Wednesday, 30 September 2020

the soup that eats like a meal

From the latest panel discussion of the Words Matter podcast (previously) we are acquainted with a grammatical voice—diathesis (from the Greek for disposition), the way to describe the relationship between the state or action that a verb denotes about the subjects and objects of sentences, with active and passive forms being the most familiar examples to English speakers, the use of the latter strangely discouraged possibly with the exception of delivering bad news (Mistakes were made)—which is neither, illustrating: the rather interesting way the language handles the reflexive form: the mediopassive.

Combining, blending the middle and passive voices, it shows a shift in verbal transience to what’s called an unaccusative case, as in the advertising slogan of the title, or in the examples the “sex sells,” “the alarm sounded,” “the car handles well,” or “the wine drinks smoothly.” Incidentally, Campbell’s usage is correct but might be interested in reading about a minor furore that erupted over another jingle, “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should,” in one of the podcast’s previous instalments, with the like being an intentionally ungrammatical provocation in the mid-1950s with the construction properly taking as. A simple rule of thumb to guide one is whether a verb or auxiliary comes afterward—then use as, otherwise like is correct for comparison. The marketing gimmick garnered a lot of attention for the brand and generated controversy: for example—Morning Show host Walter Cronkite refusing to say a word from their sponsors as written. Winston memorably also was one of the advertisers that appeared on The Flintstones (premiering on the American Broadcasting Company, ABC, network on this day in 1960) but withdrew once the pregnancy and birth of Peebles became part of the story.