For years, Readers Digest carried a feature called “Pardon, Your Slip is Showing,” highlighting journalistic “slips” that appeared in the American press.
When Las Vegas attempted a commercial airline and offered rides to families at a penny a pound, there were quite a few takers. But as interest dropped off, apparently the airline sponsored a promotion, which provided breakfast before each flight.
The Optic carried a small item on Page 1, announcing a “fly breakfast.” Some typographical gremlin must have clipped a few letters from “Fly-Out Breakfast,” leaving an unsanitary and unappetizing alternative. Readers Digest, however, gobbled it up.
I’d rather have chocolate-covered grasshoppers or ants for breakfast.
Here’s another, but let’s analyze it a bit first:
We’re concerned about the condition of a Portales gentleman who apparently has survived being knocked over by a large truck.
According to last week’s Albuquerque Journal, the victim, David Stone, was “toppled by a wayward truck.”
Now stay with me:
Sentence modifiers often cause confusion for writers and headaches for English teachers because they’re weird birds (the modifiers, not the teachers). My guess, based on 45 years of chasing commas, is that most people who dangle or misplace their modifiers aren’t even aware of the error because these modifiers are neither fragments, run-on sentences nor comma splices. But let’s drop the English teacher lecture notes.
Here’s a misplaced modifier: “As an overpaid, privileged, indulged shoplifter, I think Lindsey Lohan should do some serious jail time.” There’s no fragment, comma splice nor run-on in that example, but there is a clause that precedes the “I think” part of the sentence. Too many people construct their sentences this way without realizing that “I think” refers back to the person being described. In reality, I am neither overpaid, privileged or indulgent — nor a shoplifter, but the sentence implies I’m all those things.
The description obviously refers to Lindsey Lohan, not to myself. It makes more sense to write, simply, “I think that as an overpaid, privileged, indulged shoplifter, Lindsey Lohan should do some serious jail time.” That way, the descriptions refer to the failing movie star, not to me.
The item in the Journal is about a 12-foot by 36-foot welcoming sign that reads, “Welcome to Portales, home of 12,000 friendly residents, and three or four old grouches.” If only for its humor value, the sign was effective.
It was effective until a truck driver ran his rig into the sign, knocking it over. The plans to re-erect the sign are under way, but the writer of the article that appeared first in the Portales News Tribune and got picked up by the Journal doesn’t quite say what was implied. Instead, the article indicates that the truck knocked over the owner of the sign.
Here’s what writer Alisa Boswell wrote:
“Toppled by a wayward truck … the signs’ originator and Portales resident … David Stone said a new sign will once again be giving travelers on U.S. 70 a warm welcome.”
So, at a cost of about $25,000, the sign is set to go back up, with the original message about “three or four old grouches.” Wouldn’t you be grouchy too if toppled by a wayward truck?
• • •
The oft repeated refrain that “This is the first time I’ve heard about it” came back to haunt during this Thanksgiving season. To repeat: I often wonder whether certain terms simply are generated and used by, like, everybody, or whether I’d simply been oblivious to their existence.
Last year in this space I commented on a friend’s question about “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, for which “black” might have two meanings: black as in “in the black,” as in making a profit, and in the black, as in the auto exhaust made by thick traffic making its way to big box stores to claim their treasures.
At the time, I swore I hadn’t heard of “Black Friday,” although an Internet search revealed the term’s been around for decades.
But now, what’s with “Cyber Monday”? Is this yet another commercial movida to stretch the Christmas gift-buying season from December to December? This morning, I received 17 unsolicited e-mails on Cyber Monday, respectively, from Kodak Gallery, National Geographic, Barnes & Noble, The New Yorker Store, Amazon.com, MaxPerks, East Coast Photo and 10 others.
Each e-mail promises a bundle of savings. I did a search of the term and came up with a neologism invented by Shop.org. as part of the U.S. trade association National Retail Federation. It goes all the way back to 2005, so I must have slept for about six years, the magic of Cyber Monday having slipped by.
Imagine: Two researchers with Texas Instruments, Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, are credited with having developed the computer chip back in 1958.
If it hadn’t been for them, would we even have a Cyber Monday and this opportunity to purchase all these bargains?