[Ads-l] (Unfortunate) syntax in the news

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Nov 19 13:43:55 EST 2017


Not variation exactly, but still of possible interest.  Bill O’Neill, an Ohio Supreme Court Justice and (until now) a candidate for governor recently came to the defense of Sen. Al Franken and Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore and "speaking on the behalf of all heterosexual men” everywhere (gee, thanks) by revealing his own props in a Facebook post on Friday (Nov. 17).  This was circulated in the press in the form 

“As a candidate for Governor let me save my opponents some research time. In the last fifty years I was sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females. “It ranged from a gorgeous personal secretary to Senator Bob Taft (Senior) who was my first true love and we made passionate love in the hayloft of her parents barn."

I first saw this item in the above form and figured the garden path was in part a case of our seeking closure—not emotional, but syntactic—as described a couple of lifetimes ago by John Kimball, and that the full quote would provide the actually intended rangee as the object of its own “to", i.e.

“It ranged FROM [a gorgeous personal secretary to Senator Bob Taft (Senior) who was my first true love and we made passionate love in the hayloft] TO [my current lovely wife and the mother of my children]

--the idea being that when we come across that first “to”, we inevitably close it off as 

ranging FROM [a gorgeous personal secretary] TO [Sen. Bob Taft (Senior)], 

hence the double-take (especially in the enumerating members of the honored group of "50 very attractive females”).  But in fact the full context, given below, isn’t that straightforward (as it were):

“As a candidate for Governor let me save my opponents some research time,” O’Neill wrote. “In the last fifty years I was sexually intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females. “It ranged from a gorgeous personal secretary to Senator Bob Taft (Senior) who was my first true love and we made passionate love in the hayloft of her parents barn in Gallipolis and ended with a drop dead gorgeous red head who was a senior advisor to Peter Lewis at Progressive Insurance in Cleveland”
http://theweek.com/speedreads/738285/democratic-ohio-supreme-court-justice-just-made-bad-facebook-post-defense-sen-al-franken

And since Bob Taft Senior (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Taft) died in 1953, Justice O'Neill appears to be confessing to necrophilia as well, unless in referring to Bob Taft (Senior) he actually meant Bob Taft (Junior).

I see O’Neill’s Facebook post now appears in various places on the web along with suggestions for editing:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/11/17/why-that-grammar-ohio-candidate-facebook-post-wrong/hCsT6nlk2kMUl1OUSpeepN/story.html 

LH

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