Earlier today, one of my sisters posted a semantically interesting message on Facebook. Her daughter had outgrown a pair of ice skates, so my sister was looking for someone who could use them. So she asked whether anyone could use “a pair of white girl’s size 13 ice skates.”
Of course, she meant that the skates are white, not that the skates are more suitable for one ethnic group than another. Still, I was reminded me of a little lesson in English linguistics: readers tend to think that a modifier modifies the first following word that it can modify. In this instance, moving “white” closer to “ice skates” clarifies the message. So, can anyone out there use a pair of girl’s white ice skates, size 13?