“What is the nature of the employment, Mr. Marriott?”
“I should prefer not to discuss it over the phone.”
“Can you give me some idea? Montemar Vista is quite a distance.”
“I shall be glad to pay your expenses, if we don’t agree. Are you particular about the nature of the employment?”
“Not as long as it’s legitimate.”
The voice grew icicles. “I should not have called you, if it were not.”
A Harvard boy. Nice use of the subjunctive mood. The end of my foot itched, but my bank account was still trying to crawl under a duck. I put honey into my voice and said: “Many thanks for calling me, Mr. Marriott. I’ll be there.”
Farewell, My Lovely (p. 42) — Raymond Chandler
In a recent Huffington Post article, noted “scholar, author, and blogger” (and non-Harvard boy), Joel Watts, asks: “What if [sic] Jesus Was [sic] Real?” (Note: I’m linking to Joel’s blog rather than directly to the HuffPo.)
That’s a difficult question for many to read. It could mean, possibly, this author believes Jesus was not real or at least has doubts as to the existence of a Jesus.
Since Joel did not employ the subjunctive, we may wonder whether he believes it is more likely that Jesus did exist, or whether he simply has problems with English grammar. Did he really mean to insert the indefinite article before Jesus, or is it a typo? By “difficult to read,” did he mean “hard to understand”? It is, indeed, always more difficult to comprehend prose written by an author who has a tenuous grasp of the mother tongue. For example, in broaching the subject of Jesus mythicism, he writes:
We see this almost constantly with the advent of new “ideas” such as Jesus was the King of Egypt, or Jesus was an alien, or worse — Jesus isn’t real, just a story told like other divine imaginations, to help out one person or another in achieving something of an ethical collusion, or mythicism. (emphasis mine)
It is difficult to make sense of this concatenation of words, because although it looks at first like so much random lexical noise, I cannot shake the suspicion that Joel had intended to write something rather clever. As a last resort, I Googled the terms “divine imagination” and “ethical collusion,” but reached no satisfying conclusions. Of course, I am no scholar, so I’m at a disadvantage here.
Joel continues by dredging up the tired accusation that mythicists are just like creationists.