or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Here's a sentence from the thoroughly wonderful BoingBoing:

"A series of 'before and after' methamphetamine addict photos are making the rounds on various blogs."

Technically--and I love technicalities--the sentence is wrong. The subject of the sentence, "a series", is singular, and yet has been given a plural verb, "are making". Corrected for subject-verb agreement, the sentence would read, "A series of 'before and after' photos is making the rounds."

And yet doesn't it sound better the way it was written? I think it does. A noun and a verb are butted up against one another, and following a plural noun with a singular verb sounds odd to many people--it forces them to stop and think about sound and sense, which drags them out of the sentence and destroys the flow.

If it were a more formal piece of writing--in a newspaper or magazine, say--I'd have corrected that sentence in a heartbeat, possibly rewriting it to remove any trace of grammatical disagreement (maybe "The destructive effects of methamphetamine are shown in a series of before-and-after photos making the rounds on various blogs"), but as it stands it has a breezy quality that I think I'd leave alone.

I cut them no slack, though, for failing to hyphenate "before-and-after". It's a phrasal adjective and should be linked into a single word with hyphens. I suppose, grudgingly, that putting them into quotation marks achieves a similar effect, but I prefer the hyphens. A lot.


From the same page of BoingBoing (it's in the archives, the January 2005 postings), the expression "jellyfishoid creature". That word will do--it gets its point across--but that got me to wondering: is there an established adjectival form of "jellyfish"? The only answer I could come up with is, "Damned if I know--but there sure are a lot of zoological adjectives." Canine, feline, bovine--all pretty obvious, not even "Jeopardy"-level. Ovine, vulpine, ursine? A little less common. (Sheep, fox, and bear, respectively.) Armadillo? Tolypeutine--who knew? You can find a staggering collection of them right here.


Blogger Frank said...

For jellyfish, I expect it would be "cnidarian" or "cnidarinine" or something along those lines. "Cnidaria" is the name of the Order (or family; I don't know which) jellyfish belong to.

Monday, March 28, 2005 2:09:00 AM  

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