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Friday, January 9, 2009

Criminal Sentence 150: Painful Bad Grammar

From a book I am reading (set in the 1690s):

"Soon after, he grew a swelling in his foot and in his groin that had to be lanced."

Ouch: his groin had to be lanced? This sentence's bad grammar is as painful as a lanced groin!

The swelling, not the groin, is what had to be lanced:

"Soon after, he grew swellings in his foot and in his groin, and they had to be lanced."


Amber O. said...

"Grew swellings" sounds pretty strange to my ear, too -- as if he were a farmer tending a row of swellings. Surely there's a better way to say that.

The Sentence Sleuth said...

You're right as far as modern speech, but this was from a book set in the 1690s, so the prose was old-fashioned. It goes well in this book, but you wouldn't write that way if your story was modern.

Anonymous said...

A question: should your headline not be "Painfully bad grammar"? Or are you tying in the headline with the rest of the post?

The Sentence Sleuth said...

Wordwhisperer, I was in fact making a joke about the painful nature of this mistake, but I could have written "Painfully bad" since the mistake was painfully bad! I always try to tie in my headline with the sentence I'm discussing.

Qugrainne said...

Hi Bonnie, thanks for visiting my site and the book review I wrote for The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier. I recommend your book to writers all the time. I have added a link to your blog in my most recent post. I didn't know you had a blog, so I am glad you visited me.
Now I have to read this post twenty times and make sure I don't have any extra apostrophes or anything!

The Sentence Sleuth said...

Thanks, Qugrainne!