?

You could use

  1. mortally, and it'd make sense in the context

    3 vote(s)
    75.0%
  2. mortal-ly and it'd make sense in the context

    0 vote(s)
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  3. mortally, but with some sort of further clarification

    0 vote(s)
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  4. mortal-ly, but with some sort of further clarification

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Something else I'm going to post down below...

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  1. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    How would you interpret mortal-ly?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Ms. DiAnonyma, Aug 10, 2015.

    Looking for a little word choice help- suggestions appreciated, thanks!

    How would you interpret the word mortal-ly, as opposed to mortally? Or would the hyphen just seem distracting to you?

    Would it make sense to you as an adverb form of mortal as in "subject to death" (also like the "very intense' definition, though not referring to mortal combat or fear)? With or without some addition of word to clarify that meaning? I don't usually feel this picky over a word, but its kind of critical to the theme, contrasting the subtle beauty of human mortality and risk-taking with an endless, yet life-less security- I'm trying to describe hands, human ones, in the particular instance, but I think I'm going to run into the same problem elsewhere in the same story.

    "She had come with a human to this place- a human whose hands were supple and altogether gentle, if not particularly soft- [hands] mortally real, she described them to herself as the machine-nurse's mechanical ones plucked at her strings."

    (I'd think "really mortal" would work- except that really has the same distancing from real, as mortally does from mortal. Coughing in the dust of English vocabulary's speedy evolution).

    Context is A Tune Through Time, if you care to read any of it on here: http://www.writingforums.org/threads/a-tune-through-time.138502/#post-1341804

    Wow, if you read all this and bothered to respond for just one (albeit critical) word...
    Thank you!!
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2015
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    'Mortally' would be the word I'd use here. The hyphen would distract me to no end.
     
  3. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I read a story like this -- the immortals could see how bright the mortals were (auras or something) and how intensely they lived their lives. When they looked at each other, the aura was dimmed significantly.

    truly mortal?

    ... she felt the reality of their mortality.

    is a bit poetic innit?

    ... realness of their mortality.
     
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  4. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    that part of the sentence opened with a comma, and could have used the -- as well like this:

    "... a human whose hands were supple and altogether gentle -- if not particularly soft -- mortally real, she felt them."

    "... a human whose hands were supple and altogether gentle (if not particularly soft) mortally real, she felt them."

    but now that I play with it, I get the timing of how the sentence is being read, and think the hypen or something is necessary. a colon perhaps?
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm. I keep thinking it might read better as just 'mortal.' Mortally real? Is that an actual concept? Can something be immortally real?

    I'm a bit confused about this excerpt, because it's not actually a sentence, is it? I'm not sure if the 'she felt them' is comma-spliced from the rest of the (partial) sentence or what. But...

    "... a human whose hands were supple and altogether gentle, if not particularly soft- mortal, she felt them."

    ???? I feel something is missing from this excerpt. Is it possible to give us the whole sentence?
     
  6. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    Sorry, @jannert should have just done that to start with!

    "She had come with a human to this place- a human whose hands were supple and altogether gentle, if not particularly soft- [hands] mortally real, she described them to herself."

    As in, she perceived their mortality, and it seems more real to her than something like, say, the hands of a robot (she's a wooden harp, btw, hence the different perspective).

    @Link the Writer:
    So you think the usual meanings of mortally wouldn't be a problem, without any epexegesis? Great, that's what I was hoping, just didn't think it likely people would use the word mortal to figure out a different meaning for mortally.

    @Aaron DC:
    My problem isn't necessarily the arrangement of the sentence and the punctuation, though I appreciate the suggestions (that is something I can see different ways of doing).

    My difficulty is conveying the meaning of the hands being truly real through their mortality. Sorry if I'm not making much sense.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2015
  7. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    Hadn't really occurred to me, but does the complete sentence still feel disjointed? Thanks
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I just looked up the word 'mortally' and discovered why your sentence is giving me trouble. I suspect what you're trying to convey is the idea that the human is a living being, and the human's hands feel as if they are alive.

    Mortal is defined thus:

    1.
    a.
    Liable or subject to death; not immortal: mortal beings.
    b. Of or relating to humans as being subject to death: "When we have shuffled off this mortal coil" (Shakespeare).
    2.
    a.
    Causing death; fatal: a mortal wound. See Synonyms at fatal.
    b. Fought to the death: mortal combat.
    c. Relentlessly hostile; implacable: a mortal enemy.
    3.
    a.
    Of great intensity or severity; dire: mortal terror.
    b. Conceivable; imaginable: no mortal reason for us to go.
    c. Used as an intensive: a mortal fool.

    Mortal doesn't mean 'alive' in the sense you want it to. Mortal means 'will die.'

    I'd start searching the other end of the spectrum for the word you want here. Something that conveys the meaning of something that is 'alive.' Not something that is 'going to die.'
     
  9. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I think it's the right word because the narrator is drawing a distinction between the hands in question, that belong to a mortal who can die, and their own hands, which are immortal.
     
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  10. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If I'm being entirely honest, I'm not a fan using mortally as an adjective next to "real." I get what you're going for, but it just feels wrong in this context, and I find it a little distracting. I would re-read it several times in text, trying to wrap my head around it.

    The only time anyone really uses this word is when it's referring to someone who is near death ... mortally ill, mortally wounded, mortally obese, etc. So it's like you're trying to describe something beautiful by using a word with an extremely negative connotation, even though I know that you're doing so in order to contrast the beauty of mortality as opposed to the coldness of a machine, it distracts from the beauty of the moment.

    I think you do a really great job in the beginning of the sentence of showing us the hands, and conveying the character's happiness when reflecting on the humanity of them. So much so, that I kinda think that adding "real" or "mortally real" isn't even necessary. You might substitute fragile or delicate there instead, if you think it needs something else, but I think it'd be great without it.

    If you really want to use it, then I agree with @Aaron DC's first suggestion of "truly mortal."
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm. Well, this is your story, and you can use any word you like. However, as the feedback thus far has shown, it's not quite having the effect you want. I do think it's because the word 'mortal' (or mortally) does not convey quite what you intend.

    How about something like 'the hands of a mortal being, not like her own,' or something similar?—if you could work that into a sentence when describing how the hands feel.

    I think what gets automatically assumed here is some kind of contrast. That's where you get into trouble with the word 'mortal' used in this context. Mortal as opposed to what? Immortal? Immortal is the opposite of mortal. It's not the opposite of wooden or metal or plastic. Immortal implies a human who can't die. Not a machine. (And machines do 'die' anyway. They rust out, etc. They don't last forever either.)

    What you really are looking for, I reckon, is the contrast between living material and man-made or artificial? Living and non-living?
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2015
  12. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    :wtf:

    Our avatars are similar - I think I will change mine, but the OP is @Ms. DiAnonyma :D
     
  13. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I think you have to look at this from inside the idiom of the character. Is she the kind of harp that would say "mortal" or "mortal-ly" I had no problems understanding the phrase in context.
     
  14. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    Thanks so much for all the thoughtful responses!

    Actually, the "subject to death" meaning is something I want to include, which is why I thought of mortally instead of vitally; the hands are beautiful in their ephemeral fragility- only, "delicate" doesn't seem to be quite the way to describe a man's hands, let alone this one's ;-/.

    Leaving it out or merely contrasting them with the machine's hands (the harp, the perspective character, unfortunately doesn't have any hands of her own to compare them with ;-) is sounding appealing- but I want to draw the description into something a bit deeper... The hands are very alive and thus beautiful (to the harp at least), but their vulnerability to pain and death are inextricably bound up with their vitality and beauty...

    True, machines are hardly immortal- but in this story, they are trying to be, and they represent grasping attempts at a sort of safe, albeit lifeless immortality. On the other hand (npi:), this human's hands are (or at least supposed to be) expressive of risk-taking in pursuit of beauty (and truth)- truly alive- but also beautiful in their inherent mortality- subject to death- which is the natural result of their vitality and boldness.

    @Jack Asher:
    Thanks, I kinda wondered how far context might help, and that's so true about idiomatic/idiolectic considerations- mortal-ly does feel awkward in the story- but I rather doubt I could revolutionize the reader's understanding of the word mortally much; consequently, I'm still questing for a better way of expressing what I want to convey.

    Wow, thank you for all the suggestions and discussion! I suspected that pulling on this pill in the story would result in some further examination of its whole fiber, but couldn't have anticipated how helpful some diversity of opinions could be!
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2015
  15. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I understood what you're trying to convey when I responded because you already explained it, but I still assert that the average reader will trip over "mortally real." Sometimes you have to step outside your story and try to see it from an unbiased perspective. You know what you're trying to convey, but connotation matters a great deal when conveying emotion to the average reader. "Mortally real" feels a little sloppy and brings about images of the gravely sick, overweight, etc. It doesn't convey the beauty in life's fragility to the reader, which is what you're trying to do. It's obvious that you're a good writer, so don't overthink it and convolute your story in the process!

    But ultimately, it's your story. If you absolutely must use the word "mortally", I think "truly mortal" would be best, without being next to "real."
     

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