The lead sentence of a front-page article in yesterday's New York Times had a final clause that was seriously misprocessed by a majority of readers in our household:

The United States military is facing the gravest accusations of sexual misconduct in years, with dozens of servicewomen in the Persian Gulf area and elsewhere saying they were sexually assaulted or raped by fellow troops, lawmakers and victims advocates said on Wednesday.

It's a tragic topic — and it's also a tragic sign of the times when one's mental language-processing software automatically assumes that lawmakers are potential rapists, and that the phrase "... fellow troops, lawmakers and ..." is most probably the beginning of a list of perps ...

(see also AchieveNewBalance (17 Jul 2002), MaryLandersForMathias (25 Aug 2002), CloseToThePin (5 Jan 2004), OxfordCommas (25 Jan 2004), ... )

TopicLanguage - TopicSociety - 2004-02-27

(correlates: SconesAndCrumpets, High Voltage Fiberoptic Cable, DisAvowal, ...)