Millions of displaced, possibly illegally hoarded commas were found on Tuesday during a routine inspection of the Associated Press building in New York, Off on a Tangent has learned. The commas were stored dangerously in cardboard boxes in a locked, underground room. This surprise find exposes the AP to increased scrutiny in the midst of a worldwide comma shortage.

It has long been common knowledge that the AP style guide prohibits serial commas before “and” in lists, a rule that—while grammatically valid—flies in the face of preferred modern usage. Officials at one Associated Press competitor, Reuters, said they simply assumed AP liked being different, but now believe that serial commas have been illegally skimmed from articles for use when commas are scarce.

Middle eastern comma cartel, the Organization of Comma Exporting Countries (OCEC), recently cut comma output by more than 38 percent, resulting in a worldwide shortage. United States news and publishing companies have been forced to participate in a federally mandated rationing program to ensure each organization gets a fair proportion of the commas in circulation. If AP has been hoarding commas since the rationing program was enacted in June, or if they have failed to report a preexisting hoard to the National Comma Commission (NCC), they are likely in violation of federal law.

George Mason University English professor Melanie Nigerious said that some of those commas may have been in the AP building for decades. “They’ve always prohibited serial commas, God knows why, so they’ve probably been collecting down there since way before the rationing. What I worry about is why they were stored in such a dangerous manner. Most commas are flammable, and are known to connect phrases improperly when not well controlled. They should be kept in locked, fireproof cabinets.”

Former AP writer Dilbert Typhy claims that the company has been siphoning commas from articles and hoarding them illegally for years. “That’s what that whole stupid serial comma rule is about, they needed a good excuse to take the little danglers from writers and their articles and keep them for down times on the comma market. It gives them an unfair market advantage, allows them to keep using commas left and right while Reuters and the New York Times have to limit usage.” Typhy was also surprised that the commas were stored in such an unsafe manner.

New York City officials may file a health claim regarding the commas’ dangerous storage conditions, and have turned the rest of the investigation over the to NCC. Associated Press officials were unavailable for comment.

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.