a relative/relatively political unknown

< Previous | Next >

LQZ

Senior Member
Mandarin
Japan’s governing party elected Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday to become the next prime minister, choosing a relative political unknown to lead this shaken nation’s recovery from the tsunami and nuclear accident in March and to revive its moribund economy. ---The New York Times

Dear all,

Should relative be relatively? Or, they are interchangeable in this sentence? Thanks.



LQZ
 
  • Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    That's the way I am used to seeing it. Since he is a relative political unknown, he is relatively unknown in Japan's politics, or relatively unknown, politically.

    Relatively
    is an adverb, so it modifies an adjective, like unknown. However, in political unkown, unknown is functioning as a noun,meaning "an unknown person." Other languages convert adjectives into nouns, too. Therefore, the noun unknown is modified by adjectives, like political and relative.
     

    LQZ

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    That's the way I am used to seeing it. Since he is a relative political unknown, he is relatively unknown in Japan's politics, or relatively unknown, politically.

    Relatively
    is an adverb, so it modifies an adjective, like unknown. However, in political unkown, unknown is functioning as a noun,meaning "an unknown person." Other languages convert adjectives into nouns, too. Therefore, the noun unknown is modified by adjectives, like political and relative.
    Thank you, Fabulist. :)

    I thought "relatively" might modify "political", not "unknown".
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    A "relatively political unknown" would be an unknown (person) who is "relatively political," not a person who is relatively unknown politically, i.e., someone who is not well known to politicians, reporters, and others who pay attention to politics (although a person who is "politically unknown," relatively or absolutely, could be well known in another field, such as medicine or business).

    We use "political" to mean "pertaining to politics" but also to mean "involved in politics, political campaigns, etc." So someone who reads about politics, helps out in campaigns, contributes money to candidates or political parties, and votes frequently, might be "political." So a person who never does any of these things could say, "Compare to me, my wife is relatively political" if she does some of those things, even if not very often, especially compared to the people who are most involved in political activities.

    The new finance minister is described as a "relative political unknown." That means that he is less famous in Japan than most of the men who have been prime minister before. He's obviously not completely politically unknown—he is, after all, the finance minister, a cabinet member (I presume), and if Japan works like most parliamentary democracies, a member of the Diet. So he is an officeholder and therefore involved in politics. But casual followers of Japanese politics might know his name but not much about his background or career before entering electoral politics (perhaps he was an economics professor or a bank president for a long time, and has only been a member of the Diet and of the cabinet for a short time). If the reporter who wrote this story didn't know who he was, and couldn't find any other reporters who did, either, he might have described him as "a complete political unknown," that is, as some who was completely unknown politically.
     

    LQZ

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    A "relatively political unknown" would be an unknown (person) who is "relatively political," not a person who is relatively unknown politically, i.e., someone who is not well known to politicians, reporters, and others who pay attention to politics (although a person who is "politically unknown," relatively or absolutely, could be well known in another field, such as medicine or business).

    We use "political" to mean "pertaining to politics" but also to mean "involved in politics, political campaigns, etc." So someone who reads about politics, helps out in campaigns, contributes money to candidates or political parties, and votes frequently, might be "political." So a person who never does any of these things could say, "Compare to me, my wife is relatively political" if she does some of those things, even if not very often, especially compared to the people who are most involved in political activities.

    The new finance minister is described as a "relative political unknown." That means that he is less famous in Japan than most of the men who have been prime minister before. He's obviously not completely politically unknown—he is, after all, the finance minister, a cabinet member (I presume), and if Japan works like most parliamentary democracies, a member of the Diet. So he is an officeholder and therefore involved in politics. But casual followers of Japanese politics might know his name but not much about his background or career before entering electoral politics (perhaps he was an economics professor or a bank president for a long time, and has only been a member of the Diet and of the cabinet for a short time). If the reporter who wrote this story didn't know who he was, and couldn't find any other reporters who did, either, he might have described him as "a complete political unknown," that is, as some who was completely unknown politically.
    Thank you for your detailed explanation that is quite helpful. :)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top