Mark Liberman at Language Log has a post about an interesting problem of interpretation. He quotes Bill Clement on the cancellation of the NHL season: “It is such a day of squander and a day of waste that anybody involved in both sides should be ashamed of who they are right now.” After establishing that squander is a valid, if infrequent, noun, he points out the strange (to him and to me, anyway) use of “anybody involved in both sides”:
When he says “anybody involved in both sides”, Clement clearly means that all the participants, regardless of which side they’re on, should be ashamed of their fatal unwillingness to compromise. He’s not slamming fence-sitters or double agents — he’s not even suggesting that any members of these categories exist. The negotiation between the NHL owners and the players’ union has been a polarizing dispute, and if there is any individual who’s consequentially involved with both sides at once, he’s keeping a low profile.
However, when I read this, I first interpreted “anybody involved on [sic; Clement said “in”] both sides” as referring to people with split allegiance.
So the question is, did Clement make a mistake in saying this? Or did I make a mistake in understanding it? Or do we speak slightly different dialects of English?
I have the same reaction as Mark, but clearly some people use the construction unselfconsciously—see his post for examples found by googling. So, how do you all feel about this? Does the quoted usage seem wrong, borderline, or perfectly OK?