Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Games People Play

I'm throwing myself a surprise party next week, and all my A-list readers are invited. Step inside the velvet ropes, lucky ones; it's going to be a wild shindig that makes those partying teens from Project X look like Boy Scouts-cum-choirboys. My pal Barney describes my parties as legen — wait for it — dary.

We're going to gorge on pizza and ice cream cake, watch a Back to the Future movie marathon, shoot some hoops and cap off our madcap night — which will run into the wee hours of 9, 9:30 p.m. — with a spirited game of Place the Comma. The winner will receive $1 million in cash and prizes.

Place the Comma is a regional game, so perhaps some of my readers are unfamiliar with it. You'll like it. Trust me. How best to describe it? Hmm... It combines the ferocity of dodgeball with the frivolity of strip poker and the gravity of Russian roulette. It shares its roots with Pin the Tail on the Donkey, though instead of placing a rear end on a picture of an ass, you place a comma on a word's tail.

We played the game at an impromptu little soiree I whipped up last month. Many of the luminaries in attendance participated. Here's the version we played, along with the results:

1 / Lady Gaga / The singer, who showed up in a dress made entirely of Reynolds Wrap and ostrich feathers, has a good poker face, but her Place the Comma face couldn't hide the fact that she left her punctuation mark hanging on a segment with u, choosing to place it next to double. She stormed out of the room in a huff, exclaiming, "I'm going to j-j-just dance." Wrong.

2 / Jeremy Lin / Still smarting from losing to the party's host in a 3-point contest, an off-his-game Lin shot an air ball, inserting a comma after opener. Wrong.

3 / Pippa Middleton / The stylish English socialite, who appeared puzzled throughout the game, took a long time before finally guessing that the comma belonged after innings. She blamed her uncertainty on the variations between American and British English, though she was able to laugh about it. I appreciate the good humour, Pippa, but... Wrong.

4 / The Green M&M / A distracted Ms. Green batted her voluminous lashes at all the eye candy in the house as she placed a comma after every m. Wrong.

5 / Gary Busey / The Point Break co-star, feeling the aftereffects of too much ice cream cake, missed the target entirely and placed his comma after Back on the Back to the Future DVD cover lying on a nearby table. Very wrong.

6 / Owen / The host, realizing that "including an RBI double in his first at-bat" was a nonessential appositive — a phrase that provides additional information about the word that precedes it but is not essential to the context of the sentence — placed the comma after at-bat. Right. Winner!

See you at next week's party!


  1. Loved this! Extremely clever!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Dodie. You have a permanent spot on my guest list.

  2. I would have gotten this right! Wahoooo! Of course unlike you I have no idea why the comma should go there other than, it sounds right in my head! Lol. Or at least that is what the voices in my head told me.

    Chris B

    1. Not everyone needs to be an expert grammarian. Sometimes — oftentimes, in fact — all that is needed is the “sound test” you mention. Some voices in the head, like those belonging to David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, compel individuals to kill. Other in-the-head voices merely assist with writing and editing. Here’s hoping the voices in your head stick to the latter, Chris!