I don't know what the point is supposed to be here, but the grammatical subject of the sentence is "He." "Laugh" is not even in it: the word is "laughed"--a verb. The core sentence is "he laughed." The rest is modifiers. There may be a difficulty with "like" because it is, in current terms, an adjective and compares nouns, as in "he was like a foetus." But it has been, and colloquially now is, used as an adverb, as in "he laughed like a foetus laughed."
There is no way "laugh" can be the subject of a sentence in which it does not even appear and is in a verb form slotted where verbs are. "Foetal" never appears either, only the noun "foetus."
In modern English these forms are not interchangeable and syntax determines their function. When Eliot intends a noun/verb form for "laugh," he uses "laughter," as in the following line and the second line. One does have to read what is there and not what is not there.
So the only question that makes grammatical sense is whether the comparison is between Apollinax and a foetus or between the way Apollinax laughs and the way a foetus laughs.
>>> Diana Manister <[log in to unmask]> 03/06/08 10:58 AM >>>
But then wouldn't "laugh" be the subject of the sentence, with "foetal" modifying it?
His laugh then would be both foetal and irresponsible. Diana
Exactly. That's the point I've been trying to make.
Thanks for putting it so cogently, Peter.
Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
No. //A laugh is capable of showing undeveloped (foetal) characteristics.//
----- Original Message -----
From: Diana Manister
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 6:52 AM
Subject: Re: On the Making of a Simile
Peter, so you are saying "a foetal characteristic" is capable of laughing?
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