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Arisha
Could you tell me, please, if this word order is correct?

And how often behind the haughty guises of decent mothers and faithful wives, behind the false smiles of benefactresses and the women of virtue, behind the showy disguises of shrews and hysterical women he saw the real face!

Feb 22, 2018 6:48 PM
Comments · 18

You might not want the word "showy." I'm not sure. Please forgive me if you already know all of this.

"Showy" does not mean visible, or evident, or apparent.

"Showy" means making an impressive, brilliant, dramatic appearance. Often it means too impressive, flamboyant, gaudy. For example, if you like peacocks you might say they "make a beautiful display of their feathers," but if you don't like them you might say they "make a showy display of their feathers."

Usually a woman would not want to disguise herself as a shrew or hysterical woman. It is more likely that a woman who really is a shrew or a hysterical woman would want to disguise herself as a calm, reasonable, and self-contained. So I am confused here as to what is the disguise, what is the real woman, and what is the "real face."

I have a feeling that the word "mask" might work here, somewhere. "Behind the lifelike mask hiding the shrew..." "Behind the convincing mask hiding the shrew..." 


February 23, 2018

I think you are asking whether you can use this word order,

And how often [behind the yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda] he saw the real face!

instead of

And how often he saw the real face [behind the yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda ].

The answer is, yes, you can. Having such a long passage separating grammatically related parts of a sentence is somewhat literary, or formal, or "educated" English, but it is perfectly correct. It is more characteristic of the writing of the 1800s than the writing of today. It is not only correct, but it is appropriate if you are translating Russian literature of the 1800s. 

February 23, 2018

This is a personal judgement of style, not correctness. I agree with Michael Chambers' comments about putting commas after the words "often" and "women." I think it is almost necessary. But I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to go farther and use em-dashes:

And how often--behind the haughty guises of decent mothers and faithful wives, behind the false smiles of benefactresses and the women of virtue, behind the showy disguises of shrews and hysterical women--he saw the real face!

There is a very long passage between "how often" and "he saw," and I think it is worth using something stronger than commas to set it off. This is particularly true because the long passage itself contains commas.


February 23, 2018

"Shrew" is perfectly correct. 


Taylor is right that a shrew is an animal, but it also has a second meaning. It can also refer to a woman who is not at all sweet and loving, but instead is a bad-tempered nag.


If it was good enough for Shakespeare, I'm sure it's good enough for us!


(One of William Shakespeare's plays was called "the Taming of the Shrew").


Taylor's proposed word ("shrewd") has a completely different meaning. It means "clever", and is not the right word to use in this context at all. 


February 22, 2018
"Shrew" is a good word for your context.  It is hard for us to know how accurate and appropriate some of your descriptive language is, from just this extract.  I am not sure about "guises", "decent", "showy disguises", and "benefactresses". But they could be spot on. 
February 22, 2018
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Arisha
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