Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sic! .... Wait, what?

edit: see comments!

In this week's World Wide Words newsletter, the Sic! column has these two items:
John Eliot Spofford tells us that the Boston Globe reported on 18 February: "A woman in her early 50s who was struck and killed by a tow truck while crossing a street in Brighton Thursday night has died, Boston police said."

From an obituary in the Wiltshire Times of 17 February, submitted by Alan Jones: "Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died at the age of five he was sent to a Dr Barnado's [sic] home".
I have to admit, I don't see anything to object to. The first is a bit wordy and might, had it not been the lead in a newspaper story, have better been two sentences, but there is absolutely nothing grammatically or syntactically incorrect with it. I suppose it's possible to believe that "while crossing a street" modifies the tow truck, but it's not the first syntactic choice, is it? "She was struck by a brick while crossing the street" - nobody would argue that "while..." had to be modifying brick. Perhaps "she was struck while crossing a street in Brighton Thursday night by a tow truck" is absolutely less ambiguous, but it violates the principle of Early Immediate Constituents by shifting the "short" tow truck to the end of the clause. At any rate, does this merit a "Sic!"? I don't think so.

structural tree of the sentence
As for the other one - there isn't any other way to say that, except for the wordy "sent to the home of a Dr. Barnado", and that's no better. Perhaps Mr. Jones is objecting to the article's being present at all? That's a simple matter of stylistics. Clearly, as read, the sentence means "one, a certain" Dr. Barnado. Perhaps Mr. Jones would have preferred either of those:
Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died at the age of five he was sent to one Dr Barnado's home.

Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died at the age of five he was sent to a certain Dr Barnado's home.
And if Dr. Barnado has been previously identified, you wouldn't want any qualifier there. But unless that's so, there's nothing wrong with this one as it stands. Absolutely not Sic!-worthy.

edit: Oh, haha. Joke's on me. "Dr. Barnado's Homes" were a institution, intended to house, clothe, and educate waifs and strays. But you know what? That means "a Dr. Barnado's home" is impeccable. (Though a capital H wouldn't be amiss, that's not what Mr. Jones sic'd, is it?)

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5 Comments:

At 11:04 AM, February 25, 2012 Anonymous Armado had this to say...

The problem with the first is the redundancy. Since she was struck and killed it seems unnecessary to say, later, that she died. The problem with the second is his mother dying at the age of five.

 
At 11:07 AM, February 25, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Okay, you're right about "killed" being redundant.

And the second one, while you could be right - okay you are - that wasn't what was marked as wrong.

 
At 4:36 PM, February 25, 2012 Anonymous Picky had this to say...

On the second the joke is as Armado states. The sic is that it is not Barnado but Barnardo.

 
At 5:21 PM, February 25, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

The problem with the second instance is that either: a) a comma needs to be inserted (still hardly graceful); or, b) else it needs to be rewritten -- because as it stands, it's saying that the mother died at age 5, thus making medical history! Instead:

"Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died, at the age of five he was..."
OR
"Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but at the age of 5, when his mother died, he was..."
OR
"Mr [B] grew up in the East End of London but when his mother died he was, at the age of five,..."

 
At 5:35 PM, February 25, 2012 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Yes, I should send this post down the memory hole! But I'll keep it around to remind me to think about something other than syntax!

 

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