And another stereotype bites the dust. The language mavens are getting feistier, siccing hit squads on people who annoy them, in this case those who post items saying how ending a sentence with a preposition is okay, pace gangs of tsking grammarians from another age roaming our streets. The problem is, say the Language Log hosts, they get the same darned thing, again and again, and they’re sick of it. From now on, in fact, offenders will themselves be terminated with extreme prejudice.
It’s easy to sympathize. But what’s next? Once let slip, these killers might start executing fatwas on grammatically clueless or just careless buggers in general. Maybe sentencing the authors of dangling modifiers, e.g., to dangle by the neck till dead.
Caption. Having dangled that modifier, God as my Maker knows I did not do so with malice aforethought.
I, for one, vote we let the danglers be. Executing them would deny editors the pleasure of encountering the rare howler in an otherwise dreary expanse of defective prose. Here’s another one:
Lying there dead in his pine box, he thought John looked better now than before the Language Log boys got him.
By the way, the following is the world’s favorite response to the opinion that one should never end a sentence with a preposition:
“This is nonsense up with which I shall not put!”
Generally attributed to Winston Churchill, the people behind the Language Log report that “Ben Zimmer definitively refuted that misattribution years ago in a post that Mark and I subsequently included in our book [Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from Language Log], and it is enormously annoying to us that still no one is aware of Ben’s discovery.”
But such ignorance is not yet a capital offense.
The Language Log is the place to go, if you’ve ever wondered when splitting an infinitive is good form and when it ain’t. Thanks to Bill the Mathematician for pointing me to the assassination posting.