Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Maintain an Erect Part(iciple)

Honk! Honk! Beep! Beep! HOOOONK!

Don’t you love that sound? It’s the sweet sound of burgeoning grammar awareness.

As many of you know, I converted my car into a grammarmobile, and this is the front right bumper:

Therefore, I can only assume that my fellow drivers have been honking their horns at me because they are participle danglers. Since admitting there’s a problem is said to be the first step on the road to recovery, I’m quite optimistic that we’re heading in the right direction. And it’s pretty cool that so many people, especially those driving behind me in the fast lane, know what a dangling participle is.

However, it was brought to my attention the other day that not everyone knows what it means to dangle one’s participle, so allow me to explain.

Let’s start with a non-dangling participle. Let’s call it, I don’t know, what’s the opposite of dangling? How about an erect participle? We want our participles to be erect, like this one:

Driving through the streets, I am trying to spread grammar awareness.

Driving through the streets is my participial phrase. A participial phrase is (and I am oversimplifying here, but it will work for our purposes) a phrase at the beginning of a sentence that starts with an ing word.

When a sentence opens with a participial phrase, the participial phrase should modify the subject of the sentence. And in the aforementioned sentence it does. I am the one driving through the streets.

On the other hand, here is an example of a dangling participle:

Honking their horns, I am delighted by the grammar enthusiasm of my fellow drivers.

The participle is dangling because honking their horns is not modifying the subject of the sentence, which is I; it is actually modifying my fellow drivers. Here’s one way to revise it:

Honking their horns, my fellow drivers express their grammar enthusiasm.

And now that I have clarified the definition of a dangling modifier, I have a question for you about another phenomenon I frequently experience on the road. What is the grammatical significance of sticking one’s hand out the driver’s side window and dangling the pinky, ring finger, pointer finger and thumb whilst maintaining an erect middle finger?

24 comments:

Jeffrey Beesler said...

The significance is most noticed in a little phenomenon called road rage.

Otter said...

I have seen this odd hand gesture myself on occasion and am also bewildered by it. I usually return the gesture with a smile and it seems to placate the natives.

Shannon said...

Commenting on your blog, I am laughing with joy.

Shelly said...

The raised middle finger punctuates the spoken interjection that usually precedes it.

Stephen Tremp said...

Finally, something I can dangle in public and not get arrested!

Tonja said...

Love the comments!

Clarissa Draper said...

I love how easy you make grammar!

Dylan Fitzgerald said...

DO... YOUR...PARTICIPLES HANG LOW? DO THEY WOBBLE TO AND FRO? CAN YOU TIE THEM IN A KNOT-- CAN YOU TIE THEM IN A BOW?

Sorry. Couldn't help it.

Kelly Polark said...

Dang danglers!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Ahh, you are just too... TOO! And very entertaining 2.

I'm sure I dangle my participles frequently. But I haven't been arrested for it...yet.

I have a request for a future lesson:

How about clearing up something for me that has never been clearer than the muddy Mississippi?

Capitalizing the words north, south, east and west. Yeah, I know when I write, "the Middle East", that last word gets capitalized. And I know that if I write, "the compass pointed North" it must be capitalized.

But in almost every other example I could think of, I would be uncertain what to do.

Also, a bit confusing for me, although a little less so, are the words sun, moon, and earth. I mean, yeah, if I write, "I threw a handful of earth at that participle dangler", it doesn't get capitalized, and if I write, "David Bowie fell to Earth", it does.

But the rest of the time, I'm kinda confused. How about a little future help with these, eh? Thanks!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

Every time you hear honking, you can imagine all that's dangling out there.

Terra Shield said...

If only all English teachers made grammar this much fun.

anthony stemke said...

Reading this post, I am entertained and educated.

Crystal Pistol said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who pictures a dangling participle as the naughty opposite of some phallic symbol or other. :)

Michael said...

I don't know about the grammatical significance of it, they're probably just being addholes for the sake of being assholes.

Or maybe you're just driving, really, really, really bad. But it's more likely #1.

Pat Hatt said...

That finger is just asking for one in return, so let it dangle away..haha

Jaya J said...

Great post ;)
You make grammar naughty.

Kingmush said...

I must say you have a very unique blog idea. ;p

Mykuljay said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that those honking their horns, might well be doing so for reasons other than your grammar lessons. Certainly if you notice a hand in the posture you suggest, I would absolutely think it were for other reasons.

Loved the blog - and the lesson! I'm a huge fan of using the hyphen - yet I have no clue when it is proper to do so.

Krista said...

You are too funny. Who knew English could be so much fun?!

DWei said...

I think my brain has become too sleep deprived to fully appreciate the grammar lesson. :P

Glynis said...

LOL, someone has just honked their horn in the lane by my house. A Greek Cypriot might be *dangling* :D

Thanks for the lesson.

Theresa Milstein said...

Now I'll be sure to refrain from dangling my participles.

I'd love to see your car in person! Or in real life. Because a car isn't a person. Hmm.

Deniz Bevan said...

Yes! Brilliant! We need to call attention to this more often! It bugs the heck out of me when I see it in books...