Many times it has been said that English is an “evolving” language.
This morning, Kristen Lamb used a more accurate term as we were trading comments on Facebook.
English is a “Viking” language, a language that regularly raids neighboring languages and adapts whatever words its speakers may happen to fancy. For that matter, so is Spanish; as I can see every time I pass a car lot with banners advertising cars as “Carros” (automóvils) and trucks as “Trokas” (camionetas).
My comments can be summed up as this: After reading multitudes of Oxford-Comma-less examples such as this for four decades, in published novels, my brain would not normally even conceive of the orange-juice-poured-over-toast scenario pictured above. My brain will instinctively correct my mental picture to the normal scenario of a glass of orange juice next to the plate of toast. In my case, the author would have to specify “orange juice poured onto toast” to break me out of my “auto-correction” patterns. THIS is how a lack of Oxford Commas has conditioned generations of readers.
Kristen (who, God bless her, could ‘see’ the example above without prompting) countered that if the English language continues to “evolve” like this, future novels will be ABBRV 2 OMG ROTF LMAO proportions.
Fortunately, the ABBRV generation does still expect novels (as opposed to everyday online speech) to be in “proper English” (whatever the hell that may be anymore!), but Kristen did bring up an excellent point about the generations to come.
The poor misbegotten Oxford Comma. If even readers of my generation can read “At my table, a cup of coffee and motor oil” and assume the motor oil is still in its bottle, resting next to the coffee cup, you can bet the ABBRV generation and its descendents will read it the same way.