Body had been ‘partly eaten’, not ‘partially eaten’
Posted Friday, June 22 2012 at 18:31
At first I was intrigued to read in a newspaper that, when the body of a long lost girl was found among the trees nearby, it had been “partially eaten” by an animal.
In this construction, I would sooner have used the adverb partly than the adverb partially. To be sure, both are legitimate words.
Both come from the same noun part and both mean in part. But partly is what is literal. It is what refers to a section, a part, of an objective whole. Because Nairobi’s Eastlands is in Ukambani, we can say that “Nairobi is in part in Ukambani” or simply that “Nairobi is partly in Ukambani”.
In such a construction, the adverb partially does not sit as comfortably as the adverb partly because partially is more metaphorical, more ideal.
For, although the root adjective partial also means only in part, it refers, much more accurately to that part for which one has a liking or a preference (in one’s mind).
That is why, from the noun part (in the foregoing paragraph), we can form the word partisan. In other words, to be partial is to be partisan (adjective) or to be a partisan (noun).
To put it another way, though the adverb partially also means in part, it stresses only the ideal part, the part for which one has a mental “soft spot”. It means, rather, in a partisan manner.
Let us stress this. Both the adjective partial and the adverb partially denote or connote a leaning towards one party against other parties. In short, they signify a bias, favour, fondness, liking, penchant, predilection, prejudice.
That is why I would not say that the young girl’s body had been partially eaten. I would be much more comfortable saying that it had been partly eaten.
For to say that the body was partially eaten is to imply that the carnivore in question had an appetite only for certain parts of that body and not for the other parts of it. It is even to imply that, for a meal, the animal had a preference for that particular body to all other bodies that might have been lying around.
In their pride — to be sure — lions and certain other cats can be very partial and choosy in their meat consumption.
But your statement can hardly be correct concerning a cat like the spotted hyena and such scavengers as vultures and Kenya’s MPs.
This partiality is the essence of the expression for my part or for your part or for his part or for its part or for their part. For my part means “concerning my part in it” or “as far as it concerns me”.
Last week, I wrote here: “For its part, topology is rooted in the Coptic topo ...”
But the sub-editor who handled my piece replaced the preposition For with the preposition On, so that it read: “On its part ...” The latter means “as done by it”. There’s a thin but important nuance of semantic difference.