"in an otherwise mean" and "the unwieldy inheritance"

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Yang

Senior Member
Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
I would like to ask two phrases and one word.
They are in the same essay, BLACK MEN AND PUBLIC SPACE by Brent Staples.

A. I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park, a relatively affluent neighborhood IN AN OTHERWISE MEAN...

What does "in an otherwise mean" mean?

B. It was in the echo of that terrified woman's footfalls that I first began to know THE UNWIELDY INHERITANCE I'D come into--the ability to alter public space in ugly ways.

a. Does "the unwieldy inheritance" mean an inheritance that is too heavy to bear?

b. Is the 'd of the unwieldy inheritance "I'D" would ?
(Should the 'd of the unwieldy inheritance "I'd" be would?)

I have looked them up in the dictionaries but still can't understand.

I know what IN, AN, OTHERWISE and MEAN mean in separate
but I can't figure out when they put together,
same as "the unwieldy inheritance".

Thank you in advance.
 
  • lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean = (although you cut off the quote too close to the part you ask for help with, so this is possibly wrong) the affluence suggests a gentility that is apparently not typical of the area; it sounds like meanness, and possibly then poverty, is more expected in this area

    unwieldy inheritance = very large and difficult to manage

    I'd = I had
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    lsp said:
    affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean = (although you cut off the quote too close to the part you ask for help with, so this is possibly wrong) the affluence suggests a gentility that is apparently not typical of the area; it sounds like meanness, and possibly then poverty, is more expected in this area

    unwieldy inheritance = very large and difficult to manage

    I'd = I had
    Sorry, I was afraid to quote too many passages might have not been appropriate.

    Here are some more context:



    My first victim was a woman--white, well dressed, probably in her early twenties. I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park, a relatively affluent neighborhood IN AN OTHERWISE MEAN, impoverished section of Chicago. As I swung onto the avenue behind her...



    unwieldy inheritance = very large and difficult to manage

    Yes, "very large and difficult to manage" is what I found in the dictionary.

    But how to explain "an inheritance that is very large and difficult to manage " to a person? Why has a person to control or manage the inheritance he has come into? Does that mean a culture-- the inheritance that being prejudiced?

    Therefore he has to learn to deal with it?

    Is that right?



    I'd = I had

    So the 'd is had. Ha. Thank you very much.:)
     

    Ali2005

    New Member
    USA English
    I would say an unweildly inheritance is in referance to a situation that you yourself brought upon yourself. in other words to say that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time but didnt know until it was to late.
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    Ali2005 said:
    I would say an unweildly inheritance is in referance to a situation that you yourself brought upon yourself. in other words to say that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time but didnt know until it was to late.
    According to the context the "unwieldy inheritance" seems to be "the ability to alter public space in ugly ways".
    (It was in the echo of that terrified woman's footfalls that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I'd come into--the ability to alter public space in ugly ways.

    Therefore I make of "the unwieldy inheritance" to be a culture in which black man are being prejudiced.(I am not sure if the sentences I've written are right)
    And Brent Staples inherited the culture.

    But I think you are right in some way:he was in the wrong place at the wrong time but didn't know until it was to late--To Brent Staples, he had come into the inheritance since he was born but didn't know it until the night he came upon that young white woman.

    Ah, I can't express well in English...>_<

    Is my understanding correct?
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    Ali2005 said:
    I would say an unweildly inheritance is in referance to a situation that you yourself brought upon yourself. in other words to say that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time but didnt know until it was to late.
    I don't get it. I mean, I can't make that wrong-place-wrong-time connection.:confused:

    I'd describe an unwieldy inheritance if it was too big a responsibility to handle, if it brought with it unwanted things as well, if it caused friction in my existing relationships, if it is basically a mixed blessing.
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    lsp said:
    I don't get it. I mean, I can't make that wrong-place-wrong-time connection.:confused:

    I'd describe an unwieldy inheritance if it was too big a responsibility to handle, if it brought with it unwanted things as well, if it caused friction in my existing relationships, if it is basically a mixed blessing.
    How about this:he hadn't known it until he was at the right time and the right place--he came upon the white woman late one evening on a deserted street,and the echo of that fleeing terrified woman's footfalls made him began to know the unwieldy inheritance he'd come into.:)
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    lsp said:
    I'd describe an unwieldy inheritance if it was too big a responsibility to handle, if it brought with it unwanted things as well, if it caused friction in my existing relationships, if it is basically a mixed blessing.
    I see...:)

    By the way, the mean in "in an otherwise mean" is a noun,
    does it mean "an average amount,figure, or value" ?
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    Yang said:
    I see...:)

    By the way, the mean in "in an otherwise mean" is a noun,
    does it mean "an average amount,figure, or value" ?
    I regard it as an adjective, like impoverished, meaning unfriendly, unwelcoming (referring again to the neighborhood).
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    lsp said:
    I regard it as an adjective, like impoverished, meaning unfriendly, unwelcoming (referring again to the neighborhood).
    An adjective?!!!!:eek:

    I thought "an otherwise mean" is a noun phrase,
    so the an is determiner,
    the otherwise is adjective,
    and the mean is noun.:(
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    "...affluent neighborhood IN AN OTHERWISE MEAN, impoverished section of Chicago."
    Mean here is an adjective modifying section." Otherwise is an adverb modifying mean. When have you ever seen otherwise used as an adjective?

    The word can have the same meaning it does in "a mean existence," but in this context I think it alludes to the expression "mean streets," with a connotation of a place where danger and malice "lurk in every shadow."

    In other words it seems a rather melodramatic tone is being sought here.
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    foxfirebrand said:
    "...affluent neighborhood IN AN OTHERWISE MEAN, impoverished section of Chicago."
    Mean here is an adjective modifying section." Otherwise is an adverb modifying mean. When have you ever seen otherwise used as an adjective?

    The word can have the same meaning it does in "a mean existence," but in this context I think it alludes to the expression "mean streets," with a connotation of a place where danger and malice "lurk in every shadow."

    In other words it seems a rather melodramatic tone is being sought here.
    Now I have completely understood this sentence.
    (a relatively affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean, impoverished section of Chicago.)
    Thanks to lsp, foxfirebrand and Ali2005.
    Thank you very much indeed.:)
     

    David

    Banned
    Mean is a synonym for poor in this context, an antonym for affluent, luxurious, rich. These mean streets...

    the unwieldy inheritance he refers to is the cultural inheritance: as a result of centuries of difficult history, a black man, by his mere presence on the street, can make white people feel threatened, uncomfortable. This is unwieldy, awkward, tricky, difficult, challenging for the black man, who just wants to share the street like anybody else but is aware of the effect his presence has on others...
     

    Edwin

    Senior Member
    USA / Native Language: English
    foxfirebrand said:
    When have you ever seen otherwise used as an adjective?
    from www.onelook.com:

    Quick definition of otherwise:

    1 adjective: other than as supposed or expected (Examples: "The outcome was otherwise", "The evidence is otherwise."
    2 adverb: in other respects or ways (Example: "He is otherwise normal")
    3 adverb: in another and different manner (Example: "She thought otherwise")
     

    johnL

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    David said:
    the unwieldy inheritance he refers to is the cultural inheritance: as a result of centuries of difficult history, a black man, by his mere presence on the street, can make white people feel threatened, uncomfortable. This is unwieldy, awkward, tricky, difficult, challenging for the black man, who just wants to share the street like anybody else but is aware of the effect his presence has on others...
    The part in bold is an assumption, and seems to be incorrect, based on other parts of the passage. It seems that the writer enjoys the effect his presence creates, as he refers at one point to his "victim."
     

    David

    Banned
    John L's presumption that Staples "enjoyed" the experience is so insulting, I thought I would copy the following paragraph from Staples's essay:

    "That was more than a decade ago. I was twenty-two years old, a graduate student newly arrived at the University of Chicago. It was in the echo of that terrified woman's footfalls that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I'd come into--the ability to alter public space in ugly ways. It was clear that she thought herself the quarry of a mugger, a rapist, or worse. Suffering a bout of insomnia, however, I was stalking sleep, not defenseless wayfarers. As a softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken--let alone hold one to a person's throat--I was surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed all at once. Her flight made me feel like an accomplice in tyranny. It also made it clear that I was indistinguishable from the muggers who occasionally seeped into the area from the surrounding ghetto. That first encounter, and those that followed, signified that a vast, unnerving gulf lay between nighttime pedestrians--particularly women--and me. And I soon gathered that being perceived as dangerous is a hazard in itself. I only needed to turn a corner into a dicey situation, or crowd some frightened, armed person in a foyer somewhere, or make an errant move after being pulled over by a policeman. Where fear and weapons meet--and they often do in urban America--there is always the possibility of death."

    What is enjoyable about that? Shame!
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Edwin said:
    from www.onelook.com:

    Quick definition of otherwise:

    1 adjective: other than as supposed or expected (Examples: "The outcome was otherwise", "The evidence is otherwise."
    2 adverb: in other respects or ways (Example: "He is otherwise normal")
    3 adverb: in another and different manner (Example: "She thought otherwise")
    Yes, I saw the adjectival use of otherwise in my own favorite reference source, using the same "evidence is otherwise" example. I asked the question anyway. I'm glad someone was alert enough to answer it!

    I think I'm going to have to start a thread on subjective complement constructions, when I get time for a longer break from my work. Spelling out my ideas on the subject of "to be otherwise" is gonna take some doing.

    In the meantime, shouldn't a real adjective lend itself to simple, direct modification of a noun? "The outcome is unexpected" is a statement about an unexpected outcome. "The evidence is (indicates, would indicate) otherwise" is a familiar phrase-- but can you talk about "otherwise evidence?"

    I just wanted to raise a little doubt for now. My tortuous musings on subjective-complement forms are not only best put off for a thread of their own, that thread should probably begin with the caveat MAY NOT BE USEFUL FOR STUDENTS LEARNING ENGLISH. I wouldn't want to hold up arguing with the dictionary as exemplary behavior.
     

    johnL

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    David said:
    John L's presumption that Staples "enjoyed" the experience is so insulting, I thought I would copy the following paragraph from Staples's essay:

    What is enjoyable about that? Shame!
    So you had the benefit of the entire essay, while all the rest of us had was what was provided by the original poster, including the quote "My first victim was a woman."

    You may have jumped a little quickly.
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    David said:
    John L's presumption that Staples "enjoyed" the experience is so insulting, I thought I would copy the following paragraph from Staples's essay:

    "That was more than a decade ago. I was twenty-two years old, a graduate student newly arrived at the University of Chicago. It was in the echo of that terrified woman's footfalls that I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I'd come into--the ability to alter public space in ugly ways. It was clear that she thought herself the quarry of a mugger, a rapist, or worse. Suffering a bout of insomnia, however, I was stalking sleep, not defenseless wayfarers. As a softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken--let alone hold one to a person's throat--I was surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed all at once. Her flight made me feel like an accomplice in tyranny. It also made it clear that I was indistinguishable from the muggers who occasionally seeped into the area from the surrounding ghetto. That first encounter, and those that followed, signified that a vast, unnerving gulf lay between nighttime pedestrians--particularly women--and me. And I soon gathered that being perceived as dangerous is a hazard in itself. I only needed to turn a corner into a dicey situation, or crowd some frightened, armed person in a foyer somewhere, or make an errant move after being pulled over by a policeman. Where fear and weapons meet--and they often do in urban America--there is always the possibility of death."

    What is enjoyable about that? Shame!
    David, it's my fault not quoting enough context for people to comprehend the quoted passages.
    I would like to thank you for your kind and serious reply.
    I guess if Staples knew his thought-provoking essay was treated seriouly, he would be very happy.:)
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    johnL said:
    So you had the benefit of the entire essay, while all the rest of us had was what was provided by the original poster, including the quote "My first victim was a woman."

    You may have jumped a little quickly.
    johnL, I'm so sorry.

    It's all my fault, I thought if I quoted too many passages, people who read them might feel troublesome.

    I'll be careful not to let this situation happen again.:)
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    David said:
    Mean is a synonym for poor in this context, an antonym for affluent, luxurious, rich. These mean streets...

    the unwieldy inheritance he refers to is the cultural inheritance: as a result of centuries of difficult history, a black man, by his mere presence on the street, can make white people feel threatened, uncomfortable. This is unwieldy, awkward, tricky, difficult, challenging for the black man, who just wants to share the street like anybody else but is aware of the effect his presence has on others...
    So...the unwieldy doesn't just mean awkward to move or handle because it is large, heavy, a strange shape( when I saw this in the dictionary, there was always a furniture came to my mind:D ) or difficult to use, manage, or control(this was rather abstract to me:an unwieldy inheritance that is difficulty to use?manage?control?:confused: ).

    Now I've learned that the unwieldy also has connotations of unwieldy, awkward, tricky, difficult, challenging. I can't say it clearly, but I can understand what the passage says.

    My English is not good enough to express what I think and mean.
    (I haven't read the latest post of foxfirebrand, it's kind of difficult to me, but I will read it carefully with the help of dictionary.)

    Thank you all.:) Without your kindly help I won't be able to comprehend
    the essay better. Actually Staples' essay is not easy for me. There still are a lot of questions.:p
     

    Edwin

    Senior Member
    USA / Native Language: English
    foxfirebrand said:
    In the meantime, shouldn't a real adjective lend itself to simple, direct modification of a noun? "The outcome is unexpected" is a statement about an unexpected outcome. "The evidence is (indicates, would indicate) otherwise" is a familiar phrase-- but can you talk about "otherwise evidence?"
    "Otherwise evidence"? :) Why not we have the ''accidental tourist''.

    I agree that "otherwise" is not a classical adjective, but then I have never studied grammar. Clearly language comes first and then linguists (or grammarians?) come along and try to pigeonhole each utterance into a grammatical category. This was brought home to me the other day when in a discussion about the use of adverbs I discovered a website which describes the adverb as a catch all category for words that have no other obvious classification. In particular an adverb need not modify a verb, adjective or noun. (Famous example, ''Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn.")

    adverbs as a catch all category
    Very detailed discussion of adverbs

    I wonder whether grammar is really good for anything--but that's another thread.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    "Otherwise evidence"? :) Why not we have the ''accidental tourist''.

    Yes, but accidental is an adjective. Have you ever said "the accidentally tourist?"

    I just saw the smiley-face. Oh why do I keep overlooking those things? Anyway, the serious part of your post made sense.
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    Yang said:
    An adjective?!!!!:eek:

    I thought "an otherwise mean" is a noun phrase,
    so the an is determiner,
    the otherwise is adjective,
    and the mean is noun.:(
    When I saw the sentence:"I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park, a relatively affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean, impoverished section of Chicago.

    I analyzed it in this way:

    A.I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park (which is) a relatively affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean.
    B.I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park (which is) impoverished section of Chicago.

    A+B=I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park, a relatively affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean, impoverished section of Chicago.

    So I thought "an otherwise mean" is a noun phrase in which an is a determiner, otherwise, of course, is an adjective, and mean is noun.

    Then I started to looking up the definitions that satisfy them.
    The an is OK.
    The otherwise has adjectival meaning, but I have never been sure what it means.
    Last, the mean. I gathered it might mean an average value or amount.

    So, I had concluded the meaning of "in an otherwise mean" is " in some other average". ...:D...(ha...ha..ha.) Finally, I decided to give up the strange meaning made of by myself. That's why I came up here the other day. ^^

    Of course now I've understood my terribly mistaken.
     

    Yang

    Senior Member
    Taiwan /Traditional Chinese
    Edwin said:
    "Otherwise evidence"? :) Why not we have the ''accidental tourist''.

    I agree that "otherwise" is not a classical adjective, but then I have never studied grammar. Clearly language comes first and then linguists (or grammarians?) come along and try to pigeonhole each utterance into a grammatical category. This was brought home to me the other day when in a discussion about the use of adverbs I discovered a website which describes the adverb as a catch all category for words that have no other obvious classification. In particular an adverb need not modify a verb, adjective or noun. (Famous example, ''Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn.")

    adverbs as a catch all category
    Very detailed discussion of adverbs

    I wonder whether grammar is really good for anything--but that's another thread.
    Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn.
    Frankly speaking, my dear I don't give a damn.
    If I am speaking frankly, my dear I don't give a damn.

    Hope my post doesn't sicken anyone.

    Some people here in this forum kindly answer my questions that hadn't been solved for years. I am greatful. Therefor I hope I can give some feedback; besides, I know how it feels if questions haven't been solved.

    So when I saw the questions that I know, I replied them.
    Not for showing off.

    Period.
     
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