Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Consider the violinist Jascha Heifetz, known for his blank expression when performing. A 1925 article remarked on his deportment: "Cold, calm, dispassionate, he stands on the platform and performs miracles of dexterity, displays his beauties of tone. But do we not feel slightly chilled, anxious perhaps for less mastery and more humanity?

Does the last sentence mean a. we feel chilled and want humanity more than dexterity. or b. what really makes us chilled and anxious is his humanity rather than his mastery.?

share|improve this question
2  
Paragraph (and critical sentence) is (are) missing. –  bib Jun 17 '13 at 2:30
    
Not really an answer, but Jascha Heifetz was widely regarded as the most perfect violinist, perhaps of all time, but people turned to Kreisler or Milstein when they wanted music rather than plain virtuosity. This is what I've read, not necessarily my views. –  Kaiser Octavius Jun 17 '13 at 22:00
add comment

1 Answer

If you're anxious for something, it normally means you want it, but you're afraid/anxious you won't get it. In this case it's a fairly "flowery" usage, but what the writer means is...

We feel chilled by the detached/expressionless performance; we'd much rather have more "humanity" in it, even if the performer exhibited less "technical mastery".


EDIT: Taking account of comments below, I think I should point out that this writer's usage of anxious for [something which is earnestly desired] sounds dated/formal/"pseudo-erudite" to me.

Today, you're more likely to hear anxious about [something "unresolved" which causes anxiety].

share|improve this answer
1  
I actually think the word meant was "eager" instead of "anxious". Though "anxious" is perfectly acceptable in that sentence, the combination of negative connotation and misconstrued meaning lead me to prefer your rewrite or avoidance of that word altogether. –  Kristina Lopez Jun 17 '13 at 3:10
1  
@Kristina: Actually, it is "anxious" - OP didn't give a link, but it was easy enough to find. But in this context, eager, keen, longing, desperate, searching, looking, hoping, etc. would all do just fine, and effectively convey the same sense. –  FumbleFingers Jun 17 '13 at 3:32
    
Wgat I meant to say was though "anxious" was used, I thought that "eager" (or any of your suggestions) would be a better choice in that context. –  Kristina Lopez Jun 17 '13 at 4:22
    
'Slightly chilled' and 'anxious' do seem to need an 'or perhaps even' rather than a comma between them. –  Edwin Ashworth Jun 17 '13 at 7:49
1  
@Edwin, StoneyB: Maybe "flowery" wasn't the ideal descriptor above. I didn't want to say grandiloquent, highfalutin, pompous, stilted (or maybe dated, antiquated) because they sound more negative than I'd have intended. Looking at a couple of paragraphs to gauge the writer's prose style, I think we're seeing exactly what he intended to write. Anxious isn't a "strengthening" of chilled here - it's a more-or-less archaic usage meaning earnestly desirous of. Also note that if you link chilled/anxious as suggested, it would clash with the following for. He's too careful for that! –  FumbleFingers Jun 17 '13 at 21:40
show 4 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.