Premodifier, postmodifier

On Facebook today, Jeff Shaumeyer unloaded a variety of linguistic oddities that had come past him recently. Including this challenge to language processing:

True Blood Actor Denis O’Hare Marries Partner Hugo Redwood

Former Vampire King of Mississippi Russell Edgington portrayer Denis O’Hare married his partner, interior designer Hugo Redwood yesterday in New York. (link)

Thank goodness for the headline. Otherwise, as Shaumeyer observes, the sentence approaches crash blossom proportions.

This gives us a premodifier of Russell Edgington:

Vampire King of Mississippi ‘who is the Vampire King of Mississippi’

then has Vampire King of Mississippi Russell Edgington (awkwardly) in construction with portrayer, to give

Vampire King of Mississippi Russell Edgington portrayer ‘someone who portrayed the Vampire King of Mississippi Russell Edgington’

and then has this whole business premodifying Denis O’Hare.

Premodification of proper names is common in journalistic (and some other) writing, where it provides an alternative to longer postmodification; the cost is holding off the head of the NP. But premodification inside premodification is going too far.

Here’s another, better, version, with modest premodification but with most of the subsidiary information packed into a postmodifier, a non-restrictive relative:

True Blood star Denis O’Hare, who plays vampire king Russell Edgington on the hit HBO show, married his longtime boyfriend in New York City on Thursday.(link)





3 Responses to “Premodifier, postmodifier”

  1. Ken Rudolph Says:

    Um, you still need “former” to complete the original thought since O’Hare’s character has suffered the true death. […, who plays former vampire king…]

  2. happenly « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Premodifier, postmodifier […]

  3. MCB Says:

    Just be happy they didn’t say “TV’s Denis O’Hare”, a construction that has bemused me for years.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: