Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mutant ness monster

Keeping with the ultra twityness of the parsing of "parsing" below, I note that Josh Marshall generated a very unusual ness monster* here

"Now, sometimes spinning campaigns come up with phrases that are so heavy-handedness and tendentious that it's just ridiculous"

It is unusual since the "ness" is clearly grammatically incorrect.

I think what happened is that Marshall generated a normal ness monster and then created the mutant nessie when trying to slay the normal one.

That is I suspect he wrote ""Now, sometimes spinning campaigns come up with phrases of such heavy-handedness and tendentiousness that it's just ridiculous"

Then thought something like "uh oh what if tendentiousness gets labled a ness monster. Ok so 'tendency' uhm no, even if that still has a second or third definition as the sort of thing that is by definition tendentious no one will understand and anyone who does will think I'm a pretentious twit. Better rewrite the sentence and lop off the ness."

Notice in his thoughts he forgot the other ness.

* I was just googling for the definition of "ness monster". I was delighted to find that the Monster was sighted in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"

In Chapter 2 of the Decline and Fall, Gibbon refers to the "ferociousness" of some of the barbarians whom Rome confronted. That still seems to me like a much inferior expression to "ferocity" -- say them both aloud, and decide for yourself which sounds scarier -- but if the test of a language is how it is written by those who write it best, I can't really deny that Gibbon has more authority than Kleiman.

I've done the experiment and Gibbon wins. To me "ferociousness" sounds much fiercer than "ferocity." No surprise. Kleiman might wish, but can hardly hope, that he writes better than Gibbon. or should it be "Kleiman might wish, but can hardly hope, that he write better than Gibbon" ?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I vote for ferocity/ferocious/fierce. The ness monster, to me, indicates an idea that there could be soft graduations of ferocity/ferocious/fierce. Besides they are shorter words and the "ness" sounds "french".
Anyway, I read about Bear Stearns bailout and now I am really pissed off at Barack Obama/H. Clinton/Chappaquiddik.
Thanks for the fun with words.