IVP - Strangely Dim - Fun with Misplaced Modifiers, or, Even Monkeys Need Editors

May 22, 2008

Fun with Misplaced Modifiers, or, Even Monkeys Need Editors

I was recently made aware of a clever blog by Rachel Held Wilson, "Evolving in Monkey Town," about the challenges of practicing faith in a postmodern era and a fundamentalist context. Or something like that. The author writes from Dayton, Tennessee, home of the Scopes Monkey Trial, which bolstered the theory of evolution as a staple of public education and played a significant role in the launch of the fundamentalist movement in the United States. The city has memorialized its moment in the spotlight with a plaque:

Here, from July 10 to 21, 1925 John Thomas Scopes, a County High School teacher, was tried for teaching that a man descended from a lower order of animals in violation of a lately passed state law.

So, here's where I reveal my inherent nerdiness and bore you with an English lesson: This sentence as constructed implies that the man who "descended from a lower order of animals"--not the high school teacher--was "in violation of a lately passed state law." So be warned, ambitious lower primates: if you're going to evolve, don't do it in Dayton. And to the school district let me offer the following advice: worry less about biology and more about grammar. (Of course, I'm biased.) For the rest of you, feel free to suggest an alternate sentence construction for the revised plaque or to chastise me for my nerdiness or lack of graciousness.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at May 22, 2008 1:20 PM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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