Only the lonely – lonely the only.

This week’s word is “only”—and more specifically, its placement (which can change the meaning of a sentence in unintended ways).  As with any other modifier, “only” appears next to the word or phrase modified, e.g.:

  • The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  (Translation: fear is the only thing we have to fear.)
  • The thing only we have to fear is fear itself.  (Translation:  other people might have to fear other things, but we are the only ones who have to fear … fear.)
  • The statute only pertains to Cardinals fans.  (This is unlikely to express what the author means.  It communicates that the statute only pertains, but does not have some other effect.)
  • The statute pertains only to Cardinals fans.  (This is more likely to express the author’s meaning.  It communicates that the only people the statute pertains to are Cardinals fans.)

I know this week’s message is short, but both of my teams are in the playoffs (the Red Sox and Dodgers).  So I only have time for this for now …

1 Comment

Filed under Troublesome Words

One response to “Only the lonely – lonely the only.

  1. Raia, Marilyn

    But how much longer will the dodgers be in the playoffs?

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