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There is a mother, Ann, who has a stereotypical 'good' personality: she is religious, a teacher, and a very generous lady.

Her daughter, Emily, isn't the nicest lady: she whines a lot, insults people, and is ignorant to her family history.

My professor asked to mention in my essay that Emily's personality was an 'un-improvement', as compared to her mother's.

I can't find a way to say this without sounding awkward. What I have so far is: "Emily's personality shows a degraded structure as the generations of her family trickle down." I already know that I do not want to use that sentence: it sounds awful and confusing, in my opinion (I can bet that you had to read it twice before understanding what I was trying to say). Can anyone else think of a way I could say this?

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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Perhaps something like

On the ladder of personality evolution, Emily is a distinct step backwards from her mother.

Unfortunately, Emily did not inherit her mother's pleasant personality.

Emily is not as nice as her mother.

Emily's personality does not measure up to her mother's.

Emily's mother had a personality like a Lexus: fine, well-crafted, generous, and admirable. Emily's own personality, on the other hand, was more like a Yugo.

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All of these answers are great! I have accepted this one because of the great variety of possible ways to write my sentence. –  Mike Gates Oct 11 '11 at 12:04
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Another possibility: Emily stood as unfortunate proof that some apples do fall rather far from the tree.

This a play on the idiom 'The apple never falls far from the tree', which is used to mean that children tend to take after their parents.

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What class is this for? If it was biology, for instance, whether the daughters personality constituted an improvement could only be determined in context. All you could say is it is a variation, and perhaps a seeming regression, but only the environment would determine if the difference was an improvement.

Improvement implies some known ideal being striven for. Such an improvement would move you closer to that ideal. A regression would move you away from that ideal toward an earlier, even-less-ideal state.

I think how you decide to word this would depend on the ultimate point being driven at.

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You could say "The family character worsened/degenerated in Emily". But why assume a daughter's character is related to her mother's, let alone that it is normally better? Simply "Emily's character was worse than her mother's" would do very well.

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Emily's personality was a throwback to a time when her ancestors were much less refined than her mother is now.

That may say more than you can justify about her ancestors. If you wanted to focus just on the difference between Ann and Emily:

All of Ann's outstanding personality traits degraded as they were inherited by Emily.

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You could also say Emily's character is totally diametrical to that of Ann, her mom.

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Mmm This says 'opposite' but does not imply a degeneration. –  StoneyB Feb 13 '13 at 16:51
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