I was reading this article about jokes on 30 Rock. A sentence seemed strange to me, and I had to reread a few times. They are talking about a writer, Robert Carlock, writing jokes for a character, Dr. Spaceman:

Robert Carlock, in particular, is the Spaceman expert. Most of the jokes for him, as this one did, come from him.

So, the antecedents are in the first sentence, and the pronouns are in the second. From the context you can figure out that the first him is referring to Spaceman, and the 2nd him is referring to Carlock. The sentence just seems very awkward. Is it grammatically correct? Could there be a more clear way to have written it?

1 Answer 1


This pronoun-antecedent relationship is studied under the umbrella of anaphora.

Wikipedia describes it thusly:

"In linguistics, anaphora /əˈnæfərə/ is the use of an expression the interpretation of which depends upon another expression in context (its antecedent or postcedent)." - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

There is always some ambiguity introduced with the presence of two or more antecedents. The sentence is not ungrammatical as such, but it is quite a load on the brain to understand and should be cleared up.

The greatest clarification (keeping the current form) would be achieved by repetition of the antecedent, which is usually awkward. I would have combined the sentences into a more singular thought -- something like this:

"Robert Carlock, in particular, is the Spaceman expert; as a result, most of Carlock's jokes, like this one, are borrowed from Spaceman."

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    This has a different meaning from the analysis offered by OP. May 4, 2015 at 6:47
  • Thanks, @EdwinAshworth. Are you referring to my proposed rewriting of the sentence or my assessment of the devices and grammaticality of the original text? Further, could you explain, so that I am aware of the error? May 4, 2015 at 10:51
  • 1
    'most of Carlock's jokes, like this one, are borrowed from Spaceman.' means that that's where Carlock gets most of his jokes from. But OP interprets 'Most of the jokes for Spaceman, as this one d[oes], come from [are written/authored by] Carlock.' May 4, 2015 at 13:23

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