Dangling Participle & Reflexive Confusion – Thank you, Wired!

UntitledThis is the opening paragraph to a piece on wired.com about the departure of Jeremy Clarkson from the BBC car / driving show Top Gear. It caught my eye initially because of the himself; the extraneous reflexive is a common error among the wannabe litterati because, as with many grammar mistakes, it sounds to them more dignified (when in reality it is, of course, plain wrong).

I paused, however, because, although it sounded incorrect, its placement in the initial clause, i.e. before the subject which it was reflecting, might have made it only incorrect sounding. The M-dash aside further complicates things because he, the subject on which himself is reflecting, is in fact the subject of that clause’s verb (screamed).

But the subject of the full sentence is departure, which not only renders the reflexive incorrect but also renders fired a dangling participle. If you take the M-dash aside as well as some of the details out, the sentence reads ‘Effectively fired because of a fracas between himself and a producer, Clarkson’s departure leaves a void.’ The departure, as far as I can tell, was not actually fired nor was the fracas between the departure and a producer.

(And for those of you keeping track at home, the sentence before the highlighted one also has a misplaced modifier: the BBC was not at the helm of Top Gear for 22 years, despite what the grammar would have you believe.)

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