Monday Medley

What we read while exiting through the evacuation slide….

  • Speaking of defense, definitely the legal defense of the week.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Douglas on August 16, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    Re: Steven Rushin on language in sports

    You guys should investigate the fetishization of the adverb by people like Steve Rushin. I say fetishization because there’s really no reason to prefer “Live Strongly” to “Live Strong” unless you have an unusual preference for adverbs. The phrase “live strong” is really just an apposition of sorts (points to anyone who can name the actual rhetorical advice employed by that phrase–I know there is one, but I can’t recall it), in other words an imperative to “live (as) strong” or “live, (be) strong”.

    there’s even an argument that the message “live strongly” doesn’t convey the same idea: turning strong into an adverb takes an equally weighted phrase and shifts the emphasis to “live”, as “strongly” is now is subordinate modifier. This message then becomes about a manner of living, or lifestyle, de-emphasizing the force of the command to live. In other words, the command “live strongly” assumes, at least to some extent, that the audience will live. Think of the phrase “drink responsibly”. It’s really not telling you to drink, but rather how you should drink, thereby assuming that you do. So it is with “live strongly”, which can be considered problematic because the message perhaps originally, or at least conceivably, contains a strong survival message to cancer patients to “live”. To me the phrase “live strong” embodies two discrete ideas of encouragement, while “live strongly” (aesthetic complaints aside) constitutes a more diluted platitude of an idea. This is not to say that “live strong” is some sort of flawless micro-poem, but rather that it shouldn’t be attacked so readily.

    I don’t think Rushin is the only one to do this–I think many people overreact to the frustrating inconsistencies of English (for example, “run fast” and “walk tall” are both correct, as “fast” and “tall” have the same adjectival and adverbial forms) and the less defensible cases such as “drive safe” or “I did good on that test”. This overreaction often translates to the neglect of certain literary tropes and devices.


    • Posted by John S on August 16, 2010 at 3:18 PM

      Fair enough, but here is (I think) why a phrase like “live strong” is unsettling to some people, particularly the linguistic elite: Like so many other common English errors, it is ambiguous. You yourself point out at least two different interpretations of “live strong” (i.e. “live as strong” or “live, be strong,”) and there are probably countless others (“in order to live, be strong,” “to be strong is to live,” and even “live strongly”). And this is only a two word phrase. But with so many potential meanings, the phrase itself becomes ultimately meaningless, an arbitrary platitude that combines two words with near-universal approval to create some unobjectionable yet impenetrable slogan. While “live strongly” may not be as mellifluous, it at least has a specific meaning.


  2. Posted by Douglas on August 16, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    I don’t agree that it’s particularly ambiguous. “Live as strong” and “live, be strong” are essentially the same thing–I only provided both examples to show the types of syntactical omissions that are at play. (In addition to those two, which basically mean the same thing, there exists only one other of these variations: “Live (you who are) strong”. And while plausible, that’s pretty clearly not the intended meaning.) Your examples strike me more as extrapolations of, or musings on, the original phrase rather than semantic interpretations. I think the fairly clear message of “live strong” is to live and be strong. Basically the message is “be strong”, but the word “live” is substituted to give the phrase more power in the context of a life-threatening illness.

    To me, a phrase like “live strongly” would be much more ambiguous. What does it mean to live strongly? How does one go to the grocery store and buy cereal “strongly”? The message most people would take from “live strongly” is “live, and be strong”, and to me “live strong” conveys that more effectively.

    As I briefly mentioned, there’s also something to the word “live”. It doesn’t exactly function like the verb “to be”, but in this case I think it’s being substituted for it, and therefore can imitate the type of structure that we would afford the verb “to be”. Just as we would say “be careful” instead of “be carefully”, we can say “live strong” instead of “live strongly”. Again, it comes down to the specific context and the literary merits of bending grammatical rules. I wouldn’t advocate the use of “live careful” instead of “live carefully”, but in this case I think “live strong” functions as a rhetorical device and should not be seen as a grammatical error.


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