Dangling

When one starts to notice things in clusters, particularly character traits, projection of one's own traits can be the culprit. Or it may simply be that particular traits, such as passive aggression, are simply more prevalent in the people one meets. Who can say? Inner or outer? Yours or theres? But what if the clusters of things are not traits, but words (especially words whose definition one was previously ignorant of)?
Once I learnt the word 'ontological' I began to see it fairly often, as if it was a new friend who wanted to spend lots of time with me until the relationship faded into a passive normalcy; now, when we encounter each other, the salutation consists of little more than a nod. So why am I suddenly finding dangling modifiers everywhere? They're the troublemakers of language; sometimes they offer great comedic value, yet sometimes serve only to confuse and slip, slide all over the p/lace. The one I spotted today was in that august publication, the New York Review of Books. Aren't literary Americans supposed to have a greater anxiety around the use of the English language? That's if the reviewer in question, Ian Buruma, is American - or literary. Of 'Thinking the Twentieth Century', the last book by Tony Judt, created through a series of conversations with Timothy Snyder, Buruma writes:
'We even know from (Judt's) last book ... distilled just before his untimely death from a series of conversations with Timothy Snyder...' On first reading one wonders whether Snyder was so taxing that he caused Judt's untimely death! The notion is horrific, of course, and given that Judt's death is relatively recent, some may think pointing out such a clanger as that made by Buruma is one that should not be highlighted. But there you are. It highlighted itself. Does it say more about the dangler, the danglee or the dangled? In this case, the dangled, Judt, would probably have had a laugh about it. As Snyder should.


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