Merle Haggard and the Gay Serial Comma

Merle Haggard was not gay. But he's been retroactively gay married -- twice! -- for want of a comma.

Merle Haggard, a fellow of a certain age from a time when it was permissible to write lyrics like, “There’s two kinds of cherries and two kinds of fairies and two kinds of mothers I’m told,” was not gay.  But, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Brad DeLong, and Jeff Weintraub point out, he’s been retroactively gay married — twice! — for want of a comma.

The caption reads: “The documentary was filmed over three years. Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.”   The case for the final serial comma, which would have made it abundantly clear that Kristofferson and Duvall were not, in fact, Haggard’s ex-wives, rests.

I presume that the review is for “Merle Haggard: Learning to Live with Myself,” part of the PBS American Masters series that first aired in July.  It was a superb piece. You can actually watch the full film online.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Not only were they inadvertently making Haggard gay, they made him a gay bigamist

  2. mantis says:

    Kristofferson’s so vain, he probably thought all of Haggard’s songs were about him.

  3. epanastrophe says:

    I must admit, I hadn’t known Haggard was dead.