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The question is based on the following text:

Approaching crafts from the point of view of function, we can divide them into simple categories: containers, shelters, and supports. There is no way around the fact that containers, shelters, and supports must be functional.

Here are my questions:

  • How should I understand the words in bold?
  • What kind of a dictionary should I refer to when I get similar questions?
  • Can anyone tell me in which dictionary I can find such a phrase?
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Hello Jack. I don't think the second question is really valid. I mean, any and no dictionary will do. –  Alenanno Jul 20 '11 at 16:14
    
@Alenanno: Thanks for your comment. Question is edited accordingly. Actually I'd like to know that what kind of books should I refer to when I need to know the meaning of such phrases. –  Jack Jul 20 '11 at 16:24
    
I don't think it's that easy. You can check grammars but I don't think you'll find a chapter with such phrases but you can try looking on internet. –  Alenanno Jul 20 '11 at 16:25
1  
@Alenanno: Hmm, I see. That's the reason why this site is so useful. –  Jack Jul 20 '11 at 16:30
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The bold words can basically be omitted without drastically changing the meaning of the paragraph. The connotation of these bold words is that there is no logical "path" of reasoning that would not require you to acknowledge the fact that follows (namely that containers, shelters and supports must be functional); you could not reason logically given true facts and come to any different conclusion.

As far as understanding terms similar to this, there is no one reference other than sites like this one that provides all this information. It is implicitly understood by creative and technical writers alike that their audience, in most cases consisting of native English speakers, will have a certain amount of "common knowledge" of idioms and idiosyncrasies used in language, gained through immersion and experience in the everyday English language and culture. This is one of those instances. Unfortunately, to those for whom English is not their first language, or who are experiencing a different parlance for the first time, these can be missed or misunderstood.

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Thanks for your answer. Now I see. –  Jack Jul 20 '11 at 16:28
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"There is no way around the fact that..." means "It is always true that...".

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There's also a connotation of "maybe you didn't want it to be true". You probably wouldn't say "there is no way around the fact that the weather today is pleasant", but you might say "...that the sky is darkening (so our picnic plans may be in danger)". –  Monica Cellio Jul 20 '11 at 16:20
    
@Monica: precisely. In fact, I don't think jimreed's answer is complete without that addendum. Maybe you should post a separate answer? –  Marthaª Jul 20 '11 at 16:24
    
@Monica&Martha, but certainly it depends on the delivery. If one says "There is no way around the fact that today the weather is great!" with a huge grin, the phrase still maintains its normal purpose: to emphasize the fact. (Or am I wrong? I do agree that it is more frequently used in cases when we want to avoid something, still I would say that the essence is emphasis) –  Unreason Jul 20 '11 at 16:40
    
I think @Monica's nuance virtually always applies, in that the speaker invariably either would like the fact not to be true, or is effectively 'accusing' whoever he's addressing of failing to recognise the undeniable truth. –  FumbleFingers Jul 23 '11 at 16:11
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