Monday, June 2, 2008

Grammatical humor

One of the pleasures of rereading Patrick O’Brian is that the Aubrey-Maturin novels become funnier as you become attuned to O’Brian’s understated sense of humor. Much of the humor is in the dialogue (pay particular attention to the pauses), but by no means all. This passage (p. 195 of Master and Commander) made me wonder if O’Brian was lectured as a child about ending a sentence with a preposition. Captain Aubrey is speaking to some midshipmen who have been doing poorly on their navigation homework:

‘You can write decently, I suppose? Otherwise you must go to school to the clerk.’ They hoped so, sir, they were sure; they should do their best. But he did not seem convinced and desired them to sit down on that locker, take those pens and these sheets of paper, to pass him yonder book, which would answer admirably for them to be read to out of from.

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