Wednesday, May 12, 2010

He Followed Me Home...Can I Keep Him?

The SPCA, in a shameless attempt to cause civil unrest in my home, has sent my daughter, Abby, a 4-color bi-fold brochure on the joys of guinea pig ownership. That's what you get when you let your kid make contributions toward funding the reproductive mutilation of furry critters at Bob Barker's urging. Abby's donations earned her a spot on the organization's propaganda mailing list, hence the guinea pig promotion, which features this historical tidbit:
A few hundred years ago when European explorers traveled to South America, they returned home with guinea pigs. Because of their affectionate nature, they soon became popular pets in both Europe and North America.
When it comes to creating unintentional humor, the ambiguous antecedent is second only to the dangling participle in its capacity to pull the pin on a linguistic grenade. In this case, because the subject of the first sentence is "European explorers," the reader is led to assume that those same explorers constitute the "they" of the succeeding sentence, and, for a moment at least, is treated to the image of an intrepid (but affectionate) seafaring adventurer being kept in a sawdust-strewn habitat for the amusement of children and eccentric adults.