MM: The mediopassive abounds in Russian. Why does it surprise you in English?
I never noticed it in Russian, and I got used to the idea that a verb can be either "passive" or "active", so I was amuzed to learn that there is a third variant. I learnt about the mediopassive from the same blog entry Paul did. By the way, what is the English term for somebody who reads the same blogs you do?
When we say, "This pencil point breaks easily" the subject (actor) of the sentence is the pencil. It's called mediopassive because a pencil is an inanimate object which cannot break itself, it can only be broken. But we speak of it in the active voice figuratively, because breaking seems to be something that the pencil does of its own volition -- obviously we are not trying to break it; when the pencil point breaks it startles us.
To say "this cola drinks easily" or "this book reads well" is an abuse of style. There is nothing unexpected or unintentional in our drinking of the soda or our reading of the book that would make these objects even appear to be taking action. That's why these uses of the mediopassive are not conventional. The use is cute and novel purely for the sake of novelty. (Language change may be unavoidable, but when it can be avoided it's not a good thing.)
Originally posted by Arnie McKelvey: IMO, not only is it correct English, the writer demonstrates refinement, sophistication and sensuality.
I disagree. I think the writer exhibits intellectual vanity, as if to say "Look how clever and trendy I am!" The writer demonstrates the quality of being a (insert your favorite obscene insult). [ July 05, 2006: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]