Misplaced Modifiers – The Hilarious Results

This is an excerpt from this week’s Writer’s Relief Newsletter:


Did you know that unassuming little misplaced modifiers actually have the power to run people off the road while driving, cause them to choke on their sandwiches, or even cause fits of hysterical laughter? Talk about powerful!

Don’t let their harmless appearance fool you. One little misplaced modifier can turn a simple hand-lettered sign or billboard into an Internet-cruising joke in no time flat. Confused? Take a look:

Sign posted at a Moscow hotel: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian composers, artists, and writers are buried daily, except on Thursdays. (Gee, it’s a good thing we don’t live there!)

At an office: For those who have children and don’t know it, there is a day care on the first floor. (Must be some pretty quiet kids.)

Misplaced modifiers can also create some interesting mental pictures: Pizza was given to the teenagers that had pepperoni and olives on them. (I’d like to see some teenagers with sausage and mushrooms on them.)

This summer I stood knee-deep in the river and caught a fish without waders. (It would be fun to catch a fish that wasn’t wearing clothes, wouldn’t it?)

Let’s go back and make sure we all understand the function of a modifier, and then we can get back to making fun of its improper usage.

A modifier is a group of words that describes or gives additional information about another word (or words) in a sentence. A misplaced modifier is placed incorrectly within the sentence so that it ends up describing (or modifying) the wrong word. For example:

Correct: I like okra when fried. Incorrect: When fried, I like okra.

The second sentence gives the impression that I like okra only after ingesting drugs and/or alcohol.

Correct: The back tire went flat while I was driving to work. Incorrect: While driving to work, the back tire went flat.

The second sentence gives us a mental picture of a tire driving to work!

Humorous or confusing examples of misplaced modifiers often circulate through e-mail, and real-life examples are everywhere, especially if you’re looking for them. Who hasn’t questioned themselves when seeing that all-too-familiar sign, “Slow Children Crossing”?

Published in: on October 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm  Comments (2)  

We Are . . . Women

The following is a reprint from an article I wrote for Two Words magazine published earlier this year. Two Words magazine is associated with http://www.longdistancemarketing.com/, Scott Q. Marcus’ blog about all things marketing. The magazine is a creative, literary piece designed to uplift and inspire its readers. It is comprised of several articles, written by various people. Each issue is dedicated to a two-word theme. The theme for the first issue was “We are . . .” for my submission I chose:
We Are . . . Women

The feminist movement has created gender-non-specific terms, political correctness, sexual harassment lawsuits, hairline cracks in the glass ceiling, diversity, and equal opportunity—a mixed bag, certainly.

It has also created a subclass of women—an under-groundswell—who are fighting to retain their most important right—to be feminine.

We are women who:

• Do not need the Equal Rights Amendment to grant us equality with men. We are created the same as men—in the image of God, who is neither male nor female, therefore our inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—are already guaranteed to us by the Constitution and we do not need Congress to validate our importance or existence.

• Do not want to be treated with the same respect one man affords another. Ah, I can hear the collective “What the(s) . . .” now. Hear me out. We want to be treated with more respect. We don’t want to be subjected to “locker-room” talk. We want you to open doors for us. We want you to pull out our chair in a restaurant. We want you to take our arm or hold our hand in public—something we hope you are not doing with your guy pals. We want you to carry the heavy stuff, open stuck jar lids, and fix the car. This does not mean that we won’t pay for dinner, or contribute to the family budget, or carry our weight in any endeavor—we will—or that we can’t carry the heavy stuff, open stuck jar lids, or fix the car—most of us can do that—but we would appreciate it greatly if a man would flex his brain or muscles and do that for us.

• Are emotional beings. We want the world in general to recognize that women listen, see, and act from the heart. Women are collectively and singularly unique that way. Some men have been gifted with the same ability, granted, but it is the woman who knows what her child’s cry means, what her best friend’s silence is saying, what her beloved’s various touches signify. A woman may not understand the words another man or woman speaks, but she will watch the person’s face, she will pay attention to the set of the shoulders, the placement of hands, the direction the eyes move, and will “read” the words in that manner. Do you remember trying to lie to your mother? How’d that work out for you? Yes, we have a sixth sense, that subtle perception of the unseen world. We do not do these things consciously, it is automatic—a sub-conscious act.

• Are warriors of particular renown. We are Queen Esther of the Old Testament, who saved her people; Joan of Arc, who led the French Army against the English Invasion of Orleans; Golda Meir, the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics and Israel’s fourth prime minister; Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” of British politics, and the only woman to be elected prime minister of that empire; Catherine of Siena and Mother Theresa, who dedicated their lives to helping the poor and needy; Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing; Rosa Parks, who refused to be relegated to the back of the bus; Frances Perkins, the first woman member of a presidential cabinet (Franklin Roosevelt’s), Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman; Mary Katherine Goddard, the editor of the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, the first newspapers that bravely and defiantly published the Declaration of Independence; Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first woman inducted into the American Institute of Architects; Wilma Rudolph, the greatest woman sprinter in history; Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry; Maria Montessori, who did phenomenal and groundbreaking work with mentally disabled children and adults; Sandra Day O’Connor, justice of the Supreme Court.

We are every woman that works two jobs to support her family, sacrifices her own wants and needs and stays home to raise her children, protests war, supports the troops, ties a shoe, sews a flag, bakes a cake, drafts a proposal, stands proudly at attention, and kneels in prayer.

Published in: on October 21, 2009 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Fair to Remember – Epilogue

This is the time of year when one of the most anticipated events in rural Ohio occurs— Brown County Fair time. It is referred to by the natives as the “Little State Fair,” and is one of the most well attended county fairs in the whole of Ohio.

I wrote about my first foray into county fair-dom back in 2002 when I was a stringer for the News Democrat in Georgetown, Brown County’s seat of government. That article has been making the rounds of print and online publications ever since then.

Consider this an epilogue.

I once again attended the fair this year—2009—on Friday evening, and thoroughly enjoyed the Veterans program with my friend Beth McKenzie. But that’s not the event of which I write, stirring as it was, and as thankful as I am to the veterans and troops

My youngest daughter, Samantha, who is now a senior at Xavier University, called me Friday afternoon, asking me to go to the fair with her, as her best friend was not able to attend. Sam graduated from a Brown County high school—Eastern Brown—and has never missed spending at least one day at the fair since she was in elementary school.

Thrilled to be asked to spend an evening with my daughter, I gladly agreed to go with her.

Friday night was the first decent evening of the entire week—clear as a bell, whereas it had rained most of the other evenings. Subsequently, the fair was packed. Parking became practice for Sam’s future in international conflict resolution. I’m sure shouting out the car window, “Hey you! That was my spot!” will come in handy. However, if she should decide to become a Nascar driver, she will also have all the necessary skills. Disclaimer: No small children or animals were harmed in our mad scramble to beat all the F-350s and Chevy Duallys vying for the same parking space.

Sam and I had already outlined our plan for the evening: “Eat our way through the fair.” Anyone who knows anything about county or state fairs knows that there is nothing on the planet like fair food—it’ll kill you if you eat it every day, or every week, for that matter, but once or twice a year, you have got to indulge.

We started with the greasy, salty, skinny fries served up in a paper cup. Since we were walking while we ate them, the calories were cancelled out. Followed closely behind the fries was the ¼ lb. of chocolate/peanut butter fudge. You see, you have to alternate salty and sweet. It’s a rule. I read it somewhere. We took a half-hour off to chat with long-time but rarely seen friends—Sam’s being old high school friends—mine being former readers from my days with the News Democrat and Ripley Bee.

Now it was time for the blooming onion—a humongous breaded and deep-fried marvel. We figured this fulfilled our vegetable requirement. The hefty gentleman whose arms were covered in hot grease burns, took a shine to my 21-year-old daughter.

Sam: “Can I also get a Sierra Mist?”

Onion frying guy: “Here ya go. It’s on the house . . . beautiful.”

I was much closer to this man’s age, but sadly(not), I went unnoticed.

We watched the pretty horses running around the ring show while eating our onion. We also picked up our favorite phrase of the evening: “Lettum know ye lak em”—this bellowed out by the announcer calling commands at the horse show.

Oddly, the announcer would also bellow. “Willya jowg em”—a command, apparently, and not a question. I thought it meant, “Will you choke them” and did not quite understand since a horse does not have a choke, nor did anyone dismount and proceed to strangle the animal. Sam figured out, finally, that it meant “Will you jog them” which seems obvious to me now, but at the time I had so much grease in my system, my brain cells were gooping together.

We took another gastronomical break to watch the tractor pull. This is a strange event and Sam wondered while we watched these eight and nine-thousand pound tractors pulling this behemoth of a vehicle, which apparently weighs like five million pounds, “How does someone practice for this event?” Which, when you think of it, is a really good question. The longest “pull” was 333 feet, when Sam and I decided we needed to eat again.

Bellowed by grumpy man over fair loudspeaker on the way out of tractor pull field: “Jerry Swigert, report to the port-o-lets!”

I have no clue why.

So we’d done the salty, sweet, and salty again, so now it was time for sweet. The dilemma: elephant ears? funnel cake? cinnamon roll the size of Toledo? deep-fried Snickers? or. . . Yes!—the chocolate covered crème horn!

Now, we are not gluttons; we split one crème horn. Yet, that was enough to send us both into sugar delirium. We “drunkenly” stumbled dangerously close to the hefty gentleman whose arms were covered in hot grease burns at the blooming onion booth, but our free will won out and we swerved toward the Western Brown Wrestler’s booth and I literally choked out the word, “Water!”

Sam then decided she just had to touch the dead, frozen, and eyeless pig laid out in the pulled pork booth waiting roasting.

By 11pm, nausea, bloating, acne, greasy hair, and diabetes was setting in, so we weaved our way along the horse excrement-brick road through other like-afflicted fair-goers, while Sam chanted, “Look into the pig’s eyes,” and managed to find Sam’s probably illegally parked car, and headed for the neon lights of home.

The crash from my sugar and grease high came at four o’clock this morning. A 16- ounce glass of water, and three cups of Italian Roast coffee, followed by two loads of laundry to get the mud and poo off my clothes, and I am good to go.

Lettum know ye lak em.

Published in: on October 3, 2009 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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