May 17, 2006


Even A.O. Scott takes time in his review of the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code to bash Dan Brown's prose, starting from the very first paragraph:

"The Da Vinci Code," Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence, arrives trailing more than its share of theological and historical disputation.

No, he's not about to "borrow" from some of Geoff's posts, but the two obvious digs may be interesting to Language Log readers nonetheless.

(Full disclosure: I haven't read any of Dan Brown's books nor have I seen the movie, and I don't plan to, thanks in no small part to Geoff and A.O. Scott. Consequently, I may have missed other more subtle digs in Scott's review.)

First, there's this curious comment about a pied-piped preposition (emphasis added):

To their credit, the director and his screenwriter [...] have streamlined Mr. Brown's story and refrained from trying to capture his, um, prose style. "Almost inconceivably, the gun into which she was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino with long white hair." Such language – note the exquisite "almost" and the fastidious tucking of the "which" after the preposition – can only live on the page.

Since the comparison is with the following alternative phrasing, isn't it the preposition "into" which is fastidiously tucked before the wh-word "which", rather than the other way around?

the gun which she was now staring into

Of course, this rephrasing makes the "which" unnecessary; it could be replaced by "that" or (better) omitted altogether, so I can almost see why Scott says what he says about the original. But still.

The second dig is very Pullum-esque: Scott takes the "almost inconceivably" bit that he has already shown his distaste for and incorporates it into the first sentence of his outline of the movie plot:

[A]n old man (Jean-Pierre Marielle) is killed after hours in the Louvre, shot in the stomach, almost inconceivably, by a hooded assailant.

Maybe Scott ripped Geoff off after all? Inconceivable!

[ Comments? ]

Posted by Eric Bakovic at May 17, 2006 06:54 PM