Pardon, Your Slip is Showing



My heart was warmed when I learned that our oldest grandchild recently became an English teacher. That brought memories of my younger days when I taught English to reluctant high school students.


All English teachers know that sometime during the year they will be plied with the inevitable question: “Why do we have to have to learn this stuff?!”


Explanations about future job prospects and being thought a successful person, fall flat. There’s always the kid who says, “My dad’s a garbage collector with horrible grammar, and I bet he makes more money than you!”


That’s when dangling modifiers come to the rescue. If a teacher can get teens to laugh—for the right reason--she has their attention. Even the comatose teens in the back rows sit up and listen.


I have used common dangling modifiers in sentences below, to show you what my former classroom chalkboard looked like (yes, chalkboard. I’m old as dirt). I’ve added wry comments that someone might have made. Don’t worry if you don’t remember what a dangling modifier is; you will when we’re finished.


“Two sisters were reunited after 18 years at a checkout desk.” I hope I never have to use that checkout desk. I don’t have eighteen years to spare.


“While driving around town, a tree fell and hit my car.” I hope the tree had a valid driver's license and insurance.


Does a gentleman live here with one eye named Arthur?” I wonder, what does he call his other eye?


“I scrubbed the garage with my little brother.” Did you remember to rinse him and hang him up to dry when you were finished?


“Do not sit in the chair without being fully assembled.” Why not? What would happen if I were only partially assembled?


“This school year I almost wore a suit every day.” Don't you mean you wore a suit almost every day? Or did you wear the pants and not the jacket?


“A green lady's bicycle was found in the alley.” Too bad! I was looking for a bike belonging to a purple lady instead of a green one.


“Running quickly in the winter air, my nose gets cold.” I know. My nose always runs in the winter too. It needs a new pair of shoes.


“When only three, her mother taught her to tie her shoes.” Amazing! Being a mother while under three years old. Call Ripley’s Believe It or Not!


“Doctors discovered his hand had been fractured in six places during the surgery.” Well, I certainly wouldn't want a surgeon who broke my hand in six places during surgery!


Ah, those wonderful days of drilling grammar into students’ brains. It doesn’t take much to entertain teachers, even at the expense of students. And laughter is good medicine.


What about you? Can you think of any more dangling modifiers? We need a good chuckle today. Feel free to use the comments box below.