A correspondent writes:
Watched the lunchtime news, it veers between positivity and warnings that leaves the head spinning and the heart pumping. In that last sentence, should it be ‘leave’ or ‘leaves’. I had ‘leaves’ because it is the veering that is troubling.
Among the things I treasure in this person is the manifest willingness to reflect on language and good style even in casual communication. “Veering” would indeed accommodate “leaves,” whereas a slight tweak can fix things: “Watched the lunchtime news, which veers between positivity and warnings, and leaves the head spinning and the heart pumping.”
I envisage friend and self as part of a cohort of grammar-wonks holding the line against encroaching babble. And poets are the aristoi of anti-babblists among us; those worthy of the title are as intimately acquainted with their language’s movement as a horologist is with a timekeeper’s. Or should be.
“At fifteen her father died from cancer and she was suddenly plunged into a loneliness neither wilderness nor sex could alleviate.” (Jeffrey Yang, “Mary Oppen, Meaning a Life,” Poetry, February 2020).
“At fifteen” is a dangling modifier. The father didn’t die at fifteen; he died when his daughter was fifteen. Of course the context sorts it, but it’s still a technical foul of the sort a poet would shun.
In summary then, this manifestoid pledges allegiance to the undersung souls who battle infected speech worldwide. They agree that social media distancing, along with avoidance of persons who start sentences with “so,” are critical behaviors for staying safe from contagion.
(c) 2020 JMN