Friday, April 04, 2008

Nothing to crow about

Spotted in yesterday's Guardian, and still to be found here, in a piece about a memorial service for Sir Edmund Hillary, a sad but faintly hilarious (no pun intended) example of that common fault in writing, the misrelated participle:
Featuring Tibetan prayer wheels against a blue background, the knights escorting it paused at the back of the chapel while Mereana Hond, a human rights lawyer and TV journalist, performed the karanga welcome call.
As always, there is a moment when you envisage what is suggested. I wish I could draw - for the knights featuring prayer wheels sound like something out of th Revelation of St John the Divine. Tsk tsk.

And today, a word for the passing of a crow. We passed it on the shore path, apparently too feeble to do more than fly a yard or so in front of us. We skirted it quietly and left it standing in the late afternoon sun in the middle of the path. When we returned an hour or so later, it was dead. It seemed to have keeled over where we had left it.

It seemed a peaceful way to go.


  1. While we are in the mood to expose those for whom syntax is an impost levied on adultery, here's the split infinitive to end all such (yes - I know infinitives may be split & that the best authors do it; but....). It was spotted in a report in the New York Times last April.

    Republicans in Congress, led by Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, have also pressed the issue. By coincidence, the committee's report on the annual intelligence authorization bill was made public on Friday. It features a vehement attack, describing leakers as "a small few who have taken it upon themselves to, for political or other motives, recklessly and illegally disclose America's necessary secrets and national security information." Phew!

    On an orthographic tack - and despite your familial connection to the Guardian - I share with you my all-time favourite typo from that august but po-faced organ. At the time of the Jeremy Thorpe affair, many moons ago, in a rather sniffy editorial, the following horribly apposite phrase appeared: "... a megaphone rectal of bedroom indelicacies ...". "Bummer!" one might exclaim.

    As for the puir corbie, I admire your restraint. As children, during the great myxomatosis outbreak of the 50s, a group of us came across a suffering bunny. (If you've ever seen the effects of this plague, you'll know what I mean.) I'm afraid that we gave it its quietus, but not with a bare bodkin. Were we wrong?

  2. I wondered if this would tempt you from your lair! Wonderful split infinitive - I spit me of them.

    Your coup de grace on the bunnie (and yes - I do remember them) reminds me of the first poem I came across by Larkin: Myxomatosis. If you should manage to overcome your prejudices against anything written since ... when? World War 1? ... you should check it out. "I make a sharp reply/then clean my stick" Good stuff, I reckon.

  3. Actually, the prejudice is against anything written since the Peloponnesian War (with minor exceptions).

  4. Dead crows are ominous for us in the southeastern US, especially once mosquitos are prevalent in the spring and summer. West Nile virus occurs here. Crows and certain other species are carriers (victims, to be more precise.

  5. )


    I didn't want to forever be parenthetical.