Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wile E. Coyote, Genius

Wile E. Coyote is proof that you can blow yourself up, fall off a cliff, smack into a wall, that in fact you can fail and be mangled in every conceivable way, and still be a proud canine carnivore if you can express yourself with distinction.  Whatever the quality of its dynamite and rocket kits, Acme must have put out one fine English grammar. People scoff, perhaps, but one look at the desert daredevil's spiffy business card puts his writing a paw ahead of most people's.

Ahead of, for example, people who say, "This man fell down the stairs. What he did next is genius," or the many vexing variations on grammatical misuse.

You see, the wily beast knows that genius means either an individual who is a genius or the capacity, i.e. of extraordinary intellectual comprehension, retention, creativity and so on. For these reasons the word genius can only modify a person. In the example above, the man, not what he did, was a genius.

Ol' Wile E. knows this and more, namely that as a noun, the word genius can only be used a few ways. The first is as subject, for example, "A furry genius is hard to find." The second is as predicate, linked to the subject by a linking verb, as in, "Wile E. Coyote is a genius." The final choice, and Mr. Coyote's preferred, is the appositive use, in which one noun just leans against the other, modifying it in the same way an adjective would, without a linking verb. Thus the lovably pompously, "Wile E. Coyote, Genius."

If you need to describe something as characterized by genius, i.e. the genius of an individual, you need a word that means, "characterized by genius," for which English neatly supplies, "ingenious." Hey it's great to have words, isn't it?

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