(My brother editor, Kieran, from Ardfinnan in Ireland, sent me this email on the occasion of the snow storm that hit the mid-Atlantic region this weekend.)
Upon seeing reports of the storm—and I’m sure you grow weary of hearing it called the Snowpocalypse—it brought to mind a fond memory from my childhood.
On many a cold winter evening, with peat burning in the stove, Mam would add to the warmth of the fire by telling us stories which had been passed down through her family’s generations. Below is her favorite.
As you will see, it was tales such as this that helped put this wee little editor on the right path.
Best wishes, K
The Four Horsemen of the Commapocalypse
Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Fer Manach, the four Royal Wordsmiths incurred the wrath of the mighty and feared Queen Marrigan when they submitted a particular weekly Queen's Report for her blessing before it was released to members of the Court.
Several of the Queen's closest handmaidens, hesitant yet obliged to deliver the report to Her Highness, forewarned her that she would not be amused by what she read.
Indeed, she was not. For what she saw in the wordsmiths' writing were more errors related to the use of the comma than all the potatoes in the Royal Garden.
Upon hearing of the Queen's displeasure, King Crimthand summoned the wordsmiths to Court and decreed the following:
Wordsmith Breccan, you are guilty of the incorrect placement of the comma, as you have scrivened, “Her Majesty wore a, purple gold and black, gown.”
Wordsmith Narbflaith: you are guilty of using a comma rather than a period, as you have scrivened, “Her Majesty reviewed the troops, She then presented Captain Muirgel with the Royal Cross.”
Wordsmith Tanaide, you are guilty of the omission of the needed comma, as you have scrivened, “Her Ladyship Rosaleen born and bred in Mide will accompany HRH to Temuir the capital of our western provinces.”
Wordsmith Larlug, you are guilty of over-using the comma, as you have scrivened, “Young, Prince, Ultan, has begun his, military training, at Castle Dunguaire in the, Arderins Mountains.”
These punctuational offenses leave me no choice but to ban you from Court until you return from the Great Royal Forest at Glencree, where you will meet for a fortnight to review the Royal Comma Rules.
You will each be provided a steed from the Royal Stables and will then proceed, respectively, to the East, West, North, and South Royal Entrances, after which you will navigate your way to the Royal Middle Forest Glen. Upon reaching the Glen, you will spend the aforementioned fortnight dedicated to mastering the Royal Comma Rules.
You will then immediately return to the Court Annex, at which time you will have five days to draft the next Queen's Report for Her Majesty’s handmaidens to review. May God have mercy on your souls if you have not heeded the Royal Comma Rules.