The Gray Wizard wrote:
>> "Phonix is a boomtown where nearly a quarter
>> of the children live in poverty.
>> If there's any one thing that distinguishes Phoenix,
>> it's that the city is still becoming. There may be arguments
>> as to what it's becoming..."
>How interesting the various interpretations this have been! I must say
>my initial (and for that matter final) interpretation was that it was meant
>as a pun. I thought a rather good one as puns go. I, of course
>the first occurrence of 'becoming' as the adjective meaning 'attractive'.
>It was interesting to see this usage was considered rather 'old-fashioned'
>by some. Well, I suppose I'm showing my age, but it's a quite common usage
>in my vocabulary.>
Not so much old-fashioned, though likely on it way... I personally haven't
heard or used it in years. IMO there are some restrictions on its
1. female to or of anyone at all--OK;
2. male to/of female--OK; male to male OK if: a) father to son/close
relative/close friend; b) between close friends; c) tailor or clothing
salesclerk to customer (these are all in reference to clothing/appearance;
referring to behavior, male to/of anyone is probably OK). Male to male
(clothing/appearance) not OK: casual acquaintances, total strangers. Would
you say "That's a very becoming jacket/shirt/tie" etc. to a casually-known
co-worker? to the boss? total stranger? Try saying to some guy at the gym
"Your T-shirt/spandex is very becoming"-- better have an exit-strategy
handy! I don't know; I wouldn't-- but "good-looking/nice/attractive" would
be perfectly OK in each of these cases, especially if followed by "where did
you get it?"
In these senses, my feeling is that the word is becoming marginalized,
largely (but NB not exclusively) a female, or at least female-tinged, usage.
It would be interesting if S.Caves would de-lurk to comment....
3. With a negative, the usage broadens considerably, though as a rather
blunt criticism, it seems more likely to be said OF someone, than TO them.
Ironic and sarcastic use, positive or negative, is also very broad.
4. I find it difficult to apply "becoming" to inanimate objects-- maybe
?"Those gigantic old maples are very becoming to my street" or even to pets:
?"Isn't Fluffy becoming, with her little ribbon?" It might apply to
interior decor, but that strikes me as professional quack-speak, a little
gushy and precious (the female tinge?).
5. I find it impossible to use "becoming" as a synonym of "attractive
PERIOD" (i.e.with ref. only to physical appearance). *"Marilyn Monroe was
really becoming.", "What a becoming chick!"(aargh) , *"East Lynne is such a
becoming little town". No no no.
>As for the intransitive usage of 'becoming', how odd. I have never heard
>this verb used this way>
It was my immediate and only take on it. Don't know where I got it, but
perhaps it's because my conlang has a productive "becoming VERB"
derivational category (Sapir-Whorf strikes again!); more likely from SF, or
maybe layman's explanations of modern physics (in the sense that some hold
that the Universe is not "finished" but still "becoming" [in an ongoing
process of creation]). This usage may ultimately derive from modern
French-influenced philosophy and lit-crit, as D.Stokes mentioned; but like
him, I avoid that stuff. Pure MEGO.
Given the context of the quote, and what we know about Phoenix, I'd consider
it unlikely that the writer meant to say or pun 'it's still attractive". It
was a smallish city that over the last 20-30 years has experienced explosive
and somewhat chaotic growth, resulting in many problems-- poverty,
inadequate social services, increasing problems of water supply,
soon-to-come problems of electrical supply, traffic, smog, etc. etc. So
what _is_ it becoming? What is it aspiring to? Just another huge sprawl of
strip-malls? or will it develop the amenities of a major, world-class city
like NYC, Paris, London, Tokyo, maybe even LA or ...Moscow? Given the
choice, would we rather visit one of those, or Phoenix? (well, I plan to
visit Phoenix sometime soon, since 2 very good friends recently moved there.
They seem to like it....)
I will concede that in the context of the quote, some explanatory word
could well have followed the progressive verb "is...becoming...", or a
>Curious. Yes, curious indeed!
and curiouser...Perhaps it is unbecoming to keep beating this dead horse.
:-)) or SO~so~so~so~ (mother elephantine-humor-symbol and 3 babies)