Wordsmith.org
Posted By: dalehileman Gunplay - 06/13/06 05:49 PM
Off-duty county deputy...June 17, 2005:

COMPTON (AP)-- An off-duty sheriff's deputy shot at robbers who took his wallet and held up a store at gunpoint Wednesday, authorities said
Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: Gunplay - 06/13/06 06:54 PM
Would Dale be obliquely commenting on the subject(s) of the verbal phrases in the cited sentence?
Posted By: dalehileman Re: Gunplay - 06/13/06 07:25 PM
He might indeed

He's a very oblique person
Posted By: dalehileman Re: Gunplay - 06/14/06 02:32 PM
I've been asked if there's a name for this kind of ambiguity, and I'd like to know too
Posted By: Faldage Re: Gunplay - 06/14/06 09:33 PM
What's the ambiguity? Whether it's the sheriff or the deputy that's off duty?
Posted By: tsuwm Re: Gunplay - 06/14/06 09:52 PM
if that's it, I never even considered that the sheriff is off duty. there'd have to be some convoluted context for that to have much significance in a report of an incident.

I guess I'm admitting to not seeing any ambiguity in place one..
Posted By: dalehileman Re: Gunplay - 06/14/06 10:33 PM
Another correspondent admitted that he had to read it a half-dozen times before it dawned. Unfortunately, it loses its impact when you explain it:

An off-duty sheriff's deputy shot at robbers...and held up a store...
Posted By: TEd Remington Re: Gunplay - 06/14/06 10:58 PM
Were they alive, my antecedents would have no problem with this, and I don't either. Those protesters who seek an anaphoric "who" after the word and are being just a tad picky.
Posted By: Faldage Re: Gunplay - 06/14/06 11:14 PM
Quote:

robbers who took his wallet and held up a store at gunpoint




Seems pretty straight forward to me. Gotta twist and turn perty tortuously to make it ambiguous.
Posted By: Jomama Re: Gunplay - 07/15/06 06:56 AM
All you need to do is diagram the sentence.
Posted By: Aramis Re: Gunplay - 07/17/06 07:06 PM
[A] deputy of an off-duty sheriff shot at robbers who took the sherrif's wallet, and then held up a store [probably with the same weapon] Wednesday, someone in authority besides the sheriff said.
It is 'held up' that is ambiguous, since it does not vary with the subject being singular or plural.
Posted By: Faldage Re: Gunplay - 07/17/06 10:54 PM
Quote:


It is 'held up' that is ambiguous, since it does not vary with the subject being singular or plural.




Nor does "took."

Naw, you've gotta work at it to misunderstand this sentence.
Posted By: Yossi Re: Gunplay - 07/17/06 11:01 PM
Agree.
The sentence is v. ambiguous.
As in, why did the deputy hold the store up at gunpoint after he was robbed?????
Posted By: Faldage Re: Gunplay - 07/18/06 09:16 AM
[shakes head sadly and walks off into the sunset muttering something about prescrips sucking all the meaning out of language]
Posted By: nancyk Re: Gunplay - 07/18/06 02:32 PM
I find the sentence not necessarily ambiguous (although it could be taken that way), but very strangely written. "The deputy of an off-duty sheriff" - what difference does it make if the sheriff was off- or on-duty? "...someone in authority besides the sheriff said." How about "a sheriff's department spokesperson said."?
Posted By: Faldage Re: Gunplay - 07/19/06 10:48 AM
Quote:

"The deputy of an off-duty sheriff" - what difference does it make if the sheriff was off- or on-duty?





Geez! That's why the interpretation that the sheriff was off-duty need not even be considered. There's such a thing as context in the English language.

All you have to do is read and understand the sentence. You don't have to set a bunch of hoops on fire so you can jump through them. Just read and understand the sentence.
Posted By: nancyk Re: Gunplay - 07/19/06 01:38 PM
Geez (to borrow an expression ), Faldage! It was *just a comment, unrelated to interpretation, but part of what struck me as "strangely written." I understood the sentence fine. Really. Next time I'll make the implicit explicit and say, "This is not exactly on point, but...I'm going to say it anyway!"
Posted By: Faldage Re: Gunplay - 07/19/06 06:16 PM
Wull ... Except it wasn't the sheriff that was off duty. They said it because the deputy, the guy who shot at the robbers, that'd be the robbers who had taken his (the deputy's) wallet and who had held up the store at gunpoint, the deputy was off duty. And it's important to mention that he was off duty because that meant he was probably not in uniform when they (the robbers) took his wallet (but not, apparently, his gun).
Posted By: Aramis Re: Gunplay - 07/19/06 08:03 PM
Some solipsistic hack probably made up the part about it being the sheriff who was off-duty anyway.
Posted By: Aramis Re: Gunplay - 07/21/06 12:51 PM
What if one were to receive a notice for a Silent Cake Auction? He may answer, "I was really rather in the mood for a loud cake, but thanks just the same."
Posted By: QAGeek Re: Gunplay - 07/21/06 02:17 PM
Jay Leno frequently runs similar types of "abiguous statements" past his Tonight Show audience on Monday nights (the segment is known as "Headlines"). I'm getting better at spotting them right away thanks to my weekly 'practice'!
Posted By: wofahulicodoc misplaced modifiers - 07/22/06 05:35 PM
Surely you recall "the man who owned the lumber mill's daughter..."? That one's even older than I am!
Posted By: FNAWrite Re: Gunplay - 08/09/06 05:27 PM
I don't do much diagramming anymore. Is that why I fail to see any ambiguity here? It seems plain to me that the subject shot at an object who had done A and B. It also seems, as someone else has noted, that it would take very convoluted thinking to read it in any other way.

I read a headline at Crime Library's Daily Crime News within the last wek or so "Boyfriend fingers prostitute". Now that's ambiguous. Or is it ambidextrous?
Posted By: Faldage Re: Gunplay - 08/09/06 09:38 PM
The deputy shot at the robbers. That much is clear even to those who would strain at gnats. The problem seems to be that some sre unsure whether it was the sheriff or the deputy that was off duty and whether it was the robbers or the deputy that held up the store at gunpoint. But I agree with you that it takes some real twisting and turning to misunderstand the sentence.

And welcome aBoard.
© Wordsmith.org