He was (a, the) embodiment of the American dream.

  • perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I would stick with "the" like the Economist. It's both more idiomatic and emphatic.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Here is my interpretation:

    The key differentiating feature (I am loath to use 'metric', just as I am loath to use 'idiomatic' :D) is the number of perceived embodiments seen be the author. Emphasis naturally follows, I believe, the number of embodiments - the smaller the number of embodiments, the more emphatic the utterance. :) At the point of a single embodiment (the embodiment) emphasis reaches its apex of intensity. :) Then, when the number of embodiments drops below 1, emphasis suddenly submerges below the freezing point. :D
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    What if it had read: He was the embodiment of the Bulgarian Dream?

    I ask you, Boozer. :)
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    May we use "A" instead of "THE" here? The American dream could certainly have many embodiments,
    I'm not sure that it can, and even if it could, 'the' indicates that Mr Mitchell was the authentic/perfect/genuine/complete/specific embodiment.

    A: "Mikhail Gorbachev came to my party."
    B: "What?! The Mikhail Gorbachev?!
    A: "No, a Mikhail Gorbachev. He is a car mechanic who lives next door to me."

    What would change in the meaning if we wrote: "Mr Mitchell was an embodiment of the American dream."
    To me this does not sound as if Mitchell is a complete embodiment: he is one from many who approximate to the idea of "The American Dream."

    "John Smith was a winner in all the stages of the competition and finished as the winner when he beat David Brown in the final."
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    What if it had read: He was the embodiment of the Bulgarian Dream?

    I ask you, Boozer. :)
    Well, 'the Bulgarian Dream' is not an 'idiomatic' phrase in either your language or mine. :D

    No change for me. Both an/the embodiment are possible.

    Hmm, I wrote my first post on impulse without giving it any thought, but you and Paul have really made me seek reference material. Some examples from the BNC:
    He was an embodiment of God's divine plan for the people as a whole.
    The whole description is an embodiment of middle-class values...
    ...and the female nude becomes an embodiment of the act of painting itself.
    She was little more to me than an embodiment of kindness.
    etc.

    A total of 24 hits for 'an embodiment'.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    Well, I'm all about the minority. It could be either "an" or "the" embodiment.

    I applaud your entry, boozer. Kudos.
     
    I'm not sure that it can, and even if it could, 'the' indicates that Mr Mitchell was the authentic/perfect/genuine/complete/specific embodiment.
    Thanks, PaulQ!

    So the word "embodiment" implies uniqueness. I thought that it could be used like in "he is a living representative/example of..", i.e., one out of many.

    I looked at Google Books, and found this (Richard Gray, 2011, A History of American Literature):

    In the biography, Lincoln appears as an embodiment of the American dream; while, in the poem, Sandburg declares his faith in the democratic experiment.
    Does this look O.K.? Does the comparative use of the conjunction "as" makes it acceptable, or THE would still look better?

    I am loath to use 'metric'
    I did write "feature" first, but, being not loath to experiment, went for "metric". (0:
     
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