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Here is a sentence from an article by The Economist that talks about the Saudi revolution that has recently allowed women to drive:

A more normal Saudi Arabia should moderate the Islamic world, by example and because the flow of petrodollars to zealots would slow.

The sentence structure bothers me, especially the "by example" part and the comma that precedes it. At first, I thought "by example" is some sort of a bizarre phrase that somehow makes the sentence grammatical; after googling, I am inclined to say the sentence is a mistake. Or is it not?

How should I interpret the sentence?

Thank you.

  • I think the cited text is an example of zeugma / syllepsis. What we have here is two statements - Saudi Arabia should moderate the Islamic world by example, and Saudi Arabia should moderate the Islamic world because the flow of petrodollars to zealots would slow. Those two highlighted clauses have different syntactic roles, which makes it inherently clumsy to join the two by and. It's not so bad as, say, John and his driving licence expired last week, but it's not good. – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '18 at 15:31
  • In case it's not obvious, I think the comma should come after example, not world. But as I said, it's not good even if the orthography is "fixed". An alternative "fix" would be to discard the word and. – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '18 at 15:32
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I seems like it might have been translated. “More normal” seems redundant. I believe it should read: “Islamic world by example, and cause the flow of petrodollars to zealots to slow.”

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