1. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    Can you please help me with the word ‘countenance’?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Blue Night, Apr 4, 2012.

    I don’t want to lay out quotes from the dictionary.

    But I locked onto ‘approval’.

    Okay, we have approval (and its examples).

    And we have a ‘facial expression’ (and its examples).

    So here’s my question:
    Can I say, “My countenance is foundering, becoming humble and empty.”?
    I’m referring to myself as starting to degrade as a good human being.

    That phrase is currently in my manuscript. I keep scratching my head.

    If that word isn’t correct, what would be one good word to mean that?
     
  2. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Yes you can say “My countenance is foundering, becoming humble and empty.”

    but it's easier and more understandable just saying "starting to degrade as a good human being."

    Why make a sentence hard on yourself and your audience. Keep it simple and straight forward then when you're done, if you need to, go back and punch up the areas you feel are weak.
     
  3. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    We're all cool here.
    But I'm referring to the use of 'countenance'.
    Any thoughts?
     
  4. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    I second superpsycho. The sentence as a whole doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and would frustrate me as a reader. I don't read "countenance" as synonymous with "approval" in this context. (Your approval is becoming empty?) It reads more along the lines of composure or demeanor, and the word "humble" does not really have the severe negative connotation that you're aiming for. To humble oneself is often a good thing.
     
  5. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Like I said you can use it. It's simular to saying "my soul" or "my being". What makes you, you but it's a poor way of phrasing it.
     
  6. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    Berber, It is just a quote from my story.
    They are all valid words. How is that frustrating?
    Countenance was the question.
     
  7. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    psycho, I like that.
    You said, "It's simular to saying "my soul" or "my being"."
    That's what I'm talking about. Is it?
     
  8. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Because it's not a commonly used word and vague in the way you using it. Saying what you "stand for" or your "image" is floundering, becoming humble and empty. Would be more understandable but still overly wordy. You're trying to communicate something to people, it helps if they can easily grasp it.
     
  9. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    My apologies. I was simply addressing my opinions on how the word works within the sentence that you presented. Of course you can say it, if you so choose.
     
  10. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Yes from an image stand point. The way Japanese use the term "face". In doesn't translate well to English but it means how you are perceived by yourself and others.
     
  11. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    So it is valid. Thank you.
     
  12. jg22
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    jg22 Member

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    Your countenance is basically how you look, or how you're expressing yourself to others. For example, if you have a sullen countenance then you look sad, and gloomy. It's usually the outward appearance of internal emotions manifesting themselves on to your face.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say no; that doesn't work. The "face" meaning could be used in:

    "I studied the picture, admiring her cheerful countenance."

    (I really dislike my sentence, but I think the meaning is clear.)

    The "approval" meaning could be used in:

    "I refused to countenance his behavior; I walked away."

    I understand what you're trying to do in your sample sentence, but I think that it stretches meaning too far.

    ChickenFreak
     
  14. lorilee
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    lorilee Member

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    I am going to quote the dictionary definition


    coun·te·nance (kount-nns) n.

    1. Appearance, especially the expression of the face: The question left him with a puzzled countenance.
    2. The face or facial features.
    3.
    a. A look or expression indicative of encouragement or of moral support.
    b. Support or approval.
    4. Obsolete Bearing; demeanor.

    I'm not sure how one's facial expression or approval become humble and empty, but I love it as the start to a poem. The way the words go together have a very good feel.
     
  15. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I agree with ChickenFreak (again): it doesn't work. It sounds like you're trying hard to be clever, but tripping over your own ignorance of the word you're using. Think of the degree of cleverness as a circle, not a line. You start at ignorant and slowly move towards clever, but if you run before you can walk you'll go straight past clever and arrive back at sounding ignorant.

    If you do not know what a word means, don't use it. If you're scratching your head at a line you've written, that is usually a very strong sign that it needs to be rewritten, because if YOU don't get it, how on earth is your reader expected to?

    I think you could phrase that sentence in a much clearer and more elegant fashion so that your readers aren't left scratching their heads too. After all, writing is a means of communicating an idea to your readers. If that idea is obscure to them, then you have failed.
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The above - you explained yourself. You said, "I'm referring to myself as starting to..." etc.

    Doesn't that tell you enough? If you felt the need to explain what the sentence even means, then it should be obvious enough that no, you cannot write the sentence that way because clearly, the meaning of the sentence is not clear. And never you mind about whether you're using something technically correctly - if your reader doesn't understand, you have failed. It's that simple. It would have a lot more impact if your reader can readily understand you.

    And by the way, I had no idea what your sentence meant and would not have guessed, or bothered with it, had you not explained what you're trying to achieve. Your facial features cannot become humble and empty, besides. You can look humble and empty. And I'm also not sure how becoming humble makes you a bad human being? (seeing as he's a good guy but is changing and becoming more humble, and you see that as "degrading", which is generally a negative concept - but humility is actually normally a positive trait)
     
  17. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Mckk, I keep agreeing with you :)
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i have to ditto all that chicken freak, nakhti and mckk have said...

    bottom line: the sentence makes no sense with that word used in it as you've done, period...
     
  19. Cyrus
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    Cyrus Member

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    I understand the desire to give your sentencing some flair. When it starts to detract from the point your trying to make, it's best to just keep it simple.
     
  20. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    I want to thank everyone for the posts. Sorry it took a day to get back here.
    I would have enjoyed engaging in real time.
    So, I do get the overall meaning of the word, now.
    I was under the impression that 'fallen coutenance' was the purpose of a sorrowful look.
    But now I know it is quite literal, meaning a 'sullen face' as pertaining to my usage.
    Thank you all.
     

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