While reading the satirical novel A Confederacy of Dunces, I was struck by the protagonist's habit of expressing his vexation with the phrase "Oh, my God."

I don't recall seeing a comma inserted into this phrase anywhere else; it's certainly not how I'd write it myself.

The book was written, I believe, in the mid 1960's. Does anyone know if the comma was frequently present in older literary renderings of the phrase, or whether it's deliberately used by the author to denote a particular tonal pronunciation (a brief pause between "oh", and "my God"), unique to the protagonist, or whether I'm making a big old fuss about nothing?


Toole follows the longstanding written convention of bracketing off the name of the person addressed.

Oh, Bill, would you mind passing the potatoes?
Oh, Bill, how could you do it?
Oh, Bill.

Ignatius is a student of medieval philosophy, and it is possible that Toole intends us to understand that he employs the phrase in its etymological sense as an invocation of the Almighty; but I doubt it. I think it’s just the convention Toole grew up with. An unsystematic scan of Google Books instances of the phrase in sources from the 1960s suggests that versions with and without the comma have about the same frequency.


Seeing below examples, you can clear your doubts.

Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"

"All the better to hear you with."

"Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!"

"All the better to see you with."

"Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!"

"All the better to grab you with!"

"Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!

Also, you can also visit the following link to clear your doubts. http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0333.html


My creative writing professor told me to write it as Oh, my God. That's what I'm going with. I've read a ton of other theories, though which make it sort of confusing to get a straight answer. Some people state that they use a comma depending on the intonation in case they are writing for actors.

protected by tchrist Jan 25 '17 at 12:02

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