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March 2017

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writing semicolon

I ask because this has been bugging me for *days* now....

Yes, you all can stop telling me I've been Thogged. I know. And while I can't complain about the attention, I'm becoming obsessed by a related question. You see, I keep looking at that sentence, and now I need to poll the audience, because I can't see what's wrong about it. Dependent clause still refers back to the subject of the sentence, right, and not the intervening adverbial phrase?

Sentence in question is:

The stool wobbled under her when he took her hands, the one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

Test the sentence by removing the adverbial phrase:

The stool wobbled under her when he took her hands, the one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

Let's take out the prepositional phrase too.

The stool wobbled under her, the one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

No, that still looks right. Am I misremembering my grammar that badly?

...I think I need a new career...

Comments

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I believe the mistake Thog is pointing out that a three-legged stool can't wobble because one leg is shorter than the other. Any three points define a plane, and so the stool would have a permanent lean but not wobble.
When you shift your weight on it, it sure can. *g* I know, because I used to own one that did.

It's because your butt tends to press the seat flat when you shift your weight back. (ETA: thereby lifting the short leg off the floor.)

Edited at 2008-09-05 06:03 pm (UTC)
I read it as "a three-legged stool won't wobble", since the center of gravity is between all three legs and hence there's no pivot to wobble across. (If one leg's shorter, it may tilt the stool, but it will be stably tilted.) The "Tripodal Stability Dept." header also lends itself to this interpretation.
Ahh, but see answer to above comment.
Well, what I get out of it is that his father mended the short leg but not the others.
Oh, you're a lot of help. *crosses out a few more subsidiary phrases*
The language is fine. I believe the problem is with the physics. A four-legged stool with one leg short would wobble, but a three-legged one is stable; it might tilt but it won't wobble.
See above.
The trick to defining what an dependent clause modifies is to replace it with whatever part of speech it functions as, and then usually it's pretty darm clear.
darn even!
I like your sentence better than mine.

Alas, since it's pretty obvious that I *can't* write a plain English sentence, perhaps I should be looking into pharmacy.
"The stool wobbled, one leg shorter that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past."

I'll refrain from commentary, but does that work?
No?
Sometimes the grammar can be technically perfect and the sentence still feel awkward?

Language is bitchy that way.

(Just my own take: the first time I read that sentence, "the one leg" following hard on "took her hands" totally threw me out of the reading, and by the time I got to "that his father hadn't mended" the subject of the sentence was hopelessly tangled in my brain and I had to go back and parse it again. Editorially, I probably would have flagged that one for a re-think...)
Well, most of my sentences probably suck just about that much. But that's besides the point.
As a sometime furniture-maker, I wonder how that one leg ended up shorter . . .

(And if the stool is in fact three-legged, that info is exterior to the sentence in question.)
The original source quoted a couple of sentences before that which mentioned that the stool had three legs. Ansible also labeled the whole thing as "Tripodal Stability Dept."
"The stool wobbled, the one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past."

The stool will wobble. Did none of you tripod-folk every have a chair or stool with one short leg that you could shift back and forth from one tripod to the other?

The sentence is correct -- just awkward. My main problem is with "in fifteen years gone past." To my taste, it would read better along the lines of, "The stool wobbled, one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended fifteen years past." Still a bit clunky though. And not what you're asking. Goodbye, and good luck.

"The stool will wobble. Did none of you tripod-folk every have a chair or stool with one short leg that you could shift back and forth from one tripod to the other?"

Yes, but those were four-legged chairs/stools; one short leg creates the two tripods to which you refer.
She crouched on a three-legged stool as if warming herself before the fire, but Will knew her chill would take more melting than that. He knelt down before her. The stool wobbled under her when he took her hands, the one leg shorter than the other that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.'

A tripod stool with one leg shorter than the other two will just slope, not wobble. Wobbly stools with one shorter leg should be four legged. At least that's what I think the Thogging implies with the title "Tripodal Stability Dept."
Thog has never had a stool with a short leg, I say. *g*
I don't know what being 'Thogged' means. But I don't like this sentence. Not because of the dependant phrase, but because of the main phrase.

The stool wobbled under her when he took her hands, the one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

Take out the main phrase.

The stool wobbled under her when He took her hands, the one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

The main phrase doesn't read like a main phrase. It reads like a prepositional clause prefixed to the main sentence. That's not how you meant it and not how the sentence is really structured, but the human subject actions are so strong that they take over the sentence from the passive, inanimate subject (the stool). So the reader sees the stool confined to a prepositional prefix, and the shorter leg looks like it's attached to one of the human characters.

Simple fix -- just restructure the sentence, putting the strong actions in a prepositional prefix so they don't interfere:

When he took her hands the stool wobbled beneath her, its one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

Actually, will just changing 'the' to 'its' work?

The stool wobbled under her when he took her hands, its one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

Eh, that's better, but I'd still restructure it completely.

All in my opinion. And I'm sure I got some of the terminology wrong (is there such a thing as a 'main phrase', anyway?) You're a much more adept student of grammar than I.

I have problems with this sentence, too.

"When he took her hands the stool wobbled beneath her, its one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past."

As an ESL-speaker who teaches English I have to admit that when I read the original sentence up there I thought the short leg was part of the male person who took her hands until I got to the end of the sentence.

With remus_shepherd's structuring I get the fact that the leg belongs to the stool right away.

The physics question of a wobbling three-legged stool didn't cross my mind in the first place.
It looks fine to me (IANAG), but it flows easier in my brain without the "the" in front of "one leg."
Second this.
I'm taking a whole different tack...

It seems to me it's an antecedent problem.

The stool wobbled under her, the one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

That sounds like one of HER legs is shorter than the other.

In this one:
The stool wobbled under her, the one leg shorter than the others that his father hadn't mended in fifteen years gone past.

That one just confuses me. Did his father not mend the one leg, or the other legs? He mended the one, so it was shorter? The way it is now, it means her father mended the other legs. I think.



Yeah, I also spotted antecedent fuzziness, but mostly around the "hands". As in, my brain momentarily suggests that the legs belong to the hands, and then corrects to the actual meaning of the sentence. I don't think there's anything technically incorrect about the sentence; it's just a little confusing by ear. For that reason, I would start with "When he took her hands, the stool wobbled under her;" and go from there.

...Er, but I've just seen the context, and it's probably the tripod thing, at that.

Edited at 2008-09-05 09:02 pm (UTC)
I'm not an English major or anything, but it feels like everything after the comma is just a sentence fragment when it should be a full phrase. It's been a while since I've worked with hardcore grammar, but it feels more like it should read

The stool wobbled under her when he took her hands: one leg was shorter than the others because his father hadn't mended it in fifteen years gone past.

or something like that.
The second phrase is proper; it's a nominative absolute. "One leg being shorter" is a fuller but, oddly, less natural-sounding variant.
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