Monday, June 25, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voive XII

I've got an impressive feast of shitty Chinese food in front of me right now, but it's still too hot to eat. So while it cools, let me fill you in on a short exchange I had over the weekend with a PJMB friend and former roommate. He got a PFO about wrting a paper for an anthology, and it included these sentences:

We received an overwhelming number of fine proposals, but space and overlap of subject matter limits us from accepting all of them. We are sorry to inform you that for these reasons we are unable to accept your paper.

Now, my friend points out that the second sentence is, strictly speaking, in the active voice. And yet the sense of passivity is unmistakable.

Think about the phrase, "we are unable to accept." Unable? As in, can't? As in, it's not in their power to accept the paper? Obviously, that's complete bullshit. They could accept the paper if they wanted to. They're the editors of the antholgy, for fuck's sake, they can do what they want. But "unable," if you squint the right way and don't think too hard about it, kinda sorta makes it seem like it's not their fault. Which of course is the whole point.

I think my tofu's cooled off enough to eat.

Chinese Dinner Update: A philosopher couldn't ask for better fortune than this. My fortune cookie says I "have an ability to sense and know higher truth." I feel like I should put that on my CV or something.

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