Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kevin The Pampered Daddy's Girl

In the above tribute (The New Paper, Sunday, 1 July 2007) to her husband, a New Paper reader writes:

Being a pampered Daddy’s girl, Kevin has been very tolerant and patient with my 101 unreasonable requests now that we are living under the same roof.

Kevin is a pampered daddy’s girl? Oh my word. What his grateful wife should have said was I am a pampered Daddy’s girl, but Kevin has been very tolerant… OR Being a pampered Daddy’s girl, I greatly appreciate Kevin’s tolerance of my… .

The above is an example of a dangling modifier, where a badly placed element (here, the non-finite clause Being a pampered Daddy’s girl) ends up modifying the wrong noun, noun phrase or pronoun (here, the proper noun Kevin). Dangling modifiers are exceedingly common, but not usually as glaring as the above example. Most people, for example, would have no problems with the following:

Having waited two hours for a taxi, it was clear that Singapore’s taxi system is the worst in the developed world.

However, the non-finite clause having waited for two hours actually modifies the dummy pronoun it: in effect the sentence is saying, ‘It waited for two hours’. Hence we need to say something along these lines:

Having waited two hours for a taxi, we concluded that Singapore’s taxi system was the worst in the developed world.

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