(un)common ground

a commonplace book

Passive Voice: Diffusing Responsibility

Hotels–hushed–have a problem with the active voice. The passive evades clock time and diffuses responsibility (not ‘We’re serving your dinner at eight,’ but ‘Dinner is served.’). To stay in a hotel is never like living at home. Hotel is a nothing-doing, but hardly through what I would call choice. Like Miss Golightly, I am ‘traveling.’ Nevertheless I have–simultaneously–arrived.

Joanna Walsh, Hotel (2015)

In the first case, an eloquent description of what passive voice does rhetorically. It is fundamentally evasive, and yet its utility lies in its timelessness. It does efficient work.

In the second case, I love the description of the hotel as a “nothing-doing,” as a liminal space full of paradoxical meanings. The hotel guest is at once traveling and arriving. Always arriving but never at home.


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This entry was posted on January 17, 2016 by and tagged , , .
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