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Poland is the historical bone in the throat of both Germany and Russia, and it is in the American interest to make sure that it is firmly lodged there.

and

Poland is the historical bone in the throat in both Germany and Russia, and it is in the American interest to make sure that it is firmly lodged there

I wonder if the semantics of the sentence change when I use in instead of of

Please elaborate.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

To a degree, 'in' would apply to the people in the countries (or perhaps people in government), while 'of' refers to the countries themselves (the Russian Bear and the German Eagle, maybe).

But I think this phrase has now become an idiom rather than a metaphor, and your reader might just think 'in' a mistake.

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Saying they are the "bone in the throat" IN Russia suggests that Russia views them as such, whereas saying they are the "bone in the throat" OF Russia suggests that this is a generally accepted view.

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The choice would cause me to parse the sentences differently.

With "A bone in the throat of both Germany and Russia", I would parse it as "[A bone in [ the throat of both [Germany and Russia]]", bringing G and R into the metaphor, and understanding it as "something that irritates both Germany and Russia".

I would parse "A bone in the throat in both Germany and Russia" as "[A bone in the throat] in both [Germany and Russia]", meaning that it was an irritation (to somebody unexpressed) in both places. It is much less specific (and also rather unnatural to me, because it is unusual to use such a phrase without a possessor for the throat).

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