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From Uncle Fred Flits By by P.G. Wodehouse:

The meaning of bulging by dictionary is: protruding part, a sudden increase in number or quantity, and last is: an advantage. I don't see any of these fit in the phrase "bulging with Pongo's lunch" - How can these be applied to "lunch" - a food ?

So when, on the occasion to which I allude, he stood pink and genial on Pongo's hearth-rug, bulging with Pongo's lunch and wreathed in the smoke of one of Pongo's cigars, and said: 'And now, my boy, for a pleasant and instructive afternoon,' you will readily understand why the unfortunate young clam gazed at him as he would have gazed at two-penn'orth of dynamite, had he discovered it lighting up in his presence.

Please explain me the meaning of the sentence also, I am not able to clearly get its meaning although I have referred the oxford dictionary for all the words I don't know.

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I'd recommend splitting this question into two, one about "clam" and one about "two-penn'orth," so that when you accept the answer it will be clear that the whole question has been answered. Or you can do four (one for each word) if you don't understand hearth-rug and bulging after reading these definitions. –  KitFox Jul 1 '11 at 17:23
    
I agree with Kit; furthermore, you can just look up hearth-rug and bulging in the dictionary. (This usage of clam is in there too, depending on the dictionary.) –  MrHen Jul 1 '11 at 17:28
    
Ok, I will ask a separate question for each phrase that I don't understand even after looking up dictionary. Thanks! –  teenup Jul 1 '11 at 17:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Hearth-rug

Bulging with lunch

Bulging with lunch

Two pennies worth

Clam a stolid or closemouthed person

On the occasion to which I am referring, Pongo's Uncle Fred—Lord Ickenham— , stood pink and genial on Pongo's small carpet in front of the fireplace, with a big belly full of Pongo's lunch and covered in the smoke of one of Pongo's cigars, and said: 'And now, my boy, for a pleasant and instructive afternoon,'

When the uncle said this, you will easily understand why (Pongo), the unfortunate young suddenly quiet man, looked at his uncle as he (Pongo) would have looked at a small stick of dynamite lighting up in his presence.

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Thankyou so much!! But I have not understood the last part of sentence till now, starting from - "You will readily...". Actually I don't understand, who is "him" here? The uncle himself? The conversation is between Uncle,Pongo and some other third person. –  teenup Jul 1 '11 at 17:54
    
@Puneet - See update –  mplungjan Jul 1 '11 at 18:04
    
Thank you so much. –  teenup Jul 1 '11 at 18:41

You have understood each and every word literally in the passage. The meaning and intent of the paragraph is not really about English but about the metaphorical or cultural uses.

  • "hearth-rug": literally, a rug at the hearth/fireplace. Metaphorically, a place to sit and relax after lunch

  • "bulging": literally, expanding in a spherical manner. Metaphorically, he ate a lot and his stomach feels extended.

  • "clam": literally, a sea creature. Metaphorically, a very 'public-school' informal manner of referring to a young man "old chap", "old bean" etc.

  • "two penn'orth": literally, a very small amount of change. Metaphorically, a trivial amount, but in distinction to dynamite which follows a bit incongruous (for humor's sake).

So you have the literal meaning of everything, you just have to slide over into understanding things not so literally and with a view to humor.

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Public school...fixed –  Mitch Apr 21 '12 at 23:22

The idea is that the person saying "and now, my boy, for a pleasant and instructive afternoon" is full to bursting from lunch, and relaxing with a fine cigar. Both of these states would normally, in English-speaking high culture, indicate a person who would normally spend their afternoon napping, not teaching. So, "you will readily understand why the unfortunate young clam" - "clam" here being some deprecative term for a junior person and/or someone staring impolitely - "gazed at him as he would have gazed at two-penn'orth of dynamite, had he discovered it lighting up in his presence" - in more modern parlance "gazed at him as he would have gazed at an M-80, had he seen the fuse being lit in front of him".

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Till now I was taking his as "pongo" in the last phrase "discovered it lighting in his presence", but now it seems that "his" is Pongo himself. That made the meaning convoluting and I was not able to get it. Am I right ? If yes, can you tell me, in general how would I get to know to whom is "his" referring to in any sentence. –  teenup Jul 2 '11 at 3:27
    
Yes, the use of pronouns for both people being talked about in this sentence can make telling one from the other confusing. In the clause starting with "gazed at him", the first "him" is the guy who's just eaten and is smoking (probably the title character Uncle Fred). All "he"s refer to the student, the one gazing at Uncle Fred. However, ALL of the male-gendered pronouns in "had he discovered it lighting up in his presence" also refer to the student; the simile compares Uncle Fred to this stick of dynamite, so Uncle Fred is not a part of this sentence after the word "as". –  KeithS Jul 5 '11 at 14:36

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