Antedating

From Jens Fiederer on Google+ today, a follow-up to my posting on feel like (here), with an antedating of feel like + NP (as in I feel like sushi ‘I feel like eating sushi’), from the 1970 quote in my posting back to 1889. And with a Stanford connection.

The quote is from “Recent Conversations in a Studio” by W.W. Story, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 146 (July-December 1889) (GoogleBooks link here). The piece is a rambling conversation (between the characters Mallet and Belton) on opinions and tastes, which wanders partway through into questions of language, complete with peeving – first in general, then on American English. After some exchanges on how Americans don’t know how to use quite, we get:

Mal. One of the oddest phrases used in America, and one which is not justified by the usage of the best writers of English, is – “I don’t feel like going or doing something,” for I don’t feel inclined to go or do something. You may feel like a thing or a person, but how can you feel like an action? You may feel life a fool, or an ass, or a stick, possibly; but how can you feel like a doing or a going?

Bel. It is, nevertheless, universal in America.

Mal. I remember being startled by what struck me as an extraordinary and ludicrous use of this phrase. I had just arrived in America, and was taking my breakfast in the breakfast-room of the hotel, when a pretty woman came in with a little child, and seated herself near me. The child had no appetite, and refused, in a whining voice, everything that was offered to it. The mother apparently was disturbed by this, and at last relapsed into silence for a few minutes. Then suddenly she turned to the child, and said, “Well, don’t you feel like beefsteak?”

Bel. Feel like beefsteak! That was good.

“Inclination” feel like  is attested from well before this in construction with VPprp (OED2′s first cite is 1829, and it’s an observation about usage), but in construction with an NP, Story’s dialogue takes us back nearly a century before OED2′s first attestation. (Of course, the OED‘s editors weren’t specifically looking for this configuration; the 1970 quote was simply the earliest one that got swept up in their net.)

So both of the inclination uses of feel like have been around for a long time, at least in the U.S. And they seem to have remained colloquial in tone throughout.

Now Story. From his Wikipedia entry:

William Wetmore Story (February 12, 1819 – October 7, 1895) was an American sculptor, art critic, poet and editor.

Note that he was American, so the somewhat mocking tone towards Americans in the passage above was an affectation. Wikipedia goes on:

One of his most famous works, Cleopatra, (1858) was described and admired in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s romance, The Marble Faun, and is on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia. Another work, the Angel of Grief, has been replicated near the Stanford Mausoleum at Stanford University [and at a number of other locations].

More on the statue:

Angel of Grief is an 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story which serves as the grave stone of the artist and his wife at the Protestant Cemetery, Rome.

A replica located in Palo Alto, California was made in 1901 to honor Henry Lathrop, brother to Jane Stanford, Stanford University co-founder, but was severely damaged in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, leading to its replacement in 1908. After years of neglect, the 1908 replacement was fully restored in 2001.

The Angel in Rome:

and at Stanford:

If you feel like a visit to Stanford’s Angel (and the Mausoleum), I’m happy to guide tours.

3 Responses to “Antedating”

  1. dimjaguar Says:

    what a tie-in! i remember seeing that sculpture named on the campus map with no further explanation and being a little anxious as to what kind of tortured supernatural creature could possibly be hiding out in that area of the arboretum

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Entertaining footnote: Henry James wrote a biography of Story (1903) — probably the most obscure of James’s publications.

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