Submitted by jeudi on August 22, 2004

A Somewhat Intricate Sentence

I wrote:

“And up back to his room upstairs would go little bastard, back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands, wondering where this interesting piece of semiotic, as handy as it might come considering the volatility of the family atmosphere and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around, did exactly fit in the regular schedule of grandmother’s lessons on “accords grammaticaux” , “concordance des temps” and other neatly logical delicacies.”

It’s been suggested that I should write:

“And up back up to his room upstairs would go the the little bastard, back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands, wondering where this interesting piece of semiotic, as handy as it might come considering the volatility of the family atmosphere and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around, did exactly fit in the regular schedule of grandmother’s lessons on “accords grammaticaux” , “concordance des temps” and other neatly logical delicacies.”

To which I object:

1) Don’t people sometimes talk like that:

“And up [rising intonation, short pause] back to his room [falling intonation]”

or is that an utter impossibility in english, whether written or spoken?

2) “the little bastard”

It’s possible to say: “back to his room would go little Pete” or “little Tom”, right?

Now, the story here is about a boy who’s not the son of his father, and he is the only one who doesn’t know it. And when the family members interact with him, they’re always affraid to let the big secret slip, an when they look at him, they don’t see little Pete or little Tom, but a big problem. That’s why here “bastard” is used like a personal name, because “little bastard” is the name that’s in their mind when they think about him (they actually love him very much). Is that possible? Should I uppercase “Little Bastard”?

I wonder too wether the clause between “wondering where this interesting piece of semiotic,” and ” did exactly fit ” is too long, and the reader loses track of the subject when he gets to the verb, or is it flowing smoothly enough?

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AND UP BACK TO HIS ROOM sounds awkward to me no matter how I intone it. My instinct (before I read the rest of the post) was to make it AND BACK UP TO HIS ROOM. In any case, the repitition of UP doesn't sound good to me, stylistically... either BACK UP TO HIS ROOM or BACK TO HIS ROOM UPSTAIRS, but BACK UP TO HIS ROOM UPSTAIRS sounds clumsy.

You are right about WOULD GO LITTLE BASTARD -- it makes sense if LITTLE BASTARD is a proper noun, in which case you ought to capitalize it.

On the whole, however, I'd recommend splitting everything up into at least two sentences, if not three or four, unless there was some stylistic reason for having a long sentence there, in which case I suggest you rephrase it to make the meaning a lot clearer. I've read through it about three times and I still don't understand all of it.

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you are convincing!

The "stylistic reason" is : how do you express the strange situation of knowing what you haven't been told or ignoring what you know (you know, the inconscious and stuff.) I feel intricate syntax is a way to do it.
Now, if I give you the context, and with the corrections you suggest, does it make sense?

" He was not my father, and everybody knew it.(...) I was a hazardous liability that might go off any moment. Because of which I had often been imparted puzzling explications, such as, at age seven or eight, a very unexpected semantic digression about the correct usage of possessive adjectives in family rows by my after-school tutor, grand-mother: " You see, your uncle", (that is, her son, my mother's brother) "he has shouted" (there had been a big row) "to your mum 'Leave me alone, go to your mother!'. Why did he say 'your' mother, talking about me? I am his mother too, right? That's because in this argument I stood by your mum, so he was mad at me as well. And by using that second person possessive adjective, he didn't mean to give any information about family relationships, but only to express his anger at the two of us by, as it were, setting himself apart from us by means of that little word. You know, it's like when, hem, let's see..."Yes? Like what? What could bee a good example to make the point real clear, something that happens all the time, in all families? But of course, "it's like when a father comes home tired from work, and his restless little boy doesn't behave himself, and his wife doesn't do anything about it, he might say 'Oh, take your son away!' to convey his anger at the two of them." Is that so? And back to his room upstairs would go Little Bastard, back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands, wondering where this interesting piece of semiotic, as handy as it might come considering the volatility of the family atmosphere and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around, did exactly fit in the regular schedule of grandmother's lessons on "accords grammaticaux", "concordance des temps" and other neatly logical delicacies.

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Oh, yeah. Sounds like the way I wrote before I really caught on to the fact that other people would be reading what I wrote. (No offense.) Here's what I'd do with it (read -- as an em dash):
__________________

And back upstairs to his room would go the "little bastard"--back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands--wondering where, exactly, this interesting piece of semiotic (as handy as it might come, considering the volatility of the family atmosphere and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around), might fit into the regular schedule of Grandmother's lessons on "accords grammaticaux," "concordance des temps," and other neatly logical delicacies.

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Pardon, remove the comma after the parenthetical expression"

"... around) might fit ..."

This IS confusing.

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For a segmented version, try:
__________________________________

And back upstairs would go the "little bastard," his head full of Grandmother's lessons on "accords grammaticaux," "concordance des temps," and other neatly logical delicacies. Considering the volatility of the family atmosphere, and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around, he wondered where, exactly, he might fit the interesting new piece of semiotic into her orderly linguistic universe. It was a relief to escape into his own room, into his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands.

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Yeah, that is far better how you've rephrased it, Ms Speedwell.

the "little bastard" or Little Bastard is fine.

I'd take out the comma before and after "exactly"; I think it has the potential to confuse more than to help in such a long sentence.

"Semiotic" looks very out of place. If I am grasping the sense of what you're saying correctly, I'd replace "piece of semiotic" with, say, "semantic observation" or "linguistic tidbit" or something along those lines.

Also, I think "as handy as it might come" should be "as handy as it might come in". Unless there is some dialectical variant of which I'm unaware, the saying is "to come in handy". Or even "as handy as it might be" would be appropriate.

And just while I think of it, in my opinion, "upstairs to his room the little bastard would go" is preferable to "upstairs to his room would go the little bastard", though perhaps you just like the ring of it the other way.

I think that's all for now!

------------------------------

And back upstairs to his room would go the "little bastard" -- back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands -- wondering where exactly this interesting semantic observation (as handy as it might come in, considering the volatility of the family atmosphere and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around) might fit into the regular schedule of Grandmother's lessons on "accords grammaticaux," "concordance des temps," and other neatly logical delicacies.

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thank you everybody!

I'll take "as handy as it might come in", because if that's the idiom, that's the idiom.

"linguistic tidbit", I love it, it coheres with "delicacies", I'll take it too.

I'll drop the "up".

Now, recasting the whole thing, that's impossible. Here is the the context, and the sentence with the corrections you've suggested. Does it make sense?

"Because of which I had often been imparted puzzling explications, such as, at age seven or eight, a very unexpected semantic digression about the correct usage of possessive adjectives in family rows by my after-school tutor, grand-mother: " You see, your uncle", (that is, her son, my mother's brother) "he has shouted" (there had been a big row) "to your mum 'Leave me alone, go to your mother!'. Why did he say 'your' mother, talking about me? I am his mother too, right? That's because in this argument I stood by your mum, so he was mad at me as well. And by using that second person possessive adjective, he didn't mean to give any information about family relationships, but only to express his anger at the two of us by, as it were, setting himself apart from us by means of that little word. You know, it's like when, hem, let's see..."Yes? Like what? What could be a good example to make the point real clear, something that happens all the time, in all families? But of course, "it's like when a father comes home tired from work, and his restless little boy doesn't behave himself, and his wife doesn't do anything about it, he might say 'Oh, take your son away!' to convey his anger at the two of them." Is that so? And back to his room upstairs would go Little Bastard, back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves in the Great North and sailors stranded on desert islands, wondering where this linguistic tidbit, as handy as it might come in considering the volatility of the family atmosphere and the frequency with which possessive adjectives and other epithets would fly around, did exactly fit in the regular schedule of grandmother's lessons on 'accords grammaticaux' , 'concordance des temps' and other neatly logical delicacies."

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Dave, I and my head cold appreciate your cogent suggestions. :)

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just while I think of it, in my opinion, "upstairs to his room the little bastard would go" is preferable to "upstairs to his room would go the little bastard", though perhaps you just like the ring of it the other way.

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If you don't mind waxing a little less poetic, you might want to consider the less yoda-esque, "And the 'little bastard' would go upstairs to his room -- back to his beloved stories of lonely wolves..."

Aside from the change in word order, also notice I said "go upstairs", not "go back upstairs". To me, the redundant "back" makes his room sound like a dungeon from which he rarely exits to see the light of day. I prefer the emphasis on his returning to his other cherished diversions.

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I started on the comments, but tl;dnr...
Going to add my two cents anyways (and chalk it up to adding more weight to this side of the debate... yeah, that). ;)
Length aside, I would remove 'up' entirely since you have upstairs, and also delete the second 'back' since it, too, sounds redundant...
"And back to his room upstairs would go little bastard, to his beloved stories..."
(also, aren't you supposed to not start a sentence with 'and'?)

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