A picture shared on Instagram (original source unknown) contains the following grammar joke:

enter image description here

“Well done, well-done, or well, done?”

And, this being a grammar joke, I’d assume it uses correct English. But I can’t help thinking that there should be a comma before the last “well”:

“Well done, well-done, or, well, done?”

Is the comma optional here? Is it allowed? Or am I entirely misunderstanding the function of the “well” here and it’s not an interjection?

(Incidentally, my query implicitly assumes that the comma before “or” is an Oxford comma and doesn’t form part of the interjection. Is this correct?)

  • 1
    (Incidentally, as I understand it “well done” and “well-done” are completely synonymous, that is they could both refer to either the quality or the cooking time.) – Konrad Rudolph Feb 25 '15 at 15:36
  • Well done means done well, i.e, a good job of cooking. Well-done in terms of beef means completely cooked, no red meat inside. – John Lawler Feb 25 '15 at 15:58
  • @JohnLawler According to the definition I linked, it can mean either (before looking this up I’d have agreed with you.) – Konrad Rudolph Feb 25 '15 at 16:09
  • It can mean either, but if it's being repeated here with well-done, it must mean something different. I didn't say it was a very good joke, but it's understandable. – John Lawler Feb 25 '15 at 16:32
  • "You have a choice. I'll call them 'well done', 'well-done', and 'well ... done'" The third 'well' is the mitigation marker, not the secondary modifier. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 25 '15 at 18:47

There should be a comma before the last "well." You're correct that it's an interjection.

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