*UPDATED* Because I Tackle the Important Things Here At RIMD

Have you seen Subaru‘s latest slogan?

It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.

I would not have put a comma in that sentence.  It’s really bothering me. 

I keep reading, "It’s what makes a Subaru [long, awkward pause] a Subaru."  But I’m not sure.  And I’m always sure about this stuff. 

Wouldn’t it have been better to try, "It’s what makes a Subaru…a subaru?"

Or we could just really simplify and say "It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru!"  Away with thee, comma! 

This whole thing has shot a hole in my punctuation confidence.  Help me settle this, please.  A good punctuation discussion always gets my blood a-pumpin’, so please weigh in with you grammatical opinion. 

Edited to add:  When I started this post a few days ago, the slogan at their website really was "It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.  I double-checked!  But now it’s "What makes Subaru, Subaru," which is weird and stilted in another whole way. 

*UPDATED TO ADD*  For grins, I e-mailed Subaru customer service this morning with a link to this discussion and I said, "I thought you might be interested in the discussion going on at my blog."  They wrote back quickly, and here was their response (I’m omitting the man’s name for his privacy):

Thank you for visiting the Subaru Web site and for your message. There are two former College English Professors on the staff of Subaru of America. When developing this slogan, our Marketing Department consulted these two professors. I too have checked with them. They advised that it is gramatically correct to have a comma or to not have a comma. As we wanted readers to pause, we included the comma.

We do appreciate that you think so highly of Subaru to set up a blog for our slogan.


Subaru Guy

Posted in: Fun

84 thoughts on “*UPDATED* Because I Tackle the Important Things Here At RIMD

  1. Megan says:

    Could it be that the late hour is playing around with your rational blog content? Or maybe the late hour is playing around with my normal commenting reservedness.
    You can edit my comment if it will make you feel better.,,…

  2. EnnaVic says:

    I would agree with you if the a’s were in the slogan but on their website at least the slogan is just “What makes Subaru, Subaru” and that kind of does need the comma in there or it looks even sillier than with the comma.
    It’s not a great slogan really – althouogh I guess it has caught our attention which probably makes it a good one in terms of marketing *g*

  3. kelli says:

    No comma needed. It’s grammatically incorrect. It would have been more appropriate to use “…” to tie the thoughts together, or as someone pointed out, “It’s what makes a Subaru, Subaru.”
    Good call, Shannon!

  4. Lexi says:

    Sheesh…I don’t think technically the comma should be there. But it looks really stupid w/o it. Of course, it sounds really stupid either way. Damn Subaru for making me think!

  5. Rebecca says:

    Also that’s a really crappy slogan anyway. I mean you could use it for anything. Like ‘Fake Burberry: it’s what makes a chav a chav’. I mean really, what?

  6. mopsy says:

    “What makes Subaru, Subaru.”
    That has got to be the most inane advertising slogan……………………ever.
    Is “Subaru” now an adjective? “Wow, look at this dress! It is so Subaru!” or “My husband was being a real Subaru yesterday.”

  7. His Singer says:

    OH!! OH!! OHHHHH!!!!
    I could not agree more!
    And another one that gets me?
    God bless our National Guard, but the guy that says “It’s a oath…”
    I literally have to cover my ears every time that one come on nowadays.

  8. Brandy of The Building Brows says:

    Shannon, you have a writer’s heart and instincts. Absolutely, there should be no comma. (I’m a writer with a good grasp on grammar.) I wonder if there was a long argument in corporate about that comma.
    As others have noted, the entire slogan is crummy because the main point of the sentence isn’t even identified. What is “it” anyway? And why do I want it?
    Marketing really should have thought more before approving this one.
    Brandy of The Building Brows

  9. Danielle says:

    There shouldn’t be a comma OR an ellipsis. It’s fine with just words and a period at the end!

  10. Rebecca says:

    The comma looks silly ‘…’ or ‘-‘ would look better. After reading through all of those comments Subaru is a funny sounding word.

  11. elizabeth says:

    Shannon, do you ever drive through Braum’s? Have you read the little stickers they have on the windows? OOOh, they are bad, bad little stickers. (Tell the kids to thank me later!) Now, what about the Drysdale’s sign? North South East and Western Wear. That irritates the 12 year old I live with:-)

  12. kathy says:

    No comma! Think about switching one of the “subarus” with a generic word, like “car.” It’s what makes a car a Subaru. No comma. Specifying Subaru doesn’t change the grammar of the sentence.
    And I just have to say, regardless of how inane the slogan is, Subarus are the best cars ever made in the history of the planet. (I’m a die-hard Subaru fan). Love my B-9 Tribeca. Probably more than I should… Must find a way to take it with me when I die…

  13. TracyMichele says:

    Ok, now you have done it. You have ruinied it for me. I have been working hubs to buy a Subaru. I will never, be, able, to, ride, in, one, again. Who knew slogans could be so powerful? (giggle)

  14. Megan (FriedOkra) says:

    I’m just happy I’m not alone in my quest to heal the world’s grammatical brokenness. My college grammar professor (I was an English major, oh yes!) used to write LETTERS to major corporations reprimanding them (gently, I am sure) for their hideous abuses of punctuation. Sigh. But people just don’t seem to care anymore.
    It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.
    Clean, simple, no ambiguity. Just get in there and get ‘er said. Period.

  15. Big Mama says:

    All I can figure is that the Suburu marketing folks sit around late at night while they wonder about punctuation. Comma vs. no comma, that is the question.
    I completely understand because I do the same thing every evening around 11 p.m.

  16. Shauna says:

    I’m a pedantic copy editor and agree that the comma isn’t necessary. An ellipsis would be even worse, though.

  17. Tammy says:

    The ever on going English corrections.I used to work with a man from China who taught ESL.He took so many test on the English language that at times he when he English it almost was wrong.Not that he was wrong but the rules of grammar change and are alo subjective.
    Here is one for you that caused an uproar in our school.How would correct this sentence:
    I had lunch today with my Uncle Harry.

  18. Heather L. says:

    I’d remove the comma altogether. I don’t think the ellipsis is necessary either. I mean, it’s not like you are editing something out of a direct quote. Even then, it should be more like, “It’s what makes a Subaru a… Subaru.”

  19. Susanna says:

    I would agree with the elipses (isn’t that what those little dots are called?) Forgive me for spelling it wrong.
    And isn’t it true that if you say Subaru over and over again, you go insane? Maybe that’s an urban myth. At the least, it starts to LOOK really funny when you read it over and over again.

  20. Jordan (MamaBlogga) says:

    I often see a comma in statements like that to separate two identical words.
    But isn’t this case an appositive?
    I can attest that you can take commas in apposition too far—my eighth grade English teacher deducted two points from my paper because I didn’t use a comma in the sentence “He called himself the Scarlet Pimpernel” (and we didn’t learn apposition until after the paper was due). My mother (English teacher herself) took my teacher to task for that one. “Call me, Ishmael?”

  21. Tammy says:

    I realized that I put capital letters and not left all with small letters like the original sentence was.So here is what happenned,the teacher marked the ones wrong that had the sentence like I have it.The reason is that the rule is:Capitalize titles showing family relationship when they refer to a specific person, unless they are modified by a personal pronoun.
    The tough one about this sentence is the way Uncle Harry was used.Uncle harry is the full title of some one and the sentence was written that way instead of having lunch with my uncle.In my opinion it was better to make the exception to the exception to the loop hole and put a a capital letter when writing my Uncle Harry.How often are really going to write that anyway .After all of this I saw a book dedicated that was written This book is dedicated to my Uncle Bob.

  22. Elaine says:

    They probably wanted to go with the ellipsis, but it would have taken too long in the 30 second sound bite world we live in. They probably had a big argument that went on for days around the board room table. And, most assuredly, someone has lost their job since they have changed their mind yet again. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

  23. chloesmama says:

    No comma needed, and I agree with everyone who says it’s a really dumb slogan. Good post and terrific oomments!!! It’s what makes Rocks In My Dryer Rocks In My Dryer!! Hmmm…now should there be a comma, or ellipses, or what??? And how do you spell ellipsis…elipses…ARGH!!!

  24. Elizabeth says:

    Doesn’t Subaru hire English Majors to write their ad copy?!? We get it, it’s called a Subaru, okay! I suppose “it’s what makes this car a Subaru” wasn’t punchy enough or something. I love this post!

  25. peach says:

    Having to say “Subaru” twice in one sentence is more than any human should have to endure.
    Yet I am one to agree that an ellipsis is far preferable in this instance if you can’t afford to pay for better ad copywriters. I’m available!

  26. Melene says:

    I love that you emailed the company and got a quick response. I agree with you, but I guess it’s all about the advertising where they are concerned. Maybe the reader will take longer to consider buying a Subaru during that “Pause.”
    Here’s something I was wondering about recently and then it hit me who to ask-YOU!
    What’s the rules for writing out the word for a number, such as “two” instead of using the number itself? I’m sure there are rules for that. Feel free to use it as blog fodder or just email me. 🙂

  27. Kris says:

    Would you believe what stuck out to me was that the Subaru guy made sure to “back up” his bad grammar with English professors?
    I’m really beginning to lose my faith in our educational system, including that of “higher” learning. Ew.

  28. Stacey says:

    I just love this deep discussion…hehe
    I would absolutely not put a comma in there. Grammar was my favorite subject growing up and I am always proof reading for everyone!
    Just my 2 cents…

  29. GiBee says:

    Okay… you know where I’m going to go with this, right?
    It’s what makes a Subaru…a subaru
    Ellipses… it’s what makes GiBee… GiBee.

  30. Kim says:

    I can’t STAND grammatical errors! They pop out at me! What a crazy slogan. That got me to thinking, when I lived in FL, we banked at Fifth Third Bank. What is the sense in a bank being called Fifth Third? They couldn’t decide on which they were? I don’t know, I guess my mind wonders! Keep up the posts, I enjoy your discussions!!

  31. deanna says:

    Oh my. Stuff like that drives me CRAZY!
    We live close to a Westfield mall, and for the longest time the slogan was “It’s What Westfield Do”.
    It drove me nuts everytime I saw it!

  32. Karen says:

    I’m an ellipses freak…I like them much better for pauses…I don’t much like commas. Maybe the reason Subaru has “two former college English professors” on staff is they couldn’t hack it as college English professors? I don’t know…

  33. Christine says:

    Oh, my…you and I are really cut from the same grammar cloth! I see things like this all the time but I feel nerdy saying anything to anyone. We should start a support group where the grammar atrocities of the world can be exposed freely. (When I was in college my route to class took me past a sign at a mechanic’s garage: “Hot Car’s Wanted.” It still haunts me.)
    And I agree with you on Subaru. Officially right or wrong, it is awkward. Did anyone suggested a dash? Not sure the rules on that… But it’s almost like they’re just asking too much of the lowly comma.
    Oh, well…off to fend off grammar evil.

  34. jules says:

    ok, to be a total geek, for the question from Melene regarding numbers (this may be long):
    Spell out a number beginning a sentence. If a number is large, it is best to rearrange the sentence: Two hundred members. 1929 was a bad year.
    Spell out approximate numbers if they are rounded off in even units: approximately five hundred persons.
    Numbers ten and below are spelled out; numbers above ten are written in numerals.
    When two numbers follow each other in a sentence, use numbers for the larger one and spell out the smaller number: He ordered 12 two-piece suits.
    Spell out numbers referring to decades and centuries: twentieth century.
    Use figures for a series of numbers even though some may be below ten: I sent 20 letters, and 2 postcards.
    Hope this helps.
    My MIL is a stickler for correct grammer. We trade articles and stuff all the time pertaining to that subject.

  35. kelli says:

    Ok. Did the bonehead highly paid consultant who emailed you that response ask the two college prof’s to quote the rule they’re standing behind? Cause I spent way too much time looking it up and couldn’t find it.

  36. Amanda says:

    I’m only answering professionally as an editor of marketing and business encyclopedias. I can’t speak for Subaru’s advertising agency.
    When identical or similar words appear alongside each other in a sentence or phrase, a comma is usually used for ease of reading; in a 30-second ad on TV, it has to be concise so you remember it. An ellipsis is more confusing, makes the reader think “What did they mean to get into that space that they’re not telling me?” An exclamation point denotes an excitement that Subaru, perhaps, didn’t want to invoke. Trying to keep it subtle, as it were. It’s all about the advertising and what grabs the consumer. Case in point: it grabbed your attention and you wrote to them.
    I just had The Great Comma Debate with my aunt and uncle last night; both are college professors. The rule of thumb with commas is to use your best judgment. If it affects the meaning of your intended thought, it’s wrong, obviously. But if it makes sense, as in this case, no need to go tossing in ellipses and exclamations if they affect the meaning.

  37. AmyH says:

    I don’t like the comma there. I think “It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru!” would be fine, perhaps with the second ‘a Subaru’ highlighted in bold text or italics…
    In thinking of this though, what exactly does that slogan mean? It’s awkward and kind of weak, at best. I do like that they responded to you quickly and that they did their research beforehand.

  38. momrn2 says:

    Next thing you know they’ll be contacting you to give away a car at your blog for all the marketing and publicity you are giving them. 😉

  39. Heidi says:

    OH MY! Did you notice?
    “I too have checked with them.” Maybe he should’ve checked with them regarding THAT sentence!
    Subarus are wonderful. This thread is going to drive me crazy. LOL

  40. Heidi says:

    Here’s a slogan for the giveaway:
    “Subaru ROCKS.”
    Or maybe, “Subaru, ROCKS.”
    Or how about, “Subaru… ROCKS.”

  41. Frances says:

    I by no means am a Professor of English at any major college, and I do not teach at a major institution…but I did go to college, took some English classes, and teach 4th grade in the public school setting. I would have put a comma before AND after the word “too” in the Subaru Guy’s response…oopsie!

  42. Cindee says:

    Edited to add: When I started this post a few days ago, the slogan at their website really was “It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.” I double-checked! But now it’s “What makes Subaru, Subaru,” which is weird and stilted in another whole way.
    It’s actually on the home page both ways. Toward the top of their page it says, “It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.” In the middle of the bottom half it says, “What makes Subaru, Subaru.” Crazy! Either way it’s just dumb.

  43. Tater and Tot says:

    I, too, appreciate the fact that you set up a blog for their slogan. Because without the Subaru slogan discussion, there would obviously be no Rocks In My Dryer.
    And on a side note…
    I am so scared to comment on this post becuase I know that everyone will be looking over my use of proper grammer and punctuation.
    I guess that’s what makes a comment, a comment!
    a comment a comment!
    a comment…a comment!
    a comment! a comment!
    a comment – a comment!
    a comment @$*% a comment!
    Never mind.

  44. mk says:

    Okay, I think the comma makes the slogan, catchy. 🙂
    To me, an elipsis makes you ponder the statement too long…which makes it a tad boring. The comma makes you pause just a millisecond–long enough to understand the phrase. That’s clever!

  45. kelli says:

    Dear Subaru Guy,
    Grammatically is spelled with two “m”‘s.
    Respectfully yours,
    LandRover Driver
    Ok. I’m letting it go now.

  46. Amanda says:

    “No comma! Think about switching one of the “subarus” with a generic word, like “car.” It’s what makes a car a Subaru. No comma.”
    Now try substituting one of the “Subarus” with a generic word, like “me.” “It’s what makes me, ME.” “It’s what makes my kids, my kids.”
    You can accentuate and make anything noteworthy with italics or boldface or a few well-placed dots.

  47. Kenjd says:

    The comma is needed. It’s the sentence that’s the problem. Great, they want to reinforce the name so you remember it. And they want you to make the mental leap yourself from everything they’ve said to that second Subaru. I get it. But I don’t care. It’s a lazy line. It’s the line you use when you have been stumped for hours, have had enough, and couldn’t care if anyone ever bought another Subaru, Subaru.
    Without the comma my grammar checker thinks the second Subaru is redundant anyway. But I go further. I think the whole line is. Put a question mark at the end of their line when you say it. Kind of funny change in intent, don’t you think?

  48. Amanda says:

    Wow. This entire comment string is consumerism at its finest! We’ve all just proved to Subaru how effective their slogan is. Someone should be getting paid for this. . .

  49. HolyMama! says:

    oh yeah, subaru-dude. this blog is totally set up for subaru.
    i hated the comma and am positive it does not belong. i have no degree whatsoever, but my first car was a subaru, subaru, so of course i can chime in.

  50. Jen@BigBinder says:

    If this kind of thing gets under your skin (like it does mine), you should read the book, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss. It’s all about how comma (mis)placement entirely changes the meaning of a statement. It doesn’t seem like a book about punctuation would be entertaining, but it is actually very funny.

  51. Amanda says:

    But, Truss’s book is based on British English, not on American English. I appreciated the book, but it doesn’t apply here. It was a funny, light-hearted read, but I’d never stack it with my CMS or MLA or PA manuals (or dictionaries). Shannon, as an English major and “grammar snob,” do you have revised take on this, grammar-wise, after all the posts?

  52. Nic says:

    I would’ve emailed them too. My husband is used to my correcting menus/ad signs and other random public publishings.

  53. Amy says:

    I AM a college English teacher with a master’s degree in English, and there definitely should NOT be a comma there. There should not be an ellipsis (…) there, either, because an ellipsis means that something has been left out of a quotation, not that someone has paused. A dash would be acceptable to express a pause, but not in that sentence.
    I would not buy a car that had a grammatical error on it! It’s nice to see that you all care about grammar. 🙂

  54. Amy says:

    Oh, and by the way, the second “Subaru” is not an appositive. The first “Subaru” is the direct object, and the second “Subaru” is the objective complement. The OC completes the idea of the DO, and it would never be correct to separate them with a comma.
    Oh, and I do like Truss’s book! Very entertaining, although it is dealing with British rules.

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