Topic: misrelated ‘as a/ the’ (meaning ‘in the capacity of’)
“We are common,” opined Nartay, my urbane Kazakhstani pupil, who had recently replaced Chen, now back in Beijing.
I was not entirely sure how to react to this unexpected insult from the young man, who had, so far, comported himself with great courtesy. “Are we, Nartay? Well, I might be, but you are … you seem … poised.”
“No, no, I am assuring you I am not!”
The vehemence of Nartay’s protest suggested that all not was well in the comprehension department. As I was about to probe, Nartay volunteered an elucidation on the point in question.
“I am feeling well. Your food is superlative; I very much like.”
“No, no, Nartay, I didn’t mean poisoned. Poised means suave – the opposite of common.”
“But she is calling you.”
“The red lady with the tattoo.”
“Oh, you mean Waverley; we say red-head.”
“Red-head,” nodded Nartay. “Red-head is calling you Hun. We had Huns – in our empire. So we are common.”
“Ha, ha, ha! She … she … ha, ha, ha! … she didn’t mean the Empire of the Huns, Nartay. I very much doubt if she knows what the Emp … oh, never mind, what I’m trying to say is that she wasn’t implying I’m descendent from the Huns.”
“No, she calls me ‘hon’ – for honey.” Even though he had been staying with me for only two days, Nartay had already witnessed one of my frequent confabulations with Waverley, to which he must have paid careful attention. “But what has made you bring this up, Nartay?”
“Camilla. It is a superlative name for a prince. Near as good as Attila – Attila the Hun.”
“Nearly. But Camilla isn’t used for males, Nartay.”
“It must: I am understanding that Prince of Wales is called Camilla.”
“No, he isn’t, Nartay. It’s his wife whose name is Camilla; he is Charles.”
“But this was on television.”
We had indeed been watching Channel 4, but, an attentive hostess that I am, I had popped into the kitchen to organise the evening’s fifth cup of tea for Nartay, whose capacity for the drink seemed limitless. “So what did they say, Nartay?”
As Prince of Wales, Camilla is helping Charles.
“Oh, this; it’s a classic.”
“He must: he is a prince.”
“No, no, Nartay, I didn’t mean classy: it’s a classic blunder – it’s practically everywhere. What they were trying to say is this.”
As Prince of Wales, Charles is helped by Camilla.
“So how … so … so why …?”
“Because they can’t tell their subject from their object – evidently. You see, many people don’t realise that the initial ‘as’ meaning ‘in the capacity of’ always relates to the subject – always. But you’ve interpreted the grammar correctly because, in the sentence you quoted, Camilla was the subject, so well done.”
Nartay’s face brightened. “Raxmet – thank you.”
“I call this blunder ‘the marketing as’ because it’s extremely common in marketing literature – particularly letters.”
“I am working in marketing.”
“I know, I know.” Naturally, one of my rules of engagement with the students Waverley sends my way is to enquire into their background – albeit without appearing overly intrusive. So I was well aware that Nartay was working as a marketing executive in Almaty. “But I’m sure you wouldn’t write anything like this, Nartay. I remember quite a few examples; listen.”
As a valued customer, we are pleased to offer you a fantastic discount.
As an existing customer of ours, I would like you to be the first to be informed of our superb promotion.
As one of our most valued customers, here’s your own magazine.
“It’s all balderdash, but organisations keep writing stuff like this.”
“Bolder dash,” repeated Nartay in his studious manner.
“No, no, balderdash – nonsense.”
Nartay gave me a probing look, considered my proposition briefly and then nodded.
“I remember a great example from another TV programme. It was broadcast on BBC2 and was called The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler. You know about Hitler, don’t you?”
“So what do you reckon?”
As a mother of eight, the Fuhrer awarded me the Cross of Honour.
Despite my earlier exegesis, Nartay’s physiognomy betrayed bewilderment. “BBC? But it is bolder dash.”
“It is indeed, Nartay; it’s balderdash. But they just don’t realise what they are saying. What they meant was this, of course.”
As a mother of eight, I was awarded the Cross of Honour by the Fuhrer.
“I’ll give you one more example. It’s from The Sunday Times; they were writing about who would attend the memorial service for Princess Diana in 2007. She was Prince Charles’s first wife – before Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.”
But as the person blamed by Diana for breaking up her marriage to Prince Charles, the Queen fears that all eyes would be on the duchess.
“They are blaming the Queen? Blaming rulers is bad manners.” I didn’t call Nartay suave for nothing, did I?
“No, no, they didn’t mean it; I’ve told you. What they were trying to say is this.”
But as the person blamed by Diana for breaking up her marriage to Prince Charles, the duchess would, the Queen fears, attract too much attention.
“Actually, Nartay, people misrelate all sorts of constructions; this happens all over the place. Misrelated ‘as’ represents a type of misattachment similar to that seen in dangling participles and misrelated adjectives. I covered them with Chen; she couldn’t believe it either – that educated people would come up with such bal-der-dash. I’ll give you a few examples tomorrow. But I also write little ditties about the errors people make. This one is about the misrelated ‘as’.”
Just as English lang. is glorious,
So is ‘as a/ the’ notorious:
Often misrelated, tangled,
It does make the sentence mangled.
“Thank you, Nartay.”
Other posts on related topics:
Post 3: Hangings in the British media (on misrelated participles)
Post 4: An astonishing revelation about British MPs (on misrelated adjectives)