The worst sentence ever written

My new favourite blog wants to know can you find an instance of a worse sentence in a published novel than this?

“Like the wolf he was named for was he, he realized, for his life was solitary above all else.”

I didn’t do the Davina McCall building-up-to-it, pausing-for-a-quarter-of-an-hour business because they’ve already done that on their site, and besides, I don’t think it’s the funniest sentence on the site. Anyway, it’s from a novel called Unicorn Vengeance by Claire Delacroix (Harlequin Historical, 1995 – in case you want a copy).

So first things first. What a dustbin-dwelling freakshow of a sentence. It’s got syntactical dyspepsia and rhythmical rickets. “Like the wolf he was named for was he…” It sounds like a psychotic child playing boggle in a blender. But in the unspecified past.

And… and… as well as being tortuous, bonkers and weirdly portentous of nothing, it manages to be disappointing too. How can you begin a sentence with the words “Like the wolf,” and then not pay off with “Like the wolf he was named for was he, for he was hungry?”

So, the challenge: Crap Archivist challenges us to to find a worse sentence in a published novel. Let’s see what we can drum up shall we? To Google Books. It never lets you down (except when they do that cutting of the page at the crucial point thing – which, incidentally I placate myself about, by always imagining that the very first censored word is “hermaphrodite”).

Actually challenge failed. A cursory search has turned up more that’s funny than bad on the “Like the wolf he was named for was he” scale. All my examples seemed all to come out of the romance/erotic tradition. Here’s a couple of the sillier.

“Now, about that ravishing,” she drawled.     -from Highland Savage by Hannah Howard (Zebra, 2007).

The next one needs a bit of context. It comes after a page or two of cunnilingus which is described graphically in every detail except that the woman’s vagina is consistently called “her sex”. Anyway, at the end of it, the man says,

“Indeed, your highness. I believe I have earned a spot in your bed this night.”     -from (the brilliantly named) Animal Lust by Lucy Danes (Aphrodesia, 2008).

And finally, as promised the sentence from Unicorn Vengeance which, made me gnaw the inside of my cheeks with laughter. It’s not technically as bad as “Like the wolf he was named for…” but on the (apparently) developing theme of this blog post:

“Well did Wolfram intend to satisfy both their desires this evening. Mayhap over and over the whole night through.”

Mayhap indeed. Lucky unicorn.

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~ by David Thorley on January 19, 2011.

7 Responses to “The worst sentence ever written”

  1. It’s not on Google books, but my best day at Chambers ever was finding “The tightness of his trousers clung to the bulge of his sex” in The French Odalisque.

  2. The best mixed metaphor I found was in a book called Horrotica by David Edward Collier, which goes, “His manhood flinches like a floundering fish out of water. He is about to go over the top and blow his lid.” Can anyone find one that isn’t about manhoods ravishing, or tight trousers?

  3. I reckon this one from the Mail this week has to be taken into consideration:

    “Isn’t it interesting that you can snatch a young woman’s life away from her in the most violent, painful, frightening way possible, take away her future children, her future Christmases, take away everything she loves, and yet there are elaborate systems in place to ensure you do not cross a bridge for only 30 pence?”

    • Um, that’s certainly the most bonkers of all the sentences. Aside from the fact that it seems to imply that murdering women is legal (as opposed to not paying a bridge toll, I presume), I like that it seems to think that people who kill women, in doing so, also steal Christmas, like violent misogynistic Grinches.

  4. It’s good isn’t it. The whole article is well worth a read if you haven’t already. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1347621/Joanna-Yeates-murder-Becoming-just-thumbnail-police-website.html

    • Can I just say what makes that bit of the article even better? Liz Jones not only throws in 30p but also “a White Company button”.

      I think she is amazing.

  5. How about this from bestselling author Terry Goodkind’s book Soul of the Fire. Not so much a sentence as an entire sequence and idea that is so bad it demands to be read. Enjoy!

    “Hissing, hackles lifting, the chicken’s head rose. Kahlan pulled back. Its claws digging into stiff dead flesh, the chicken slowly turned to face her. It cocked its head, making its comb flop, its wattles sway.
    “Shoo,” Kahlan heard herself whisper. There wasn’t enough light, and besides, the side of its beak was covered with gore, so she couldn’t tell if it had the dark spot, But she didn’t need to see it.
    “Dear spirits, help me,” she prayed under her breath.
    The bird let out a slow chicken cackle. It sounded like a chicken, but in her heart she knew it wasn’t. In that instant, she completely understood the concept of a chicken that was not a chicken. This looked like a chicken, like most of the Mud People’s chickens. But this was no chicken. This was evil manifest.”

    And yeah I think that book can be found on Amazon if you want a copy…

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