Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An ambiguous phrase, and my personal encounter with a zombie

More dismaying than my ignorance of zombie culture is the willfulness of that ignorance. Nevertheless, I was entranced when I noticed that Warm Bodies is the story of R (played by Nicholas Hoult), a young and ruggedly handsome zombie who falls in love with Julie (Teresa Palmer), a comely real live woman. I was entranced. It's the romantic in me. I had to read Michael Phillips's review in the February 1, 2013, Chicago Tribune.

So why am I spilling my (as it were) guts? Partly because that's what we do in blogs, and partly because I was giving you background for this ambiguous phrase from Phillips's review. To wit,

While hunting for zombies with her boyfriend and some other pretty people, Julie is saved from being eaten by R.
So what's happening here? Is R the one who was going to eat her, or the one who saved her from being eaten? The passive voice is OK by me, but the problem here is two passive verbs ("is saved" and "being eaten") and only one "by" phrase. Some sticklers might say it's obvious that we're talking about Julie's being eaten by R, but neither in the real world nor in movie reviews are people into sticklerage, and in the context of the review either one makes sense. I mean, whatever.

This being a blog, I'll share a personal anecdote. I was once confronted by a zombie. He cut my skull open and didn't find anything satisfactory, so he sewed it back up. He was disappointed, but gracious, and he had very good manners; he acknowledged it wasn't my fault. I directed him to my workplace (if you call it work). A few days later I got a handwritten smiley-faced thank-you note from him, with a PS that said "burp. lol."