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Life hangs on a comma
Punctuation nerds all over the United States of America celebrated the Fourth of July last week by poring over bad copies of the Declaration of Independence, looking for a full stop or period which could change life as they know it.
A Princeton university professor Danielle Allen has enough scholars taking her seriously to cause a grammar crisis. She says America has been reading the Declaration wrong and there was originally a period in the passage beginning, “We hold these truths to be self-evident’’ and so on. If she is correct, it means the “pursuit of happiness’’ deal is not more important than the role of the government.
Thomas Jefferson may not have intended that the rights of the individual would dominate, which is news that could crimp the style of a lot of folks.
Snigger if you like, but punctuation can be a matter of life and death.