Grammar Wednesday

I received this email from Sooza the other night:

Dear Grammar Maven (aka Mrs. Chili):

Here’s one for you. Wayfarer and I are arguing over the following sentence:

“Around another corner, cataloger Lillie Lee worked on sorting the library’s immense moving image collection by title, some of which most people have never heard.”

He says that the “of” in the phrase “some of which” applies to the final “heard” as well. I say the copy editor saw the dangling preposition at the end and hacked it off, without rewriting the sentence to actually make sense.

Who’s right? And don’t worry — neither of us will try to unduly influence you. (But I’m right, aren’t I?)

love and blessings,
Sooza

The first time I read the sentence, I thought that Wayfarer was, to put it in my delicate parlance, full of shit. It seemed to me that the phrase “some of which” refers to the titles (“some of” what? Some of the titles) and not to the hearing. It feels to me that we need the “of” at the end of the sentence so that we can clarify not only the titles, but the never having heard of the titles, too. If we were to rewrite the sentence, we’d need to say “of” twice – I’ve never heard OF some OF these titles. Right?

The sentence is just bad, and is a perfect example of why the “rule” about never ending a sentence in a preposition is, well, full of shit. While I think it’s abominable to end a sentence in “at” (Where’s the library at?) or “going to” (Where you going to?), there are instances where ending sentences in certain prepositions is not only acceptable, but also preferable. Lillie Lee was sorting the library’s collection by title; some of those titles most people had never heard of.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Winston Churchill; this is something up with which I will not put!

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Happy Wednesday, Everyone! Keep those GW questions coming!!

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9 Comments

Filed under Grammar

9 responses to “Grammar Wednesday

  1. I agree, there’s a missing “of” at the end. It reminds me of this sentence from Deathly Hallows where an “of” was moved unnecessarily:
    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004854.html

  2. Hey, John! We agree right out of the proverbial gate! I think this is the first time ever! WOO HOO!!

    There were actually a couple of lines in Deathly Hallows that made me stop and re-read – and I was reading aloud to the family, so it was all the more challenging. When I read aloud, my brain is about a line and a half ahead of my voice, and the spots that ground my gears really blew my cadence. There were a few things I was able to fix “on the fly,” but there were some that caught me up so short that I had to stop and really focus….

  3. WL

    Horrible sentence. Yes, another “of” is needed, but a better solution would be to change it to “some of which were completely unfamiliar [or new] to most people.”

  4. Sooza

    I agree with WL. If you have a sentence that looks or sounds odd as it is written, why not just rewrite it? I suppose a copy editor on a deadline might not feel she could take the time, but I think it is truly the best solution.

  5. You did a magnificent job of making that sentence readable! Are you sure you weren’t a copy editor in another life? 🙂

  6. WL

    Changing a sentence to be more readable is part of a copy-editor’s job, and an experienced one shoudl be able to see a solution even under the pressure of deadlines.

    I was a production and copy-editor for about a decade and enjoyed the work immensely. I’m not surprised about the Rowling book. Sadly, it seems that when authors reach a certain level of success, the first thing to go is the idea that their sentences can be improved by an editor.

  7. WL, we don’t know whether Rowling or an editor made that incorrection.

  8. if you wanted to change it in the pedantic way, keeping the “of” away from the end of the sentence, you’d have to say:

    “… of some of which most people have never heard.”

    but that obviously sounds weird and annoying. 😛

  9. HAHAHAHAH!! Lara, you’re absolutely right – and isn’t THAT a HORRIBLE construction?!

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