While mulling the perennial comma controversy, I came across a curious and relevant bit of data that I had overlooked.
Here is the current language of the actual New Hampshire State law, as written:
TOWNS, CITIES, VILLAGE DISTRICTS, AND UNINCORPORATED PLACES
POWERS AND DUTIES OF TOWNS
IV. The local legislative body may authorize the acceptance of privately donated gifts, legacies, and devises to be utilized for the same purposes as a trust fund created under this section; provided, however, that such gifts, legacies, or devises shall be invested and accounted for separately from, and not commingled with, amounts appropriated under paragraph I, and shall be subject to the custody and investment provisions applicable to trust funds accepted under RSA 31:19.
New Hampshire lawmakers, like Max, favor the serial comma and also correctly set off clauses with a comma on either side.
Here is the warrant article that Tuftonboro Town Meeting passed last week, which includes the four commas added by Max (one of which was a serial comma) and approved by a narrow majority of the voters:
Shall the Town vote to authorize until rescinded the acceptance of privately donated gifts, legacies, and devises, which shall be invested and accounted for separately from, and not commingled with, amounts appropriated for expendable trust funds created under RSA 31:19-a, paragraph 1, and shall be subject to the custody and investment provisions applicable to trust funds accepted under RSA 31:19.
The article as originally written on the town warrant did not match the state law on which it is based.
One thing on which we may agree: Legal language is not lovely, with or without commas. If you have read this far, perhaps you deserve some reward and also my thanks. So here is a snow-themed poem, from New England’s most famous poet, for those of us who love New England winters:
Dust of Snow
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.