Thursday, October 23, 2008

Faultlessness in the Fine Print

Here's part of the first sentence of a Yahoo! News story:
Badgered by lawmakers, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan denied the nation's economic crisis was his fault on Thursday.

Now, I'm no economist, yet I am prepared affirm this statement with 100% certainty. The economic crisis was not Greenspan's fault on Thursday. I don't know whether it was his fault, but I'm quite sure it was not his fault on Thursday.

I mean, he left that job months ago ...

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LL Blackwell said...

What about Wednesday? Was it his fault then?

You know, I've been trying to write sentences with misplaced modifiers on purpose (for my students to fix), but the best ones are always accidental!

June Casagrande said...

Me, too. I try to come up with my own killer ones and always fail.

Did I ever give a link to these:

They're not all misplaced modifiers, but they're all hilarious. Enjoy.

LL Blackwell said...

Ooh! They are such perfect examples of how to be unclear! I am completely inspired to effectively torture my 9th graders come Monday morning. Thanks!

June Casagrande said...

Anything I can do to help torture ninth-graders! (Lord knows ninth-graders used to torture me.)

Di said...

Alan Greenspan denied the nation's economic crisis was his fault on Thursday.

What about "that?" Has it disappeared from usage? My ear wants it to read, "Alan Greenspan denied THAT the nation's...."

June Casagrande said...

Good question. It's called the "zero relative," meaning the relative "that" is omitted.

In structures like this, "that" is pretty much optional EXCEPT when it's necessary to avoid (even momentary) confusion. "The president said the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited in schools" is just not as reader-friendly as "The president said THAT the Pledge ..."


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