Even more than she had been as a teenager, R. was embarrassed ....

Discussion in 'English Only' started by 8769, Mar 23, 2007.

  1. 8769 Senior Member

    Japanese and Japan
    Please give me a hand. The following is from the entrance examination in English for one of the most prestigious universities in Japan.

    For the blank in the passage below, put the words below in order so that they will make sense in this context. Note that there is one word included in the words given below that should not be used.

    (as / been / had / more / she / than / would)
    At dinner that evening, Henry talked about an accident that had happened at the planet: “…and then the cracker overheated, and we had to deal with that, too, while we were flushing out the reflux lines….” Even ( ) a teenager, Rebecca was embarrassed not to understand what Henry said.
    (A longer text, titled "Back Home," is cited on the exam paper. The text cited above is just a part of it. )
    The expected answer, according to the prep schools, is "more than she had been as." But is this English really natural?

    8769
     
  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Well, it is a convoluted piece of text, but yes, that would be the correct answer and, yes, it is perfectly natural English.
     
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Even more than she had been as a teenager, Rebecca was embarrassed not to understand what Henry said ...

    That version is fine, except that it relies on Rebecca's having previously been embarrassed in this way as a teenager.

    I would have preferred to allow for that to be hypothetical:
    Even more than she would have been as a teenager, Rebecca was embarrassed not to understand what Henry said

    ... but the words given don't allow me to say that.

    (A small aside - I think you mean plant, not planet, in post #1.)
     
  4. 8769 Senior Member

    Japanese and Japan
    Thank you, Dimcl and panjamdrum, for your replies. They really help.

    (Yes. Planet should have been plant. Sorry.)
     
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    Well now, one disagrees with Panj at one's intellectual peril, but I'm forced to come out into the open about this.

    The text seems excellent to me as it is. It is telling us that Rebecca had been embarrassed as a teenager, of course, but then most girls have been embarrassed as teenagers, so this information is hardly surprising. Of course Panj's second version is correct English, but it means something different, as he acknowledges. I don't see why he wishes to leave that possibility open, when we can see that the author has specifically chosen to close it.

    Do we know where it comes from? It looks to me to be an English novel about an ill-matched couple, the husband insists on boring his wife with industrial details from his working life, and ignores his sensitive wife, who spent a lot of time being embarrassed as a child when she didn't understand what people said to her. A sort of English Emma Bovary, or Edwardian Middlemarch.
     
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I suspect this is simply a matter of interpretation, but let me try to explain more clearly my problem with the apparently correct solution.

    Even more than she had been as a teenager, Rebecca was embarrassed not to understand what Henry said ...

    I can't bring myself to accept that this refers to some random moment of Rebecca's teenage embarrassment.

    The sentence structure implies that her embarrassment now is being compared with her embarrassment as a teenager at not understanding what Henry said.

    I suppose it is possible that her inability to understand Henry has been a continual source of embarrassment from her teenage years until the present - but it seems unlikely.
     
  7. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    Yes, perfectly normal English, but likely not heard in the spoken variety.

    My interpretation of this version of the sentence is:

    Rebecca is presently more embarrassed about not understanding Henry than she was when she didn't understand him as a teenager.

    The other version Panj. prefers:

    Even more than she would have been as a teenager, Rebecca was embarrassed not to understand what Henry said

    My interpretation of this sentence is that Rebecca presently is more embarrassed at not understanding Henry than she might have been embarrassed as a teenager. Which possibly means that she didn't know Henry when she was a teenager.

    Hmm. One wonders what the whole story was. Just how long did Rebecca know Henry. What was he to her . . .

    Orange Blossom
     

Share This Page

Loading...