Vague's catchphrase used to be "Dangle your modifier and I will fucking cut you", but I'm afraid to say that it's only recently I got around to looking 'dangling modifiers' up. Wikipedia has a good entry on them, saying, basically, that "a dangling modifier... [is] a word or phrase intended to modify one element of a sentence but, owing to its placement... seems to modify another element or none at all. "
So basically, I set about writing a set of dangling modifiers for myself, in sentences like the following:
I scratched a three-day old stubble and pushed open the door to the bathroom.
But you can't tell here whether it's the door to the bathroom that has the three-day old stubble, or the speaker, or somebody else. A better version of the sentence might be:
I scratched the three-day old stubble on the door to the bathroom and pushed it open.
It's probably not good to ask how the door to the bathroom got the three-day old stubble. And then, there was the following example:
Putting a hat and a coat on, I then led a giraffe and an elephant out of the garage.
Now, obviously it's not clear here whether I put the hat and coat on myself, or put the hat and coat on the garage, or put the hat on the giraffe and the coat on the elephant, or a combination of all those things. It would probably depend on the hat, and the coat; and also the elephant, the giraffe, and the garage. What sort of hats do garages wear? Perhaps we'd better ask a linguist.
This sentence is obviously wrong, and the dangling modifier is probably easy to spot:
A coconut fell on Clive, Stanley, Geoffrey and Ned, who were walking through the garden.
Did a coconut fall on Clive, or Stanley, or Geoffrey, or Ned? Only one coconut is specified but several people are walking through the garden. Perhaps it is a pity that more coconuts did not fall. What sentence is more accurate?
Clive was walking through the garden with Stanley, Geoffrey and Ned, when a coconut fell on him.
Stanley was walking through the garden with Clive, Geoffrey and Ned, when a coconut fell on him.
Geoffrey was walking through the garden with Clive, Geoffrey and Ned, when a coconut fell on him.
Ned was walking through the garden with Stanley, Geoffrey and Clive, when a coconut fell on him.
Who is to say? Probably not the one who was the victim of this malingering coconut.
Then there was the following surreal example:
I was walking through the garden, where apples, oranges, dates, grapes, bananas, pears, tomatoes, squashes, turnips and a coconut fell on me, with Clive.
Did Clive fall out of the clear blue sky, or was he merely idling in the garden after either Stanley, Geoffrey or Ned had been conked by a homicidal coconut? Who knows. After a great deal of research, I can reveal that the answer is in fact the following
I was walking through the garden when Clive fell on me with a whole bunch of fruit.
This sentence turns Clive from an innocent loiterer in the garden to a possibly murderous fruitbat. And aren't you glad you found out? It's an important thing to be careful about grammatical phenomenon like dangling modifiers, or perhaps we would never have found out for sure.
And imagine how terrible that would have been for you and me - and Clive!
(Now feel free to comment away and tell me how wrong and sloppy I have been in my commentary about dangling modifiers here.)
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
- John Bangsund's Threepenny Planet
- Broken Biro
- Poetry 24
- Superlative scribbles
- Kirstyn McD!
- Rorrim a tsomla almost a mirror
- More Sterne
- Cam the man from the Dan.
- Too hot to Raaaaaaandallllllll!
- Erin's Excellently Everlasting Effervescements!
- Slammy Infamy
- Hail Paco!
- Baron Blandwagon, purveyor of cyberbunnies, hawker of Roger Corman, and Misruler of the Multiverse
- The Bolta. Aiyeeeeee!!!!!
- Bad Apple Audrey
- The cartoon church
- Sir Martinkus
- A Zemblanian abroad and at home
- A hodge podge of hotzeplotz
- THE SLAMMA!
- Jottlesby's nottings, or should that be Nottlesby's jottings?
- The Snarking of the Hunt
- Jazzy Hands
- David of Metal City
- David the Barista
- The Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony
- Be an Opinion Dominion Minion!
- ... and Fel
- His brilliant career - from whale sushi to crumbed prawn
- Jo Blogs
- Yet another Tim
- Was two peas, now three peas
- ... Still Life - now with extra rotating cats!
- An Amazingly Awesome Australian Ampersand!
- Blink and you'll miss 'er
- Red in the land of the tigers!
- Wire of Vibe
- Chase him, ladies, he's in the cavalry!
- The Non-palindromical Editrix in Germanium
- Old Sterne
- The briefs...
- ... and the brieflets
- The Purple Blog
- Blairville, lair of all that is wicked and perfidious
- The enticingly acronymical CSH
- EXTREEEEEEEME WYNTER!
- Mark of California
- Silent Speaking
- Lexicon the Mexican
- ► 2014 (135)
- ► 2013 (173)
- ► 2012 (275)
- ► 2011 (261)
- ► 2010 (288)
- ► 2009 (290)
- ► 2008 (316)
- Screw the government!
- Fastest underwear in the west
- Groundbreaking literary analysis
- The Workplace Chronicles, book 7, verses 1 - 4
- Insect philosophy
- Ladies and gentlemen, my father
- Collect each one in the series!
- "I am thinking of bees... "
- The man who turned into a post-office box
- Hello everyone
- Verily, Agatha
- More sneers
- Small talk
- Terrors of the natural world...
- Speaking of collanders
- Mercy is for the squeak
- An open message to all Drunkards
- The wide word of animals
- Some of their drivers enjoy high-speed duels!
- Some Mr Men books for the modern generation
- A call to action
- Modify that dangler!
- Incomplete catalogue of sneers: an excerpt
- The war against the pumpkins
- ▼ October (26)
- ► 2006 (373)
- ► 2005 (287)