Monday, January 19, 2009

This blog believed read, I say

If you're anything like me, you may have had a bit of trouble interpreting the title of this post to reflect my belief that people read this blog. I modelled this odd phrasing after a headline that caught my eye the other day, about the pilot of a plane who bailed out in Florida after falsely stating that his plane was crashing: "Mystery pilot believed found, authorities say". I think the problem here is some kind of collapsed double passive construction.

The original statement is something like "It is believed that the mystery pilot is found", in turn reflecting some statement on the part of authorities like "We believe we have found the mystery pilot." The first sentence, with two passives (one in the main clause and one in a subordinate clause), isn't that difficult to comprehend. But when you don't have any expletive subjects, articles, or auxiliaries, it's a bit difficult to parse.

I think another part of the difficulty is that we are loath to interpret "found" as an adjective. For me "mystery pilot believed dead" isn't nearly as bad a sentence as "mystery pilot believed found". It's those two passives crammed together without any auxiliaries that does it in for me.

No comments: