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Drawing an equivalence between X and Y is a standard English expression which runs into problems when X and/or Y is itself a comma-delimited list.

Slave_jed, "slavery", in BDSM terms, really should be written in inverted commas. It's a completely different thing to real slavery. Drawing an equivalence between torture, false imprisonment, and rape on the one hand and a sexual kink on the other is highly insulting.

In the quote above, I framed X and Y with on the one hand and on the other. Is this the best way to fix this or is there a more elegant phrasing I could have used?

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To clarify, for the purpose of getting asides out of the way: Slave_jed started talking about BDSM slavery in a forum discussion on real sexual slavery. I think in a situation where the BDSM context is already established, it's okay to talk about BDSM slavery without inverted commas. Probably. –  TRiG Oct 15 '10 at 18:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you wanted to be more clear, you could rephrase with:

Drawing an equivalence between the torture, false imprisonment, and rape of real slavery and the consensual sexual kink of the BDSM same-named version is...

The "on one hand/on the other hand" phrasing isn't really necessary, but if that's your preferred style then your existing usage looks fine to me.

Though I would use "from" instead of "to" in the prior sentence ;-p

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For? Do you mean from? –  TRiG Oct 15 '10 at 18:14
1  
...yes, that I do. My bad. I must need more coffee. ;-p –  munin Oct 15 '10 at 18:28

Two possible ways to fix this without changing the structure would be to use a semicolon, or to place the commas differently:

  1. Drawing an equivalence between torture, false imprisonment, and rape on the one hand; and a sexual kink on the other is highly insulting.

  2. Drawing an equivalence between torture, false imprisonment and rape on the one hand, and a sexual kink on the other is highly insulting.

Personally, I would go with the second option.

On a somewhat related note, this reminds me of the Language Log entry "When commas are crucial to comprehension".

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I think that (at least in the first sentence) you need a comma after "other". –  ShreevatsaR Oct 16 '10 at 2:57
    
That's a rather excellent Language Log entry. I'm fond of the Oxford comma, and am, in fact, something of an overpunctuater generally. I think I prefer your option 1 with ShreevatsaR's emendation. –  TRiG Oct 19 '10 at 17:35

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