A grammatical cautionary tale

A practitioner of mesmerism performing animal magnetism therapy on a seated male patient / Wikimedia Commons

There’s a grammatical moral* to this unshaggy dog story…

On his 70th birthday, a man was given a gift certificate by his wife. The certificate was for a consultation with a local medicine man who was rumored to have a simple cure for erectile dysfunction. The husband went to visit the healer. The old medicine man gave him a potion and, gripping his shoulder tightly, warned him, “This is a powerful medicine. Take just one teaspoonful and then say: ‘1-2-3.’ As you do, you will become more manly than you have ever been in your life, and you can perform for as long as you want.” The husband thanked the old medicine man, and as he walked away, he turned and asked: “But how do I stop the medicine from working?” “Good question,” the healer responded. “Your wife must say ‘1-2-3-4’,” he explained, “but when she does, the medicine will not work again until the next full moon.” Eager to see if the medicine would work, the husband hurried home, showered, shaved, took a spoonful of the medicine, and then invited his wife to join him in the bedroom. As she came in, he took off his clothes and said: “1-2-3!” Immediately he was the manliest of men. His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes, and as she did so she asked: “What was the 1-2-3 for?”

And that, boys and girls, is why we should never end our sentences with a preposition, because we could end up with a dangling participle.

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* A “dangling participle” – also known as a “dangling modifier” – means a participle intended to modify a noun which is not actually present in the text. For a good example of a dangling modifier, read Glosso’s earlier post “The ultimate dangling modifier“.

Hat-tip to Gary Boggs for posting this story Glossophilia’s Facebook page.