letting the tragic loss define

Discussion in 'English Only' started by redgiant, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    I can vaguely understand what "let the tragic loss define him" means , but I can't find a definition of "define" that fits the context. Does it, by chance, mean "let's the loss get the best of him"? Thank you~

    Example
    : Police have no leads on the stolen porns, but Johnson, who calls himself the "Hugh Hefner of Muskegon," isn't letting the tragic loss define him. He has already gone out and purchased a brand new HD 3D TV so he and his fiancée can watch Blu-Ray blue movies in 3D.

    Source: Earlie Johnson Loses $7,500 African-American Porn Collection In Theft

    Background: Johnson came home to find his back door ajar. Someone had broken in and stolen the vintage collection of DVDs that took him many years to assemble. The guy didn't let the loss get the best of him, and took it as an opportunity to upgrade to Blu-ray.
     
  2. Franco-filly Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - Southern England
    It means it's not going to dictate how he should act/behave. He's not going to let the loss of his goods rule his life or, as you say, get the better of him
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
  3. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you, Franco. Yes, No need to wallow in despair when DVDs has become a thing of the past. The news even says that some porn company is going to give him one blu-ray copy of every title in the catalog so it's a blessing in disguise.
     
  4. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Suppose I wasn't able to play a recently released computer game because of overloaded servers and other issues that blocked me from logging in. The publisher shouldn't have released the game this early when they didn't have the infrastructure to support it. I got so frustrated and angry that I went on Twitter to say something inappropriate about the company. But when I calmed down a bit, I realized I was being inappropriate in what I'd said.
    In this particular context, is it okay to say "I let frustration define me when I posted the inappropriate comment on Twitter."
     
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    After some thought, I think you can - to let something define someone/something used to be in the same reasonably high register as "is defined by its <insert attribute>" but the former is now becoming commoner and taking on the meaning of "not letting it upset him" - so my answer is, "Yes, it is "okay to say "I let frustration define me when I posted the inappropriate comment on Twitter.""
     
  6. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I'm going against Paul here. To me, only saying "I'm not going to let something define me" is idiomatic - we use it as a negative, not a positive. In this situation "I let my frustration get the better of me" or "I got carried away with my frustration" would be much more natural substitutes.
     
  7. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Does its formal register make it an unlikely candidate for this kind of trivial situation? Would you save it for something that would lead to a serious outcome if you let it define you (e.g My HIV results came back positive, but I wouldn't let it define me. )
     
  8. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Is "I won't let it define me" formal? I don't think so - it seems like it's not formal to me. It's not slang, but it's just everyday.

    Perhaps the issue is the triviality of a passing frustration. Something has to be serious enough that it might come to affect every part of your life - that it might in fact "define you" - for you to reject the possibility. So serious losses, chronic diagnoses, major failures - those are all potentially life-defining things.

    I would say: "My HIV test came back positive, and I was depressed for a long time. But then I decided that I wasn't going to let this disease define me." People would probably not identify the test result as "defining them," but instead the virus itself.
     
  9. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you lucas. As you say, "define' doesn't work well with the triviality of a passing frustration. And the frustration over the stolen porn collection in my first example can arguably qualify as such. Do you think the writer of that article is overemphasizing the loss for humorous or dramatic effect?
     
  10. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    Yes. (Although a $7,500 loss is nothing to scoff at, I think the first article does have a rather humorous tone.)
     
  11. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Suppose a guy had been hiding his sexual orientation for fear that by doing so would affect everything in his life, but today he told the world that he was gay.

    "I'm not going to let my sexual orientation define me anymore. I've thought about it for a long time and decided to come out today!"

    Does "let my sexual orientation define me" make good sense?
     
  12. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    That doesn't make sense to me. When he was closeted, it wasn't his sexual orientation that was defining him - it was his fear of coming out (in fact, his fear of allowing his sexual orientation to define his identity, at least in part!). I would have him say:

    "I'm not going to let my fear define me anymore. I've finally decided to come out!"
     
  13. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    I was listening to a podcast where they were having an interview with an ex-US soldier talking about his horrified experience in Iraq. At one point when he recounted witnessing one of his teammates being shot dead in an encounter, he said "I won't let the tragedy consume me." Could "define" be used in the place of "consume" in this instance?
     
  14. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Merriam-Webster gives this definition of "define":

    : to show or describe (someone or something) clearly and completely

    It fits exactly the context of the O.P. example.
     
  15. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    It could but it would not mean the same thing at all.
     
  16. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    For example: Seeing the shot gun murder of his mother at the age of eight defined his personality over the years.

    That is, with this sentence which I coined for this thread, that the loss of his mother and his seeing this brutality at a very young age shaped his personality. It could have shaped in in almost any way but the experience was indelible, permanent and pervaded his entire personality.
     

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