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This is from a Christian Science Monitor story on Nancy Pelosi's decision to stay on as House Minority Leader. The first report I saw in the Washington Post had only one questionable sentence, but this second report has two:

“Being actively involved in politics at this level is really insatiable,” Representative Pelosi said at a Wednesday press conference, flanked by her female Democratic colleagues. “There aren’t enough hours in the day for me. There’s so much more I want to do.”

Are these sentences acceptable English to most native speakers, or are they clearly errors (one misusage of an adjective and one dangling modifier)?

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closed as not constructive by Roaring Fish, tchrist, Kris, Mitch, JSBձոգչ Nov 16 '12 at 14:53

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There's really no doubt that flanked by . . . applies to Pelosi rather than the press conference, although a careful editor might have moved it to the beginning of the sentence. The choice of insatiable, however, is unfortunate. It describes something that cannot be satisfied and the structure of the sentence means that it modifies being involved. Is being involved something that can be satisfied or not satisfied? Rarely, I’d have thought. What she presumably meant was that politics itself, rather than the being involved, is insatiable in that it is extremely demanding of its practitioners’ time. A better way of expressing it might have been ‘Being actively involved in politics at this level takes an enormous amount of time.’ But which of us would like to put ourselves in the public spotlight and have our every word, however spontaneously produced, analysed in this way?

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Thank you for that last sentence especially, Barrie. It shows a great deal of maturity and perspective, something too rarely seen in public life. –  tchrist Nov 16 '12 at 8:52
    
Both you & tchrist say there's no dangling modifier. It's clear the writer meant Pelosi was "flanked by her ... colleagues", but I felt the syntax said the "press conference" was "flanked". I'd've written "said Representative Pelosi, flanked by her female Democratic colleagues at a Wednesday press conference". I'm now interested in how to determine whether a modifier is or isn't dangling. I'll do some research. I'm not criticizing Pelosi. I'm just curious about how "usage-liberal" the users here are. Spoken language is riddled with errors, I know. Mine too. –  user21497 Nov 16 '12 at 8:58
    
@tchrist: +1 I agree. I'm not being critical of Pelosi, just curious. I am criticizing the journalist, but maybe my judgment is incorrect. Maybe I'm being too pedantic. I don't know. I really want to know what all you guys [gender neutral] think about both. I can be persuaded to change my opinions. –  user21497 Nov 16 '12 at 9:02
    
@Bill Franke: It's so undangling that I didn't notice it. Dangling modifiers are more often a source of mild amusement than of misunderstanding. –  Barrie England Nov 16 '12 at 9:03
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As for Barrie's comment about scrutiny, I regard it more as a contextual issue than a public spotlight one, and I hold politicians to no greater standard than anyone else in this matter. In other words, was the statement part of a prepared speech, or uttered during some off-the-cuff remarks? If the former, then shame on the speechwriters for putting it in there, and shame on the proofreaders for not catching it. If the latter, though, then shame on the hearers for not understanding that people often make such grammatical gaffes while constructing sentences and speaking at the same time. –  J.R. Nov 16 '12 at 10:06
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