1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    a society of ruthless competition?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, Sep 22, 2009.

    Hi,guys.

    Please tell me whether I can shorten "a society full of ruthless competition" to simply "a society of ruthless competition"? Much of the time, I hate myself for lack of that good feel for the English language. Every day I read English and watch CNN or abcNews, but still I fail to achieve a high level of English proficiency. How desperate I am now to develop at least part of the linguistic intuition native speakers of English have.

    Thanks.

    Richard
     
  2. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    Hello, Richard.

    I would. 'Full of' here is in fact a bit gawky. If you wish to give it a little more dynamism, you might try 'competitiveness'.
     
  3. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, Mister Micawber. If I want to keep "ruthless", then can I say "a society of ruthless competitiveness"?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  4. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    Yes, that was what I had in mind.
     
  5. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    I wanna be clear about it. Which one is better, "a society of ruthless competition" or "a society of ruthless competitiveness"? Do you native speakers of English really use "ruthless" to modify the more abstract word "competitiveness"?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  6. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    Yes, both are fine and natural. I imagine that the second ('a society of ruthless competitiveness') suits your purposes better, but you can choose:

    competitiveness: an aggressive willingness to compete
    competition: the act of competing, as for profit or a prize; a business relation in which two parties compete to gain customers.
     
  7. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not a native english speaker, but I think your original subject line version is best. I understood it immediately and it made me click the subject as well. It's the simplest one, which is usually better if conveying the same general message.
     
  8. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks for replying to my question. Let me tell you the whole story. I am a Chinese teacher teaching English at a college in eastern China. This semester one of the seniors chooses to write about The Call of the Wild by Jack London in her graduation paper(In China every senior, whatever his or her major is, is required to write an academic paper for the bachelor's degree and English majors are required to finish a paper of about 3,000 to 5,000 English words). She submitted her outline to me yesterday but I found her conclusion was poorly worded. It goes like this: " 'Survival of the Fittest'--All living creatures have to obey different laws in different environments.One has to struggle for existence under extremely poor living conditions. Only when you beat others, you could survive." I wanted to change the whole conclusion to "Through the novel Jack London affirms the law of the jungle that in a society full of ruthless competition it is always the fittest/fiercest who will survive. In such a society, one has to struggle under extremely poor living conditions and only when one beats others can one survive." When I came to the point of "a society full of ruthless competition", I instantly thought of being more concise by shortening "a society full of ruthless competition" to "a society of ruthless competition".
    Besides, I would like you to improve my version of the conclusion if you have the time.
    Many thanks.
    Richard
     
  9. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    A ruthlessly competitive society?

    Cheers,
    Bob
     
  10. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    If you want to add some power to your punch, "cutthroat" may be more powerful than "ruthless."

    (Also, the added fun of alliteration with "cutthroat competition.")

    I might be able to offer more with context. The phrase excised from its context is hard to revise.

    Further, you may want to do a "show don't tell" thing... rather than saying, "Theirs was a society of cutthroat competition" or some variation, you might want to invest a few paragraphs in demonstrating the competitiveness of the society.

    PS.

    As an aside -- why do you never hear about "ruthful competition"?
    Competition always seems to lack ruth.
    What would a ruthful competition look like?
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    From a native speaker:

    Although I find no fault with the word competitiveness, it is a bit overlong and not as easy on the tongue as competition. In the usage you have provided, either would make perfect sense although there is a slight difference in meaning for the two words. English often allows the interchange of such word pairs. Competitiveness, competition; laziness, lassitude; etc.

    Now, to your original question:

    I am sure that there will be others who disagree with me as the difference in the two examples you gave is a very fine one. Some may even argue that there is no difference at all. For me, the second example give me the feeling that the society consists of nothing other than the ruthless competition. It is the only component. The first examples does not leave me with this same impression. It gives me to feel that while there is much ruthless competition, there are other components.

    Again, these nuances are very fine and therefore arguable.
     
  12. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    I might say it as follows:

    Or

    Active vs. Passive (sort of). When you say "This is" you are stating a definite, rather than implying the "society full of ruthlessness"
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    neither is well worded, richard... if you mean that most in that society are ruthless competitors, you might want to word it like this:

    "a society rife with ruthless competition"

    or

    "a ruthlessly competitive society"

    love and hugs, maia
     
  14. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, maia.
    Then would you please help me improve my revision of my student's conclusion "Through the novel Jack London affirms the law of the jungle that in a society full of ruthless competition it is always the fittest/fiercest who will survive. In such a society, one has to struggle under extremely poor living conditions and only when one beats others can one survive." ?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  15. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks for replying to my question, CharlieVer.
    I have given the context of the expression in my longest post in this thread. I do think your "a society of cutthroat competition", which is accurate about Jack London's time, is a better choice. But perhaps due to my low English proficiency, I find it a little bit hard to understand these two parts of your reply:

    Further, you may want to do a "show don't tell" thing... rather than saying, "Theirs was a society of cutthroat competition" or some variation, you might want to invest a few paragraphs in demonstrating the competitiveness of the society.

    PS.
    As an aside -- why do you never hear about "ruthful competition"?
    Competition always seems to lack ruth.
    What would a ruthful competition look like?

    Please tell me what a "show don't tell" thing is. And I have never heard about "ruthless competition" indeed. I can guess the meaning of "ruth", as it must be the opposite of "ruthless"; however, neither of my Oxford and Longman dictionaries has the entries of "ruth" and "ruthful". Does "ruthful competition" mean "competition by the agreed rules of the game" or "fair play"? By asking "why do you never hear about 'ruthful competition'?", did you mean that there also exists the expression "ruthful competition" in English or did you intend it to be a rhetorical question, meaning "ruthful competition" does not exist in English?
    I beg you to give a further reply. Excuse me for my poor understanding capability.
    Thanks a lot.
    Richard
     
  16. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Oh... sorry about that. There have been some long threads here about "show and tell."

    Here's a link to Cognito's piece on it:

    http://writingforums.org/blog.php?b=2182

    Hope it helps.

    (Pssstt.. on the "ruthful competition" and "lacking ruth," I was joking!

    The words "ruthful" and "ruth" are virtually never used (except in the proper name Ruth) I didn't even know they were words until I looked them up myself... "ruthless" is a word most of us are familiar with!)
     
  17. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    You didn't know that people do not say "ruthful" and "ruth" until you failed to find them in the dictionary, right?
    Thanks for your reply and the link to the "show and tell" thread. I have read that threat initiated by Cognito, the administrator. It is a technique we should care about especially when we are doing creative writing, right? As for creative writing, although I wrote a poem (my first time to write a poem) for my ailing American friend to encourge him to fight his illness, I know little about this field and dare not include it in my English writing teaching. But I hope I will be able to do it sometime later.
    Thanks again.
    Richard
     
  18. linchpin
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    linchpin Member

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    I agree with you
     
  19. linchpin
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    linchpin Member

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    You seem to have swallowed a lot of commas. Does it taste good?
    Through the novel, Jack London affirms the law of the jungle, that in a society full of ruthless competition , it is always the fittest/fiercest who will survive. In such a society, one has to struggle under extremely poor living conditions, and , only when HE beats THE others, can HE survive."
     
  20. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    In this example, either sentence would fit. Listen to Wreybies, however, as he has good advice. "A society full of ruthless competition", tells me that there is a society, and a large part of that society is ruthless competition. Whereas, "a society of ruthless competition", implies that ruthless competition is the only part of the society.

    However, the difference in your two examples is very small and to the average native speaker, negligible.

    But the sentence that I have quoted would be the correct one to use in my opinion.

    Dre.
     
  21. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    In regards to this, it was a joke, as was previously mentioned. There is no such word as "ruthful."

    I'm not sure what language root the word comes from but I found the following from www.dictionary.reference.com.

    Ruthless
    c.1327, from reuthe "pity, compassion" (c.1175), formed from reuwen "to rue" (see rue (v.)) on the model of true/truth, etc. Ruthful (c.1225) has fallen from use since late 17c. except as a deliberate archaism.
     
  22. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you all for replying to my questions.
    Richard
     
  23. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Actually, I looked it up when I originally made the joke, and the word does exist! It means "compassionate or sorrowful." As the information you provided states, though, it long ago fell out of use.

    I've never heard the word actually used, and the joke was still a joke --my own George Carlin-esque play on words, really. Like in Carlin's routine, "There are words we need. We have 'refinish.' What are you doing? Refinishing this table. Don't you have to Restart? You should!

    Well... we have ruthless competitions. Shouldn't we also have ruthful competitions?

    (Jokes are so much less fun when you have to explain them. Sighs.)

    Charlie
    A joke, nothing more.
     
  24. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    Haha I got it Charlie. I actually liked it too. Wordplay jokes are the best. But sometimes, quite hard for non-English speakers to get. Just thought I'd point out the deal with our friend Ruth :D
     
  25. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Thanks A2...

    By the way, on the "show don't tell" thing, reading a little more in the thread, I see the quote is intended for a review of a Jack London work, and not for an original work of fiction, so "show don't tell" probably doesn't apply here.

    I've gotten so much in "fiction" mode in these discussions I forget sometimes people are writing reviews, research papers and the like.
     

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