|Source: New Yorker Magazine|
For example, Mitt Romney remarked during the presidential debate that at one time his staff brought him "binders full of women."
President Obama, speaking in Tampa, Florida, told his audience that "the Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries."
Understanding the pressures of public life, we give most verbal gaffes by public figures a pass. However, an armchair pendant can't help but mentally insert the word or words needed to put such blunders to bed.
From Beginnings of Rhetoric and Composition, by Adams Hill:
Clarity as affected by number of words
A sentence may be deficient in clearness either because it contains too many words or because it contains too few. Since, however, the presence of unnecessary words is chiefly an offense against force, faults of this class need not be considered here.
Too Few Words or Phrases
The omission of a word or a phrase is often a cause of obscurity:
A: I'll get a prescription to shampoo the dog with.
B: I'll get a prescription for flea shampoo to shampoo the dog with.
The author of Sentence A did not mean that the dog was to be shampooed with a prescription, but that is what he said.
A: He rarely used the elevator till toward the end.
B: He rarely used the elevator till toward the end of his life.
To fix the meaning of "end," it is necessary to insert additional words.
A: There is a difference between the duties of a native and a stranger
B: There is a difference between the duties of a native and those of a stranger.
The omission of "those of" makes Sentence A obscure.
A: With all his exuberance of spirits, he was far from the ladies' man the world imagined.
B: With all his exuberance of spirits, he was far from being the ladies' man the world imagined.
Sentences A is susceptible of two interpretations, — an ambiguity which is removed by the insertion of "being."
A: He finally left the car and the suspicious-looking white package on the seat.
B: He finally got out of the car and left the suspicious-looking white package on the seat.
The author of Sentence A does not mean to say that "he" left the car on the seat: he uses "left" in two senses.
A: They careened around the corner to where the road dives under the railway track, and stopped.
B: They careened around the corner to the place where the road dives under the railway track, and there they stopped.
A first glance at Sentence A might lead one to think that the road stopped under the railway track.