It may say something about me that when I read this Global Post article about Scandinavian countries' prosecution of people who mutilate the genitals of their daughters, what I found most striking was the grammar.
The article contains this sentence:
Last year, at age 19, a Swedish court convicted the mother for those illegal acts, awarding the victim record demages.
Yes, "damages" is misspelled. What actually bothered me, though, was that this sentence contains what's known as a dangling modifier. And it's a really impressive example.
Usually, as Clive James points out here, a dangling modifier is just something like "at the age of eight, his father died in an accident". This stops your reading in its tracks until you figure out that the author meant that it was the father of an eight-year-old that died, not an eight-year-old father.
The Global Post example aims at that mistake, but manages to hit an even worse one. Literally, it says the Swedish court was 19 years old. So you apply your standard Dangling Modifier Corrector and conclude that the mother was the one who was 19 when she was convicted. And then you find you have to run the sentence through the de-dangler one more time, to get the correct interpretation that it was actually the girl who was "circumcised" who was nineteen years of age when her mother was convicted.
So this isn't just the usual dangling-modifier grammatical pothole. There are bamboo spikes in the bottom of it.
(Oh, and later in the article, there's "originally from Kenya where circumcision rates affect about 32 percent of the female population", which is also quite impressively confusing. I presume it meant to say that about 32% of Kenyan women are "circumcised" - that sorta-kinda lines up with this map from the Wikipedia article on the subject. But who knows?)
I find the American enthusiasm for calling Lego "Legos" irksome, but have no argument against it as far as meaning goes. But, to pick another oft-quoted example, the slide of the word "decimate" from meaning "kill one tenth of" to meaning "kill most of" is a damaging change. A modern writer will probably intend the second meaning, but you can't be certain - and people who read a contemporary account of the life of Napoleon that contains the word will have their comprehension impeded by the change.
You can't, of course, prevent the meaning of words from drifting. Relatively slow changes like the one affecting "decimate" aren't really a problem unless a word ends up with more than one meaning at the same time, and those different meanings cannot easily be discerned from context. Prescriptivist complaints about what a word "really" means are pointless if general usage says otherwise, and it's even sillier to complain about a word gaining numerous easily-distinguished meanings. English, like most other languages, is full of words that can mean several different things, but everybody still seems to be able to use words like "set" without difficulty.
Dangling modifiers can damage the meaning of the words, but usually don't. If someone was 30 years old when his father died in an accident, you could cruise right over a dangling-modifier account of the event and end up thinking the dad died at 30. Usually, though, the error is like one of the examples currently in the Wikipedia article about dangling modifiers: "As president of the kennel club, my poodle must be well groomed." After a brief double-take, you can see what that means; you don't have to try to work it out from context.
I think I need a new category for grammar problems like this. Down, I say, with lousy writing that can only sanely be interpreted one way, but which forces the reader to decode seemingly nonsensical statements, like the kennel-club one, before they can figure out what the writer actually meant.
(Since this post is completely off the topic of the actual article that triggered it, I invite you all to get back on that topic and have a big argument in the comments about all the wonderful ways in which people chop bits off of genitals. Look, I'll start it off: "Men don't have a clitoris at all, so obviously cutting the clitoris off your little girl is a great step forward in female equality!")