A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 20, 2016
“‘Let’s eat, grandma’ or ‘let’s eat grandma’—punctuation saves lives!”

“‘Let’s eat, grandma’ or ‘let’s eat grandma’—punctuation saves lives!” (or “commas save lives") has been printed on many GIFs. “Let’s eat, grandma” tell grandma that it’s time to eat. “Let’s eat grandma” tells others that grandma is on the menu. The jocular line has been cited in many English books.

“A comma makes all the difference in a sentence like this: ‘Let’s eat, grandma’” was cited in print in 1949. A “Let’s eat, grandpa” version is more recent and less frequent than the “grandma” one.


Google Books
American Printer and Lithographer
Volume 128
1949
Pg. 63:
A comma makes all the difference in a sentence like this: “Let’s eat, grandma.” “Let’s eat grandma” brings in a macaber note, quite lacking in the first example.

Google Books
The Road to Better Reading;
Promising practices in reading for a K-12 program based on the summary of conference-clinics for the readjustment of high school education

By the University of the State of New York. Bureau of Secondary Curriculum Development.
Albany, NY
1953
Pg. 75:
“Watch That Quotation” gives some amusing examples of the value of punctuation — the difference between “Let’s eat, grandma,” as compared with “Let’s eat grandma,” to prove the value of a comma.

5 December 1955, Asbury Park (NJ) Evening Press, “Film in Class Shows How To” by Joan Thomas, pg. 2, col. 5:
“Let’s eat, Grandma, we’re hungry.” If the commas were taken out of this, its meaning would be changed.

Google Books
Articulation Disorders
By John E. Bernthal and Nicholas W. Bankson
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
1981
Pg. 38:
For example, the written sentence “Let’s eat, Grandma,” has a much different meaning than the same sentence without the comma, “Let’s eat Grandma.”!

Twitter
Kristin Kramer
‏@SN0WKRASH
I’m hungry, let’s eat, grandma.
I’m hungry, let’s eat grandma.
1:54 PM - 24 Dec 2008

Twitter
Devin Mulrooney
‏@devin_mm
Saying of the shift: Ah the comma it’s the difference between: “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “Let’s eat Grandma!”
5:22 PM - 26 Jan 2009

Twitter
Gabriel Rivera
‏@gabrifranco
["let’s eat grandma” or “let’s eat, grandma"] --> punctuation saves lives.
5:46 PM - 11 May 2009

Google Books
Australian Curriculum English: Language: Text Structure and Organisation.
Year 6, Ages 11-12.

BY the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.
Greenwood, WA (Australia): R.I.C. Publications
2012
Pg. 82:
Example 1:
Let’s eat, Grandma.
The meaning of the sentence is to inform Grandma that it is time to eat.
Let’s eat Grandma.
Without a comma, the sentence means that Grandma is going to be eaten!

OCLC WorldCat record
Let’s Eat Grandma! A Life-Saving Guide to Grammar and Punctuation
Author: Karina Law
Publisher: London : Hachette Children’s Group , 2015
Edition/Format: Print book : English
Database: WorldCat
Summary:
A lighthearted but comprehensive guide to grammar and punctuation for children aged 7+. This guide to the intricacies of grammar and punctuation provides clear, accessible definitions with comprehensive indexing, It is also a humorous text that entertains as Grandma seeks to lead us all to better grammar and punctuation usage. Fun illustrations provide a visual aid to clarify how incorrect use can be misleading (and often very amusing!). In addition to the main text (defining terminology and demonstrating correct usage), the book includes tips, mnemonics and jokes.

The Web of Language
Let’s eat grandpa: Commas are not a matter of life and death, even in the law
MAR 16, 2017 1:15 AM BY DENNIS BARON
There’s a pedant at my university who likes to stand on the Quad, wave a grammar book at passers-by, and warn them that a comma can mean the difference between life and death. He or she points an accusing finger at some poor soul and makes them fix the commas in their term paper.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Wednesday, April 20, 2016 • Permalink