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The season of strikes seemed to have run itself to a standstill. Almost every trade and industry and calling in which a dislocation could possibly be engineered had indulged in that luxury. The last and least successful convulsion had been the strike of the World's Union of Zoological Garden attendants, who, pending the settlement of certain demands, refused to minister further to the wants of the animals committed to their charge or to allow any other keepers to take their place.

from The Unkindest Blow, a short story by Saki

Which does "in which a dislocation could possibly be engineered" modify "Almost every trade and industry and calling" or "calling"?

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Strictly speaking, it's ambiguous.

However, the most likely interpretation is that it applies elliptically to each item.

When you have a construction like this, the default assumption is that unless you explicitly state otherwise, the modifier applies to everything, not just to a single thing.


If it were meant to only apply to the last item, it would more commonly have been phrased in this way:

Almost every trade, every industry, and every calling in which a dislocation could possibly be engineered . . .

Even that is still somewhat ambiguous, but by repeating every with each item, it's at least suggesting that they are to be treated separately.

In order to make it absolutely clear, something even more explicit would have to be done:

Almost every trade, every industry, and every calling (but only those callings in which a dislocation could possibly be engineered) . . .

By making it parenthetical and qualifying it with but only those callings, it's now very obvious that it applies only to callings—and not to trades or industries.

Note, however, that the meaning could be made clearer by text that comes before or after the phrase in question. (In this case, it isn't.)


As for what's happening in this passage, it's likely, but not certain, that it's meant to apply to everything.

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