When delving into the multitudinous possibilities and uncertainties associated with the arrangement of appositions previously, I disregarded another instance in which the absence of an Oxford comma may undesirably mix your shizzle up, one in which even the holy semicolon cannot appease the truly harrowing extent to which your shizzle has, indeed, been mixed up.
Perhaps the greatest perpetrator of vagueness in grammatical lists is an item that consists of two items in itself. No, not more than two, because then it would be clear that the item is a list within a list, and we would have to use a semicolon. I refer to the use of “and” as in “shizzles and giggles.”
But this situation is especially iniquitous when coupled with circumstances that enforce a particular order upon these items, such that rearrangement is not possible.
“The restaurant’s special items for the next three days will be waffles, pancakes and bacon and eggs, respectively.”
In the above sentence, which is clearly one comma too few, we don’t know whether “bacon” is part of the hypothetical item “pancakes and bacon” or “bacon and eggs.” As a breakfast connoisseur such as myself can tell you, both are quite reasonable possibilities. An Oxford comma placed after either pancakes or bacon will, of course, draw the line that should exist.
I normally wouldn’t go into the concept of an enforced order to items, because in cases in which items are only one word long, ambiguity can exist with the Oxford comma as well (though theoretically to a lesser extent than without it, if you will recall). The above case is exceptional, however, in that the existence of an item with an “and” causes ambiguity exclusively without the Oxford comma. If it were merely “waffles, pancakes and bacon,” then everything would be fine, but that is not the case, because I fear for your cardiovascular health.
“Waffles” always gets its own item, though. Especially Belgian waffles.