Smith, the wooden leg

I introduced Raihana to Mary Poppins the other day. No, I haven’t read the book to her yet, but I do recall with a chill of delight, reading during reading-time in Class 7 at the Convent of Jesus & Mary School in Lahore. When I picked up that book, with the practically perfect nanny on the cover, and the unassuming name, P.L. Travers, it was magic.

And then there’s the movie. I might show a clip to my students too. The one where Bert tells Uncle Albert: “Speaking of names, I once knew a man with a wooden leg named Smith.” “Really?” says Uncle Albert. “What was the name of his other leg?”

The misplaced modifier is a pervasive presence in academic papers these days. Sadly, I now encounter it sometimes in old blog posts. Language is continually changing, I know, but it is only courteous to ensure that your communication is comprehensible to people other than yourself.

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One Reply to “Smith, the wooden leg”

  1. I used to love Mary Poppins – the books. Sarcastic, mysterious, never really knowing who she was and where she went at the end of the book ; just what I like in a character. I recently discovered that there were 6 Mary Poppins books, not 4 as I had thought. I feel like reading them again; only have the first though, will have to try the library.

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