The Oxford Comma

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, September 19, 2010

A short drive from Woodstock is the city of Oxford. Famous for its university, Oxford is actually a major commercial center with population of about 150,000.  Most of the tour focused on the university which seamlessly blends into the city, but first we got something to eat and explored the main shopping street, Cornmarket Street, which was very crowded.  We had lunch at the Chequers Inn which is one of the oldest pubs in Oxford.  Of course, I had fish and chips.

After exploring the town centre, we moved on to Christ Church.  To begin, colleges in the UK are not the same as they are in the United States.  A college in the UK, especially at Oxford or Cambridge (collectively known as Oxbridge), is simply a place where the student will eat, sleep, and essentially live while they attend Oxford University.  The other people in the college have completely different majors and academics has nothing to do with the colleges.  The colleges are basically the same as halls of residence.  When a student applies to Oxford University, they also apply for which college they would like to be in.  If their family is associated with a particular college, they will undoubtedly be admitted into that one.  Currently, there are 38 colleges at Oxford.  Each college is equipped with a dining hall (or refectory), chapel, library, bar, common rooms, and lodging.  Most of the colleges have these rooms situated around a square courtyard.

When foreigners were expelled from the University of Paris during one of England's and France’s many fights, students fled back to England to attempt to complete their degrees.  Since it was the 1200s, the church was the only place which had the ability to teach anyone anything.  After much debate, the monks in Oxford agreed to teach the students.  The students found accommodation with townsfolk in the city while they learned.  Eventually, the relationship between the townsfolk and the students deteriorated (meaning that there were some riots).  Afterwards, it was determined that the students would have to live separately from the townsfolk, and, thus, the college was born.  Wealthy English men would establish colleges in their name, or groups of men would come together to fund the construction of one.

Christ Church is the biggest of the colleges at Oxford.  It was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII.  Christ Church has produced 13 prime ministers, and other notable individuals such as Lewis Carroll, John Locke, Charles and John Wesley (of Methodist fame), Albert Einstein, Robert Hooke, and William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania), just to name a few.  Christ Church is also one of the main filming locations for the Harry Potter films, especially the quadrangle (courtyard) and the refectory (dining hall).

Just in front of the entrance to Christ Church is Alice’s Store where the real Alice (Alice Liddell) from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland used to go.  This location and many others from Oxford and Christ Church were used in Carroll’s novel.  The real Alice did not the have the long locks of blonde hair as she does in the story; she had short brown hair.  However, Alice’s sister, Edith, was the one who looks like the girl described in the book.  Either way, with all the nooks and passageways hidden throughout Oxford, it’s easy to imagine Alice’s world.

Other colleges we saw were Oriel College and All Souls College, but the city is literally packed with them.  While exploring some of the city, we ran into a group of men who were performing a morris dance.  This dance originated in the 1400s, though its original meaning seems to have been lost over the centuries.  Some say that the dance was traditionally a druid ritual to awaken the earth (with the bells on their feet or sometimes sticks to hit against each other) and ensure a successful harvest season, but others say it is simply a dance to bring about good luck.  Other stories say that the bells are meant to scare away evil spirits.  Either way, there are still many groups, especially in the UK, who perform the dance to keep the tradition alive.

In the end, Oxford is fantastic, both the city and the university.  There were so many places there to explore that I didn’t have near enough time to see it all, but hopefully I can get back to Oxford soon to see what I missed.

P.S. "The Oxford Comma" is the serial comma used in a list of three or more items such as “pencils, papers, and books” (the Oxford comma being the second one).  This list, in most languages, would appear as “pencils, papers and books” without the comma.  Reportedly, there is much debate on whether the Oxford comma should be used or not.  It is, without question, the norm in the US, but asinine writers think they are very much above the Oxford comma and protest against it….I think we have more important things to worry about.
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Rhonda on

So now I can tell Lesly that she has forgotten to use her Oxford comma when I'm editing her work!

Wilma Burkett on

Enjoyed your "blog" very much, it brought back memories of our trip to England in 1995. Micki and I (along with Linda , Dal, and Mary D) visited many of the places you described.

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