How Much Does a Missing Comma Cost? For One Dairy in Maine, $5 Million

iStock
iStock

Copy editors aren’t the only ones who should respect the value of the Oxford comma. Since 2014, a dairy company in Portland, Maine has been embroiled in a lawsuit whose success or failure hinged on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law. The suit is finally over, as The New York Times reports, and die-hard Oxford comma-lovers won (as did the delivery drivers who brought the suit).

The drivers’ class action lawsuit claimed that Oakhurst Dairy owed them years in back pay for overtime that the company argues they did not qualify for under state law. The law reads that employees in the following fields do not qualify for the time-and-a-half overtime pay that other workers are eligible for if they work more than 40 hours a week:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish product; and

(3) Perishable foods

Notice that it says the “packing for shipment or distribution” and not “packing for shipment, or distribution of.” This raised a legal question: Should dairy distributors get overtime if they didn’t pack and distribute the product?

The case eventually made its way to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which ruled that the lack of comma made the law ambiguous enough to qualify the drivers for their overtime pay, overturning the lower court’s verdict that the state legislature clearly intended for distribution to be part of the exemption list on its own.

In early February, the company agreed to pay $5 million to the drivers, ending the lawsuit—and, sadly, preventing us from ever hearing the Supreme Court’s opinions on the Oxford comma.

Future delivery drivers for the dairy won’t be so lucky. Since the comma kerfuffle began, the Maine legislature has rewritten the statute. Instead of embracing the Oxford comma, though—as we at Mental Floss would recommend—lawmakers decided to double down on their semicolons. It now reads:

The canning; processing; preserving; freezing; drying; marketing; storing; packing for shipment; or distributing of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

Come on, guys. What do you have against the serial comma?

[h/t The New York Times]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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Order Mental Floss's Amazing Facts Desk Calendar to Learn Something New Every Day

Andrews McMeel Publishing
Andrews McMeel Publishing

Your commute, your weekend plans, and the weather are all tried-and-true topics for small talk, but that doesn’t mean you can’t meander into uncharted territory and wow your friends, family, and coworkers with some more obscure facts from time to time.

To give you some (more than 300, actually) ideas, Mental Floss has teamed up with Andrews McMeel Publishing on a desk calendar with one amazing fact for each day of 2021. If you’ve spent time on the Mental Floss website, the phrase amazing fact might sound familiar—the calendar is an offshoot of the popular Amazing Fact Generator, which has been delivering offbeat, zany, thought-provoking trivia to readers for a good part of Mental Floss’s 20-year history.

The facts themselves cover everything from pop culture to history and beyond, giving you the opportunity to discover, for example, that the little plastic "table" on top of the pizza you get for takeout or delivery is called a pizza saver, and that it was patented in 1983 by a woman named Carmela Vitale.

Some of the facts relate to their corresponding dates. On Halloween, you can kick off your morning conference call with this endearing entertainment tidbit: Children in 1966 were so distraught that Charlie Brown only got rocks in his trick-or-treat bag during It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown that they mailed heaps of candy to Charles Schulz’s office in California.

By the end of next year, you’ll be the most interesting person in your company and everyone’s first choice for their pub trivia team. The calendar is available for purchase now, and you can get details on how to order it here.