Mighty Red Pen

August 7, 2011

Crazy, stupid, punctuation

Filed under: Perilous punctuation,Pop culture — mighty red pen @ 6:55 pm
Tags: , ,

So I have been disposed to find the title of the new Steve Carell/Julianne Moore vehicle (the one with the words crazy stupid and love in it), I don’t know, lame at best. A little been there, Eat, Pray, Loved that.

And also, I’d like you to note, without commas in the ad. So I definitely did a doubletake when I saw the title referred to in text as Crazy, Stupid, Love. I mean, what’s with all the commas? (And oh yeah, that’s a period at the end of the title, too.)

That there were any commas at all came as kind of a surprise to me after seeing the ads, but that there were two commas seems, I don’t know, odd. It’s not like Eat, Pray, Love, in which a series of like things is divided by commas. With two adjectives and a noun (or a verb), it doesn’t stand up as a series. Are we not meant to think that crazy and stupid are adjectives that modify the noun love (in which case Crazy, Stupid Love would suffice)? Or are crazy, stupid, and love three nouns, as in, she is bringing the crazy, she is bringing the love, and she is bringing the stupid?

And I’m not alone. A quick search brings up many questions, but few answers. These guys don’t have any problems with it, but Nathan Heller at Slate refers to it as “the hair raising savagery of the second comma” (yowzers). Oh, what does it mean?



  1. Searching on Google for the film title + commas shows that a lot of people are exercised about this. I particularly liked the following, from a review by Wesley Morris:

    “Crazy, Stupid, Love.’’ has two commas and a period. Can that sentence be diagrammed? What are these words modifying? Is “love’’ a noun or a verb? Is the amount of punctuation in a movie title proportional to the pleasure to be found in the movie itself? The answers are: “I don’t know,’’ “I don’t know,’’ “I can’t tell,’’ and “evidently.’’

    Comment by Stan — August 8, 2011 @ 8:14 am | Reply

  2. I also really enjoyed the rant on Slate about the use of the ampersand in “Cowboys & Aliens.” It’s definitely not as egregious as the commas in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” but I have to agree that “a movie about cowboys and aliens is a use for which it seems, in fact, particularly wrong.”

    Comment by Lauren Gundrum (@laurengundrum) — August 8, 2011 @ 10:16 am | Reply

  3. I tweeted about this, too. The best I can figure, we’re supposed to interpret it as: “It’s crazy. It’s stupid. It’s love.” As in, “What do you expect? It’s love. Of course, it’s crazy and stupid.” But that’s just my guess.

    Comment by Suzanne S. Barnhillu — August 8, 2011 @ 10:27 am | Reply

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