May 4, 2018

A sentence to diagram.

"The left’s increasing zeal to transform prostitution into legalized and regulated 'sex work' will have this end implicitly in mind, the libertarian (and general male) fascination with virtual-reality porn and sex robots will increase as those technologies improve — and at a certain point, without anyone formally debating the idea of a right to sex, right-thinking people will simply come to agree that some such right exists, and that it makes sense to look to some combination of changed laws, new technologies and evolved mores to fulfill it."

That 88-word sentence is from "The Redistribution of Sex" by Ross Douthat (NYT). And "this end" refers to addressing "the unhappiness of incels, be they angry and dangerous or simply depressed and despairing."

I came out in favor of sex robots last July, here.

Anyway, I think it's an interesting sentence to try to diagram.

For a much better experience — I called it "orgasmic" — in diagramming a sentence, look back to this January 2013 post that took on "When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air."

26 comments:

Darrell said...

Get used it it ladies.
Better servo motors, lidar rangefinders, effectors, and microcontrollers are going to produce the hard-ons of tomorrow.
You and your wily ways have been made redundant.

Ann Althouse said...

You and your willie ways.

holdfast said...

You want your food stamps? Obamacare subsidies?

Put on some chapstick and lace on your best kneepads sweetie. We’ve got a Sillicon Valley full of lonely, frustrated nerds.

The Bergall said...

Icels?

Now why does the name Moe" Szyslak come to mind?

Darrell said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NM6I-pmV0RA

Little Willy Willy won't go home.

Rabel said...

"Anyway, I think it's an interesting sentence to try to diagram."

I don't think his dash is proper. Useful for for dramatic effect - but not good grammar.

Sarah from VA said...

I think the problem is his first comma needs to be a semicolon. I see clearly here three sentences. The dash solves the problem with the last one, showing how he's drawing the conclusion, but the first two need to be separated by more than a comma.

buwaya said...

Re incels - the French Army had a very effective solution -

Bordel militaire de campagne

buwaya said...

The Third World will, for a time, provide effective competition for sexbots.

Ouled Naïl

The Ouled Naïl women were traditionally the preferred personnel of the Bordels militaires. I suspect they are still available.

rcocean said...

The difference is Ross Donut is writing non-fiction in a newspaper column. Fitzgerald was writing prose-poetry in the Great Gatsby.

As for his point, what is it? That we'll all agree - down the road - that people can have sex with robots?

I thought we had already agreed to that. What does legalized prostitution have to do with it?

buwaya said...

Perhaps Google and Apple and the like would benefit and thus arrange for periodic visits of a BMC.

Seeing Red said...

General welfare has taken in a whole new meaning. How long before the taxpayer will be required to provide a sex robot for those who can’t afgird one?

Seeing Red said...

Affird

mandrewa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mandrewa said...

"The left’s increasing zeal to transform prostitution into legalized and regulated 'sex work' will have this end implicitly in mind, the libertarian (and general male) fascination with virtual-reality porn and sex robots will increase as those technologies improve — and at a certain point, without anyone formally debating the idea of a right to sex, right-thinking people will simply come to agree that some such right exists, and that it makes sense to look to some combination of changed laws, new technologies and evolved mores to fulfill it."

It's been a while, but I don't think this is a well-formed sentence. It's not grammatically correct.

Now to prove it.

First I'll separate out some of the easy stuff.

The left’s increasing zeal to transform prostitution into legalized and regulated 'sex work' Okay, that's a noun phrase. Yes, it has an infinitive with a subject, etc., but it's still a noun phrase. Nothing irregular about it.

it makes sense to look to some combination of changed laws, new technologies and evolved mores to fulfill it That's a clause. Nothing wrong with it.

right-thinking people will simply come to agree that some such right exists,. That's another clause, and it has another clause as part of it. Nothing wrong with them.

the libertarian (and general male) fascination with virtual-reality porn and sex robots will increase as those technologies improve Another clause with another clause inside. Nothing wrong with them.

The hyphen. Sometimes when you see an unpaired hyphen it means the author knows they are being ungrammatical and they are trying to hide it. But that's not what's going on here. There's nothing wrong with it. A comma could replace it.

So, that much was easy. Now for some substitutions to make it a little clearer.

[noun phrase] will have this end implicitly in mind, [clause] — and at a certain point, without anyone formally debating the idea of a right to sex, [clause], and that [clause].

I'm trying to remember the proper terminology, but and at a certain point, without anyone formally debating the idea of a right to sex, is just a modifier for the two clauses that are joined together with and that, so it's that's all one big clause and there's nothing wrong with it.

Ok. So, we are down to [noun phrase] will have this end implicitly in mind, [clause], [clause]. and notice I also replaced the hyphen with a comma as that's the functional role of the hyphen in this sentence.

And I'm thinking that [noun phrase] will have this end implicitly in mind is actually grammatically okay even though it doesn't seem to make sense, because there's probably some sentences before that, which give the context so it does make sense. Meaning is somewhat independent of grammar. To say something is grammatically correct doesn't mean it has to make sense.

So now what do we have. [clause], [clause], [clause]

And that is what makes this ungrammatical. It's a comma splice! This is not one of those special poetic situations where it's kind of considered okay to join clauses with commas.

This is just plain bad English. It's a mistake. And backing up, yes, I do think the hyphen represented some kind of awareness that he was doing it wrong, and was trying to hide it.

mandrewa said...

So why is a comma-splice wrong?

This is not just some rule he broke. This is actually seriously bad English.

Why?

Because to understand what's being said, and what is meant, we need to know what the clauses are. This is so important that there are a lot of clues in English that mark where clauses begin and end.

And in fact the comma is one of them. One of the common roles of a comma is to say that the clause does not end here. That's part of what a comma means. It's intended to help us identify clauses.

So he is making it excessively difficult for people to follow what he means by putting commas at the end of clauses where the comma means that this is not the end of the clause.

Now here is a famous example where a comma splice is okay.

He came, he saw, he conquered.

Now what makes that okay is that this is so simple that no one has any trouble identifying the clauses despite the misuse of the comma.

To do that sort of thing in a complicated sentence?! There's nothing cool about that. It just means the writer is incompetent.

Ralph L said...

will have this end implicitly in mind

If "this end" is the "right to sex" brought up much later, it's a poorly arranged sentence.

If it's just spread ass cheeks, it's AOK.

Funny that Althouse would post this about incels on a Friday night.

China needs sex robots more than the Japanese.

Unknown said...

China needs sex robots more than the Japanese.

Now there's a questionable sentence.

Yancey Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yancey Ward said...

"Robert was cranky after returning from his weekly meeting at I.A. The meeting, held in the storage room of the local comic book store, always left him a bit angry- the younger meeting participants had a way of vanishing all of a sudden following a trip to Vegas, and this left 43 year old Robert and handful of other men over the age of 35 to bitch and complain about the bitches they couldn't talk into having a one night stand. Robert look angrily at the Lisatronic 1000, remembering the excitement he felt the day he opened the big box from Amazon that had been left on his porch 3 years ago this very night, but the Lisatronic's orifices had been sealed shut since 2 years 11 months and 30 days when Robert first learned the adhesive properties of semen rivaled those of Krazy Glue. Also, it was a dark and stormy night."

Ralph L said...

China needs sex robots more than the Japanese do.
China needs more sex robots than the Japanese do.
Both true.

Don't know if China would rather have sex with robots than with the Japanese, but presumably, trade with Japan is more important to China than China's need for sex robots.

Hope I've clarified my sloppy sentence.

Bad Lieutenant said...

I came out in favor of sex robots last July, here.


Then you're a fool. The only way you could compete would be to sever your vocal cords.

William Chadwick said...

: . . . the libertarian . . . fascination with virtual-reality porn and sex robots. . . "

I'd like to know what data he has to back that up.

DEEBEE said...

1984 of course did not happen in 1984 but is a slow rolling dysphasia. And ‘Soma” for the deltas is turning out to be sex. Welcome to the ....

Bad Lieutenant said...

Pot seems to suffice as a soma analogue.

gearweasle said...

One of my sentences to diagram is the second one of a four sentence document as recorded in an old pamphlet.

"We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc., Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience."

Certainly don't write 'em like that anymore.