A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Semantics, again
What is the difference between the two phrases "her adopted Chinese daughter" and "her daughter, who was adopted from China"? The first, to me, labels my daughter. In English, if the modifier is considered overarchingly important, it is placed before the noun it modifies; if it is seen as incidental, it is placed in a modifying phrase after the noun: "She threw the red ball" (the fact that it is red is the most important thing about the ball in this discussion; it's usually used to separate it from the blue ball and the black ball in the same group) versus "She threw the ball, which is red" (the important thing is that she threw the ball; that it's red is an ancillary description) In other words, if you wrote: "She was at the party with her adopted Chinese daughter", the most important aspect of the daughter is that she is adopted and that she is Chinese. "She was at the party with her daughter, who was adopted from China", the most important fact here is that the girl is her daughter, not that she was adopted from China. I know that to many, this seems like a really little thing, a hair-splitting, a minor distinction. But it is a very unconscious, very deep-seated aspect of the English language, and it bothers me (as a writer) because it is such an unstated and unconscious thing.
posted by Kate @ 2/06/2006 11:52:00 PM  
  • At 2/07/2006 08:49:00 AM, Anonymous kate said…

    This should be a required lesson for every newspaper writer on the planet.

  • At 2/07/2006 08:57:00 AM, Blogger Sara said…

    I agree!

  • At 2/07/2006 07:50:00 PM, Anonymous chicagomama said…

    you are so correct - why is this so hard for others to understand?

  • At 2/08/2006 01:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This Blog Sucks!

  • At 2/08/2006 02:49:00 PM, Anonymous bh said…

    Quite helpful.

    I learned that the emphasis is at the end of the sentence. So that second one might also emphasize the adoption fact. But I am not sure?

    Hence my comment. Help.

  • At 2/08/2006 04:17:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    Yo, Omegamom, I got to see this ONE post! Yes, when I hear "adopted daughter", it makes me think... "as opposed to my non-adopted daughter?"

    When I hear "her Chinese daughter", that may be a little easier to take, because it IS "as opposed to her Indian daughter", which I have. If all I had were daughters from China, this would be unneccessary and redundant. But to some folks, those ARE the most important things about our children, which is sad.

  • At 2/08/2006 04:18:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    And your blog does NOT SUCK!

  • At 2/08/2006 04:18:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    The least suckiest blog I can think of.

  • At 2/09/2006 09:34:00 AM, Anonymous Figlet said…

    Right, all of it. Except the jackass who said your blog sucks. I'm in a fighting mood today. I'll go strangle that person with a Marc Jacobs handbag strap if I have to.

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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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