Friday, November 06, 2009

Dangling Modifiers




“Ouch!" PP shrieked in agony at the bottom of the hot tub, not knowing that the weird wrong sharp plastic thingee was on the bottom of the tub. When the hell did it get installed? Had she missed stubbing her foot on it all these years?
"Attacking my big toe where did that thingee come from why didn't I see it?" she whined. "Hey, how's that for a Dangling Modifier?" she asked DL.

"What's a Dangling Modifier?"

"I'm not exactly sure, but I think that...." PP can't summon the definition to the surface of her pool soaked brain.

Sometimes, she wonders how the hell she’s ever gotten this far in her career as an English Instructor. Since she called the above a dangling modifier, which it isn’t even, but actually more of a run-on sentence. Then neither she nor DL could define one as they headed into Utopia.

“Sandy will know,” PP announced when she saw Sandy lying naked, sweating and relaxed on the top shelf of the sauna. Obviously, she was a Grammar Expert.
“What will I know?” Sandy doesn’t miss an opportunity to participate in Great Utopia Queries.
“A Dangling Modifier,” DL said.
“Do you know what one is?” PP asked.
“Here we are an Editor and an English Teacher and neither one of us can define it.”
“Ummm……” Sandy thought aloud, still lying down. She wasn’t gonna expend too much effort. Or she was good at Grammar Analysis in the prone position. “Isn’t it when you don’t know what something is referring to?”

“Maybe,” PP agreed, not sure. “Can you think of an example?”
“That’s just what I was trying to do,” Sandy paused, thinking hard. “But I just can’t come up with one right now.”

“Well, it is 9:30 and we have just worked out and it’s time to eat and go to bed,” PP offered. Maybe this is why she can’t get her brain to spit out a definition and an example?

“Dangling Modifier?” Towel Covered Always Vietnamese Woman Swimmer asked, sleepily. “What is this, Dangling Modifier?”
“Oh, that’d be good. To get the answer from the Vietnamese contingent.”
“Actually,” PP interrupted, “from all my working with international students, they do know their grammar terms. They might not be able to write a sentence, but they can tell you what a Conditional Subjunctive Blah blah blah is!”




“Do you know what it is?” Sandy asked TCAVW.

“Dangling Modifier….” She rolled over onto her side, careful to keep covered up. PP has always marveled at her ability to keep the towel on her body with it never falling off. It seems to have some sort of special elastic holder at the top to help. But she wears it everywhere. In the hot tub. In Utopia. In the shower.

Not in the pool though. Here she dons a swimsuit. But PP has always wondered how she gets from her street clothes to the swimsuit without the towel? Maybe she does use the towel?

Oh, how far off the topic of Dangling Modifiers is this?

A Dangling Towel would be much more interesting though, don’t you think? What is under that towel that she doesn’t want anyone to see?

Something else that dangles?

“No….” Constant Towel Woman answers slowly now, “I never heard of this. Dangling Modifier.”
“Ah, okay, well, I’m curious now,” Sandy said. “I’m gonna look it up first thing when I get home.”
“You’ll let us know, next time?” PP asks.
“Sure, of course.”

But yet, of course, PP had to look it up when she got to Woo Woo U the next day.


“A dangling modifier fails to refer LOGICALLY [PP’s caps] to any word in the sentence. Dangling modifiers are easy to repair, but they can be hard to recognize in your own writing.” (Diana Hacker, Goddess of Grammar)

And here’s Diana’s example:

“Opening the window to let out a huge bumblebee, the car accidentally swerved into an oncoming car.”

To fix:

When the driver opened the window to let out a huge bumblebee, the car accidentally swerved into an oncoming car.

The message of the modifier is:

Let the Bumblebee drive!





And the message of the Towel is:

Let it fall let it fall let it fall!

2 comments:

Studio Jameson said...

Now we all know that you can't have a towel covering up what is unquestionalbey not seen by those who are seeing it...

Dangling modifier also a dangling participle...wiki...

I saw the trailer peeking through the window. ”

Presumably, this means the speaker was peeking through the window, but the placement of the clause "peeking through the window" makes it sound as though the trailer was peeking through the window. More correctly, it can be written as, "Peeking through the window, I saw the trailer."

Anonymous said...

So much fun! I love them dangling modifiers, almost as much fun as a weak reference.
>^..^< lauriecat