Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I was reading the morning paper the other day when I read this sentence:

“Since June, when he came to the former cattle ranch from New Jersey, he’s been recording the birds.”

It struck me funny, as I recognized a misplaced antecedent.  So I emailed the columnist and said,

“Gee, I learn something new every day.
For instance, I never knew that cattle ranches came from New Jersey.
I never even knew there were any cattle ranches in New Jersey!”

He emailed back:

“This sounds ominously as if you've discovered some poor grammatical construction. I will investigate. Congratulations on the excellent sarcasm.

I had to respond to that, so I emailed back:

“Me?  Sarcastic?  Yeah, I s'pose so.
Actually I burst out laughing when I read it.  Aha!  A misplaced antecedent!  Easily fixed.  Switch the 'to' and 'from', thus:
"Since June, when he came from New Jersey to the former cattle ranch, he's been recording 
the birds."
No, I am not now, nor have I ever been an English teacher.  I'm a retired accountant.  But I do appreciate good writing.
Here are a couple of juicy ones from Google:

“Breathe in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, then breathe out through your mouth”
“The room contained a chair, a desk, and a lone light bulb. It was twenty-six feet long by seventeen feet wide.

Don Meyer”

Then he emailed back --

Thank you for that very entertaining reply. At first I thought I had an "aha" moment of my own when I spotted your "nor" without a corresponding "neither," but apparently this isn't a hard and fast rule, and the preceding "not" will suffice. Language is a supple thing; not always easy to get it just right. I'm always pleased when someone with an eye for its suppleness wants to discuss it.

Fun of a different kind --

Oh, goody!  my favorite medicine!

Who you lookin' at?
Who you looking at?


  1. One of these days I'm going to read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, the one with the panda on the cover.

  2. Funny you should mention that Alison, I loaned my copy to a neighbor last week!