Take this question out back

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According to Richard Lederer (Anguished English, 1989, p. 29), a lawyer in a courtroom once asked this question:

When he went, had you gone, and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?

And at that point the opposing attorney, a Mr. Brooks, rose to say:

Objection: That question should be taken out and shot.

As far as I can see, though, the question is syntactically perfect and semantically coherent. You do need to interpret "and had she" elliptically, as meaning "and had she gone"; and you need to forgive the hypercorrection nominative in "you and she" (most standard English speakers would say "you and her" — thanks Simon Cauchi for pointing that out), but those are really the only things that might mislead. Except, of course, for the (decidedly) high density of parenthetical adjuncts (I hate that hesitant style, constantly interrupting itself — modifying, or qualifying, itself — the way I'm doing, as an expository device, right now) that it, regrettably (I would say), exhibits throughout.

I don't know why I pointed it out to you, except that the sentence just happened to catch my eye today, and gave me a private giggle, and I guess I thought, you work hard all week and do educational reading on Language Log in the limited spare time that you have, and you deserve a giggle.

Also deserving of a giggle is my skeptical dad and my excellent brother Richard. Dad is 88 today: happy birthday, dad. Richard and I have bought him the ride-on lawnmower that his back garden has needed for some time, and Richard did the long drive from Surrey to Buckinghamshire to pick it up. Dad and Richard are working right now (out back where we take questions that need to be shot) to try and get it started. Then it will be time for a test drive.

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