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A.Word.A.Day--pathetic fallacy

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pathetic fallacy (puh-THET-ik FAL-uh-see) noun

The attribution of human traits to nature or inanimate objects.

[Coined by John Ruskin in 1856.]

"A good metaphor should never be missed, and Hardie, a poet before she was a novelist, is alert, in a labored sort of way, to the possibilities of some fine pathetic fallacy. One passage, after a pointless bout of cruelty by Hannie, describes her black mood: `She felt rudderless and directionless, like the dead sheep the November rains had carried down the river. Day after day it had drifted up and down, up and down, moving swiftly away with the pull of the sea's ebbing tide, pushing back again as it rose. Bloated, a perch for the gulls. Until it snagged on some drowned tree and left off its journeying.'" Catherine Lockerbie, Green Unpleasant Land, New York Times Book Review, Dec 22, 2002.

"Sefan Ruzowitzky generates terror and suspense effectively with an eccentric cast, film and lighting techniques. Flickering fluorescent lights and other eerie phenomena function effectively as pathetic fallacy." `Anatomie': A Good Film to Dissect, The Korea Times (Seoul), Jun 20, 2001.

This week's theme: words about words.


Ships that pass in the night and speak each other in passing; / Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; / So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, / Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poet (1807-1882)

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