Announcing my contest winners
A couple of weeks ago, after I published the essay “Turning a Phrase” in The New York Times Opinionator area, I invited members of my Sin and Syntax mailing list (see the link in the column on the left) to send me their favorite dangling modifiers. And I promised to award a book to the sender of the one that most tickled my fancy.
I have to say, some of the danglers posted in the Comments section of Opinionator made me laugh, so I’ll take blogger’s prerogative and list some here before announcing our winner.
Morley, from Oregon, posted what he called “a wonderful phrase for illustrating the importance of placing modifiers directly before the right words”:
“The company’s refrigerator held microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.”
(He’s right: “frozen in the top compartment” should have followed lunches, not employees. By way of comment, I would add that unemployment beats a job with that company.)
BBo Enter recalled a dangler that gave him a good laugh when, as a teenager, he happened upon this sign:
“Leash Dogs to Protect Water Foul.”
(Is “Leash dog” a new breed of protective canine?)
Judy, from Philadelphia, posted a sentence she has remembered ever since her fourth-grade teacher asked what was wrong with it:
“Hopping from foot to foot, the crosstown bus came into view.”
(Uptown, downtown, or crosstown, what bus needs wheels when it’s got feet?)
If Judy saw buses with feet, Jeff from Munich remembers imagining balls with limbs, after a teacher more than 50 years ago wrote this on a chalkboard:
“Donna saw the ball walking by the lake.”
(“I clearly remember his 5th grade grammar lessons,” Jeff wrote, about his teacher, Mr. Sixour.)
Two more commenters sent danglers that set inanimate things a-walking. H.D. Stearman, from Grand Prairie, Texas, saw a coffin get up and make like a zombie:
“Walking past the cemetery, an open coffin frightened me.”
And Peter, from Ventnor, New Jersey, sent one that made me think “Money doesn’t just talk—it walks”:
“I found a dollar walking home.”
Bill, from Fairfax, Virginia, gamely confessed to a dangler he himself wrote. While in the Foreign Service he told an Administrative Officer about his travel plans:
“My wife and I will be flying to post with our cat in an on-board carrying cage.”
(“Ouch,” Bill said in his comment. “I hate it when they scratch!”)
Kathy, from Pennsylvania, sent one in that reminded me of some of the classified-ad classics I printed in Sin and Syntax:
“He made a table for his aunt with wooden legs.”
In the same vein, from a Lost & Found entry, is this, from Garrett in West Chester, Pennsylvania:
“Lost: Antique walking stick by an old man with a carved ivory head.”
Now, for the members of the Sin and Syntax list who rose to the challenge…
The runner-up comes from Peter Kingsley, who sent in what he called a “mangled prepositional phrase”:
“He leaped upon his horse and rode off in all directions.”
Peter’s right—the phrase doesn’t technically dangle, but it sure conjures chaos. The phrase “in all directions” makes it seem as if the front legs of the horse went north, the back legs south, the head east, and the rider—well the rider must have been really torn. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist a double entendre.) For his effort, I want to send Peter a copy of Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives by my fellow lexophile Arthur Plotnik. (Forget “awesome” and “amazing,” says the jacket copy. Here are almost 6,000 alternatives to those stale adjectives.)
David Kornelis is the winner. He posted his example in the Comments of my Opinionator essay after he sent it to me:
“This is a Hybrid Multi-channel SACD, which plays on any CD player. However, when played on an SACD player, the listener will hear the exceptional audio resolution that only a DSD recording can provide.”
David wrote that he found the quote on the cover of a CD by the South Dakota Chorale. The CD was called In Paradisum. All I can say is that the way “into paradise” is not being put on or into an audio player.
David will receive a copy of 642 Things to Write About, created by members of the San Francisco Writers Grotto and published by Chronicle Books.
Look for a different kind of book giveaway for subscribers soon, and in the meantime, feel free to add more danglers in the comments below. Also, give me your opinion: should writers worry about this kind of syntactical mistake?