An amphiboly about amphibians

I have only been to CalTech once, and Pasadena is admittedly not quite Los Angeles… although they were pretty close from the perspective of my still-East-Coast eyes at the time of that visit. I’m sure no one is really waiting with bated breath, but I warn you now of a future rant on the meaning of “place.” I digress.

While wandering the campus, I sat for a while near a small pond filled with frogs. Actually, the frogs were a nice addition to the campus, with maintenance people returning them to the pond from various nearby buildings. Aside from the pleasant scene, what caught my eye was a sign at the edge of the pond:

“Please do not feed or remove animals from pond”

In some sense, a reasonable and commonplace enough request. On closer mental inspection it struck me how odd it was. In particular, it is a lovely case of a turn of classical rhetoric: amphiboly. About… well, amphibians.

There’s little in life I like more than alliteration.

5 Replies to “An amphiboly about amphibians”

  1. I think it refers to the interpretation “Please don’t get in the pond and feed the animals from there.”

  2. eclipse292e has a nice interpretation! What I had in mind was the ambiguity of the word ‘from’ as pertaining to frogs. That is, the frogs are ‘from’ the pond in the sense they live there (and were probably born there). But the prohibited removal uses ‘from’ as motion out of a place (thither, a word one doesn’t hear enough anymore). The one ‘from’ is forced into double duty across two of its senses. I wonder if the engineers were making a joke or a mistake.

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