or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, October 24, 2005


Today in Salon.com, a bafflingly wrong construction in a review by Debra Dickerson of a war memoir called "Love My Rifle More Than You" by Kayla Williams:

As good as Williams gets comes early on when she's describing the "Queen for a Year" phenomenon; the farther men are from home, and the fewer women there are, plain Jane soldiers begin to morph into supermodels.

The last clause ought to have been "the more plain Jane soldiers begin to morph into supermodels". (I would have hyphenated "plain-Jane", too; it's a compound adjective.) The first two words are missing, the ones required to make the whole thing complete.

You've seen the correct version of this a thousand times, and so has the writer. "The less I drink, the better I feel"; "the closer they get, the worse they look"; "the later it is at the bar, the better people look." So how did this sentence go so awry? The only thing I can think of is that the second clause ("and the fewer women there are") threw the writer off; she thought she'd already completed the sentence correctly because hey, there's that balancing clause, right? (The irony is that the sentence appears in a book review devoted more or less entirely to explaining how badly written the book is.)

The more I see such errors, the gloomier I get. Where are the copy editors when you need them?


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