That darn misplaced modifier

Last time, I left you with a quote from Blaise Pascal, who I researched and found to be a remarkable gift to society.Check him out.

His quote was: “Words differently arranged have different meanings; and meanings differently arranged have a different effect.” The first part of his quote is all about the misplaced modifier. Remember those little trouble makers from grammar 101? Really, they haven’t gone away. We continue to use them in everyday language and by the signs on the road, they are a part of our ongoing challenge to figure out what we say vs. what we mean to say. For instance, if we drive in America we have all seen the sign “Slow children playing” — what the sign says is that slow children are playing. Definitely not politically correct. What it is meant to say is “Slow down, children are playing” . Even if the highway department would add a comma after “Slow”, it would be more acceptable than saying slow children are playing. But, we take for granted that the sign means to slow down rather than to infer that there are slow children playing.

Which brings me to another thought, a bit off base, but still focused. If the highway department can have grammatical errors, then why is there so much emphasis on teachers  following a governmental curriculum? Food for thought, or maybe it is just another one of those do as I say, not as I do.

Back to the misplaced modifiers: One of the reasons why they are and always have been and always will be a nuisance is because that is how we talk. We start to say a sentence and then know we left out a piece of information so we throw it in at the end. For instance, “Mary served desserts to her guests on paper plates.” This says her guests were on paper plates. How it should read, “Mary served the guests dessert on paper plates.” Ah, the dessert is on paper plates. Makes readable sense now. But, our language is another thing. 

And I am right there with you as far as language is concerned. I will have misplaced and dangling modifiers in my everyday speech, but really, I want to see correct grammar when I read a book or a sign on the side of the road….

Then there is that entire thing about the deer leaping in the air when I see that sign on the side of the road…..


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