Here’s the weird reason people are boycotting the Brexit 50p coin

By Claire Schofield
Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 11:23 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 11:24 am
Author Sir Philip Pullman has called for a boycott over the Brexit 50p due to a 'grammatical error' (Photo: HM Treasury)
Author Sir Philip Pullman has called for a boycott over the Brexit 50p due to a 'grammatical error' (Photo: HM Treasury)

Author Sir Philip Pullman has called for a boycott over the soon to be released Brexit 50p coin due to a ‘grammatical error’.

The Remain-supporting author is urging people not to spend the coin because the Oxford comma is missing from the inscription.

What is an Oxford comma?

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    Sir Philip has taken issue with the words on the Brexit 50p, stating it should be “boycotted by all literate people” for its omission of an Oxford comma.

    The commemorative coin, which is due to be minted and released into circulation on Friday (31 Jan), reads, “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.”

    An Oxford comma is used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, which in this case should place it after the word “prosperity”.

    However, it is not used universally and is often a topic of debate for grammar enthusiasts. In this case, its exclusion has caused outrage for the author.

    ‘Should be boycotted by all literate people’

    Commenting on the error, Sir Philip wrote on Twitter, “The ‘Brexit’ 50p coin is missing an Oxford comma, and should be boycotted by all literate people.

    “But even worse than comma misuse is the advertiser’s habit of using adjectives as nouns, as in ‘Find your happy’, provoking most justly my wrath and indignation against them.”

    The author’s comment sparked much debate on social media, with many agreeing, including Stig Abell, editor of The Times Literary Supplement, who tweeted, “The lack of a comma after ‘prosperity’ is killing me.”

    Although there were some who were quick to disagree, with Susie Dent, from Countdown’s Dictionary Corner, saying that the use of the Oxford comma was optional.

    Dent wrote, “Yes it is optional: it clarifies things quite often though, and I just find it easier and more consistent to use it all the time.”

    Each 50p will be emblazoned with the inscription ‘Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations’ (Photo: Shutterstock)

    When will the coins be released?

    Keen coin collectors will be able to get their hands on the commemorative 50p from Friday 31 January 2020 - the so-called ‘Brexit day’, when the UK will depart from the European Union.

    Around three million of the coins are set to be released, having been specially commissioned to commemorate the historic day, with the date expected to be printed on the coin.

    Each 50p will be emblazoned with the inscription ‘Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations’ on the tails side.

    It is also presumed to detail the leave date of 31 January 2020 underneath.

    Plans to produce the commemorative coins were first announced by former chancellor Philip Hammond in the 2018 budget, and have since been taken on by his successor Sajid Javid.

    The Brexit 50p will join a line of several other EU-inspired coins in the UK, including one marking when the country joined the European Economic Community in 1973, and when the UK held the presidency of the EU Council in 1998.

    The Prime Minister will be one of the first to get his hands on the new 50p, when he holds a special cabinet meeting on 31 January at a venue in the north of England.

    Third time lucky

    The release date later this month marks the third time lucky for the release of the coin, having initially been due to enter circulation on 31 March 2019, when around 1,000 prototypes were made.

    A second batch of coins were then manufactured when Brexit was delayed until 31 October 2019, but the UK’s leave date was pushed back once again.

    After the planned release of three million coins on 31 October, a further seven million of the special 50ps were then due to follow within the year, each emblazoned with the exit date and the inscription.

    Only around 1,000 of the coins were thought to have been created as part of the trial run.

    In response to the questions about the production of the coins at the end of last year, the Royal Mint said, “We can confirm that Royal Proclamation has been passed for a fifty pence coin commemorating the UK’s departure from the European Union.

    “This means the coin has become legal tender, and we will begin production in time for the UK’s departure from the EU.”

    Coins that featured the previous leave date of 31 October effectively had an error, thereby increasing their value to collectors.

    So-called ‘error coins’ can fetch thousands from coin collectors, with a Guy Fawkes £2 coin listed on eBay for an eye-watering £2,000,000.

    eBay sellers listed pre-order Brexit 50p coins with the October date for hundreds of pounds in the run up to the deadline last year, and with limited availability, they could further increase.

    How to get a Brexit coin

    Those who are keen to get their hands on one of the Brexit 50p coins can register their interest on the Royal Mint website.