In the Style of Hemingway
July 17, 2004 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Grammar/StyleFilter: What is the accepted adjective form to describe something written in the style of Hemingway? Hemingway-esque? Hemingway-ian? Something else altogether? With a hyphen or without? And moving from the specific to the general, is there a hard and fast rule for when we use one of these particular endings (-ian, -ean, -esque, etc.) to turn a proper noun into an adjective, or is the style dictated simply by what seems to sound right?
posted by .kobayashi. to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Google returns fourteen results for "hemingwayian" and 1,700 or so for (plus a dictionary entry) "heminwayesque".

Since "hemingwayian" can't even be pronounced -- you would probably have to insert a "v" -- that settles it for me. But I would avoid either term.

As an aside, it's interesting to me that Google can be used in just this way. Since usage, over time, wins all arguments about how a language is defined, it seems important that we have this new, unusual ability to measure usage in this way. Lexis/nexis would probably be better for it though.
posted by coelecanth at 1:53 PM on July 17, 2004

Note that the use of either "Hemingwayesque" or "Hemingwayian" would in itself be decidedly un-Hemingwayesque.
posted by profwhat at 2:12 PM on July 17, 2004

I've always heard it "Hemingwayesque"--almost certainly for the reason that coelacanth gave.

Regarding the different suffixes ("suffices"?), I think that there is generally an association between the various endings and the source languages of different roots, so that words coming from French are more likely to end in "-esque", etc. Nevertheless, that's really not a hard and fast rule, by any means, since a lot of these terms really get coined after the fact, once the root's already become part of English, and someone needs to create a descriptive adjective out of it. Most of those seem to be put together around phonetic issues (like what sounds better), pedantry (what sounds more sophisticated), etc.
posted by LairBob at 3:01 PM on July 17, 2004

When all the world both writes and speaks in media that are harvested by google and then indexed without bias, it might be a great measure of what's actually going on in a given language.

But right now, it isn't.

Hemingway-esque is the typical way to do what you're talking about. Hemingway-ian would more likely describe a set of ideals (e.g. men who speak curtly and wear rope-soled shoes).

Then there's Hemingway-ish, which doesn't mean very much, but is funny.
posted by bingo at 3:04 PM on July 17, 2004

And to profwhat's point, I can't resist passing on what's supposed to be Hemingway's shortest story ever...he got involved in a bet about whether or not you could write a legitimate story with just six words. He came up with:

For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Used.

posted by LairBob at 3:05 PM on July 17, 2004

posted by MegoSteve at 3:06 PM on July 17, 2004

Hemingweight. Like a boxing weight class. Heavyweight, Welterweight, Hemingweight.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:26 PM on July 17, 2004

[George] Shaw : Shavian :: Hemingway : Hemingwavian
posted by kirkaracha at 5:25 PM on July 17, 2004

is there a hard and fast rule for when we use one of these particular endings

For comparison, here's the etymology for Kafkaesque in the OED (they also mention Kafkan, Kafkaish, Kafkian). Looks like someone stole the hyphen from Kafka-esque sometime in the '50s.

Of or relating to the Austrian writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) or his writings; resembling the state of affairs or a state of mind described by Kafka. Hence Kafkaesquely adv.
  1947 New Yorker 4 Jan. 61/1 Warned, he said, by a Kafka-esque nightmare of blind alleys. 1954 KOESTLER Invis. Writing x. 120 Long before the Moscow purges revealed that weird, Kafka-esque pattern to the incredulous world. 1958 Spectator 24 Jan. 114/2 An authentic Kafkaesque atmosphere of despair and horror. 1958 E. DUNDY Dud Avocado I. viii. 147 Postcards and wires to the Paris Embassy were all Kafkaesquely re-routed to that powerful Man in Charge. 1963 Times 23 May 6/7 Kafkaesque in its grip and pitiless in its exposition of the cruellest of tortures, that of hope. 1972 Newsweek 10 Jan. 51/2 The Kafkaesque self-abnegation of the infamous ‘show trials’ [in Russia].

    Also Kafka n. used attrib., Kafkan, Kafkaish, Kafkian adjs. = KAFKAESQUE a.
  1936 M. LOWRY Let. (1967) 11 This is the perfect Kafka situation. 1951 S. SPENDER World within World v. 272 They became more Kafkaish than ever. 1959 N. & Q. Oct. 381/1 A re-statement of the Kafkan anguish. 1962 tr. J. L. Borges's Labyrinths (1970) 234 The moving object and the arrow and Achilles are the first Kafkian characters in literature. 1962 Guardian 26 Sept. 8/6, I..had wondered if the whole project would turn out to be a Kafka nightmare. 1966 New Statesman 25 March 437/1 All the Kafkan stuff..gone seedy and suicidal in a backstreet rooming-house. 1971 N. FREELING Over High Side II. 82 So little of what one did made any sense. One lived in a Kafka world.
posted by gluechunk at 5:27 PM on July 17, 2004

Earnest? (I've always heard Hemingwayesque.)
posted by joaquim at 6:41 PM on July 17, 2004

The emphatic adjective is "Wayyyheming."
posted by scarabic at 7:37 PM on July 17, 2004

"in the Heming way"
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:07 PM on July 17, 2004

MegoSteve beat me to it.
posted by zztzed at 10:08 PM on July 17, 2004

The man would have written: "Like Hemingway". You should too. Now I must go and do the dishes.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:40 AM on July 18, 2004

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