas in Aramaic? It sounds like something was lost in translation.”

“I don’t know. When you get to heaven you can ask St. Luke.”

“But Lolius, I’m a politician. I’d better be finding out here in this life.”

“Amen, brother.”

“Here’s my problem: I have to say the same words to different audiences, but always make everyone believe I’m on their side. Can you teach me how to do that?”

“Nothing to it! Just pronounce the comma or leave it out, depending on who you’re talking to.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Elementary, my good man. Pronounce only the first comma when you’re talking to conservatives:

‘Shall I compromise? No, never raise the excise tax!’
But pronounce both commas when you’re talking to liberals:
‘Shall I compromise? No, never, raise the excise tax!’”

“Wow! How would you like a job programming my teleprompter?”

“Heh heh ....”