Author Topic: Stickler for perfect English objects to a phrase with a dangling modifier  (Read 4079 times)

Joe Carillo

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My most recent mailer announcing a Forum update (February 1-7, 2015) carried the following entry in its featured listings:

My Thoughts Exactly: Stickler for Concise English Shares Thought About Language, Grammar (Primary schools no longer pay strong attention to the proper use of language like they used to)”

That entry drew the following peremptory comment (quoted here verbatim) last February 7 from a Forum member, Scott D., who indicated his address as “Makati and Bali”:

“Like they used to?  Omg mr.  Carrillo, I banished students from grad school seminars for that.”

I replied to Scott D. as follows:


February 7, 2015
Dear Scott,
If I understood you correctly, you’re objecting to my use of the catchphrase “like they used to” in the sentence “Primary schools no longer pay strong attention to the proper use of language like they used to.”
Well, Scott, I’ve got bad news for you. You might be guilty of unjustly banishing students from your Makati and Bali grad school seminars just because they used that catchphrase, which admittedly is deemed a cliché. The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs recognizes that phrase as a legitimate idiom in the sense of “Goods are not as well made now as they were in the past,” as in “Look at this flimsy door! They don’t make ’em like they used to” and in “Why don’t cars last longer? They just don’t make ’em like they used to.”
Or were you, instead, objecting to my making the preposition “to” dangle at the tail end of that phrase? In that case, I must say that I’m of the same mind as the irascible Winston Churchill when he scribbled the following note objecting to an editor’s clumsily rearrangement of one of his sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” Indeed, the Oxford Companion to the English Language even says that Churchill actually used this more much impolitic, racy English: “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”
Nonetheless, Scott, I’m glad to have heard from you and if I didn’t get your cryptic comment right, I sincerely look forward to a clarification of the precise nature of your objection to my English.
Sincerely yours,
Joe Carillo

To date (February 10), I haven’t had the pleasure of receiving a response from Scott D.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2015, 07:39:06 AM by Joe Carillo »