Friday, April 24, 2009

Adult Content. For Mature Thinkers Only

A new season of Entitled Opinions (iTunes Feed Web Site) recently got off the ground, and it doesn’t take long to understand what this program is all about. Robert Harrison, the Stanford literature professor who hosts the show, opens the new season with these very words:

Our studios are located below ground, and every time I go down the stairs to do a new show, I feel like I’m descending into the catacombs where those of us who still read great literature, probe ideas, and explore the recesses of cultural history, practice a persecuted religion. In this neurasthenic world of ours, we are like a dispersed society of secret initiates. We live covertly, as it were. And it’s in special shelters that our reading, thinking and exchange of ideas take place. Maybe someday we’ll once again be able to practice our persuasion publicly. But meanwhile Entitled Opinions comes to you from the catacombs.

You get the drift. This is a show that takes ideas, literature, and life seriously. It’s heady, and it doesn’t dumb things down. If you’re a faithful reader of Open Culture, you’ll find something here for you. If you take a spin through the archives, you’ll find Harrison in conversation with Orhan Pamuk (the Nobel Prize winning novelist) and Richard Rorty (one of America’s most important contemporary philosophers). You’ll also find him talking with scholars about Vladimir Nabokov and his Lolita, World War II and the German bombing of London, the History of Psychiatry, and The Historical Jesus. Each program starts with a 10 minute (or so) monologue, and then Harrison gets down to talking with his guest for another 50. Give a listen. Let us know your thoughts. And know that Entitled Opinions (iTunes Feed Web Site) is included in our Ideas & Culture Podcast Collection.

PS I shamelessly borrowed this titled from a comment made about Entitled Opinions on iTunes. To be honest, my creative well was running dry.

by DanColman

On his trajectory toward "Maybe someday we’ll once again be able to practice our persuasion publicly," Harrison lost me with "I feel like I'm descending . . . ."
Descriptive grammar is fine when it's understood in neighborhoods of oral utterance.
But in the thoughtful construction of persuasive argument, it seems a shame to cast off the tool of the subjunctive mood. Really - given the context, it might not have been too strenuous for Harrison's audience to have understood him had he said, "I feel as if I were descending . . . ."

- The Old Language Curmudgeon
- A
Or better yet, "I feel THAT I'm descending . . . . "

See AHD usage note:

The American Heritage® Book of English Usage.
A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English. 1996.

1. Grammar: Traditional Rules, Word Order, Agreement, and Case

§ 33. like

Tell it like it is. It’s like I said. I remember it like it was yesterday. As these familiar examples show, like is often used as a conjunction meaning “as” or “as if.” In fact, writers since Chaucer’s time have used like as a conjunction. But language critics and writing handbooks have condemned this use of like for more than a century, and a writer who uses it in formal style risks being tarred with their brush. If you want to avoid this fate, use as or as if instead: Sales of new models rose as (not like) we expected them to. He ran as if (not like) his life depended on it. Note, however, that there is sometimes a subtle difference between like and as if. With like, there is often a stronger suggestion that the following clause is true. For example, the sentence The teachers treat her like she has real talent is not exactly equivalent to The teachers treat her as if she had real talent. The sentence using as if implies that her talent could be in doubt. 1
Like is acceptable as a conjunction when used in informal contexts, especially with verbs such as feel, look, seem, sound, and taste: It looks like we are in for a rough winter. Constructions in which the verb is not expressed, such as He took to politics like a duck to water, are acceptable even in formal style, since like in this case can be viewed as a preposition. 2
More at as.

The American Heritage® Book of English Usage. Copyright © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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