Friday - - Mind Games -

Prob­lem pro­nouns A story is told of Croe­sus, a king of leg­endary riches and wealth, who sought the ad­vice of the Or­a­cle of Del­phi be­fore at­tempt­ing an in­va­sion of Per­sia. “If you cross the river Halys, you will de­stroy a mighty em­pire,” was the Or­a­cle’s take on his re­quest.

Em­bold­ened by this seem­ingly pos­i­tive re­sponse, Croe­sus at­tacked Per­sia, only to be taken pris­oner and have his army de­feated – mak­ing it clear that the pow­er­ful em­pire he was about to de­stroy was his own.

Un­like that grave con­se­quence of the Or­a­cle’s am­bi­gu­ity, mod­ern­day goofs with mis­placed pro­nouns sim­ply pro­voke con­ster­na­tion and mirth. Some con­tinue to il­lus­trate last week’s man­gled mod­i­fier theme as well.

An advertisement shows a woman wield­ing a vac­uum cleaner, with the cap­tion, “Don’t kill your wife with work – let elec­tric­ity do it!” More gems: “I saw a po­lice­man with his dog in the pub; he was scratch­ing his ear with his foot.”

“He was at death’s door, but the doc­tor pulled him through.”

This next no­tice isn’t quite a mis­placed pro­noun, but il­lus­trates how a miss­ing hy­phen can ren­der a church no­tice any­thing but ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal:

“The ladies of the church have cast off cloth­ing of ev­ery kind and they may be seen in the church base­ment ev­ery Fri­day.”

Sur­geon’s note: “The pa­tient’s blad­der was then emp­tied and sent to the post­op­er­a­tive re­cov­ery room in sta­ble con­di­tion.”

A pro­noun may ap­ply to hu­mans and an­i­mals alike, with oc­ca­sional con­fused re­sults, as in this news item:

“Af­ter Gover­nor Bald­win watched the lion per­form, he was taken to Main Street and fed 25 pounds of raw meat in front of the Cross Keys The­ater.”

Or there may be con­fu­sion aris­ing from the con­ven­tion of a woman and ship both be­ing a ‘she’:

“When Lady Caruthers smashed the tra­di­tional big bot­tle of bub­bly against the hull of the gi­ant oil tanker, she moved down the slip­way, gained speed, rock­eted into the wa­ter with a gi­gan­tic spray, and con­tin­ued unchecked to­wards Prince’s Is­lands.”

And fi­nally, a nar­cis­sis­tic stu­dio an­nounce­ment: “Andie MacDow­ell, un­til now a leading model, makes her screen de­but as the Amer­i­can ward of Lord Greystoke who falls in love with Tarzan.”

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