English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What does bordered on narcoleptic mean in the following passage?

But if an explanation is where the mind comes to rest, the mind that stopped at “lucky” when it sought to explain the Oakland A’s recent pitching success bordered on narcoleptic.

share|improve this question

closed as too localized by Mitch, Jasper Loy, simchona, kiamlaluno, F'x Aug 3 '11 at 10:01

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Can you name your source, please? – Kit Z. Fox Aug 1 '11 at 12:12
Taken from the book MoneyBall – crazyyyyyyyyy Aug 1 '11 at 12:37
This can be analyzed by its constituent parts (via a dictionary). – Mitch Aug 1 '11 at 12:47
@Mitch, it can not - there is an analogy at play. I (if not horribly mistaken) take 'bordered on narcoleptic' to mean - 'did not explain it at all'. This meaning is metaphorical and can not be deduced strictly via dictionary. – Unreason Aug 2 '11 at 7:25
I dislike this use of via. What's wrong with 'with'? – z7sg Ѫ Aug 2 '11 at 9:37

I'm working without context here.

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and frequent daytime sleep attacks.

Here the writer is using hyperbole for effect. In the opening clause you have

...if an explanation is where the mind comes to rest

"Comes to rest" here is used to mean "settle" or "reach destination". However, "rest" can also mean to "relax" or "cease activity in order to refresh oneself".

The implication, then, is that the explanation "lucky" is so lazy, so without thought, that the mind that came up with it must be so very much in need of rest that it's practically abnormal.

But then, that's sports writing for you.

share|improve this answer
I was thinking he meant that once you found lucky you didnt need to go anywhere else so you could just fall asleep there. It is a horrid analogy even for a sports writer though. – Chad Aug 1 '11 at 17:13

To border on means to be close to. The New Oxford American Dictionary says:

border on: verge on, approach, come close to, be comparable to, approximate to, be tantamount to, be similar to, resemble (his tone bordered on contempt)

Narcolepsy is the physiological condition of commonly falling alseep without wanting to. It is used here humoristically to describe the tendency to induce sleep, i.e. to be boring!

share|improve this answer
+1 for defining border on – Thursagen Aug 1 '11 at 23:19

But if an explanation is where the mind comes to rest, the mind that ... bordered on narcoleptic.

This part says - if an explanation is where mind rests, the mind that ... reached no rest, i.e. did not explain anything. This is due to confrontation of metaphors: the opposite of rest could be narcolepsy. This figure is not particularly effective due to

  • the couple explanation - rest implies causality between the two terms: the peace of mind that is achieved through explaining something. However narcolepsy is sleeping disorder for which, from the above structure, is not clear if it was induced by the puzzle that needs explaining, so analogy is harder to perceive.
  • Also, though taken out of context, it states that the narcoleptic mind 'stopped' which suggest that it thought it explained things and as such, regardless of the quality of the explanation, should go into resting (according to the first part of the analogy itself), but somehow it becomes sleepless.

These reasons make this analogy awkward and much harder to interpret as (I assume) author intended.

share|improve this answer
Isn't analogy supposed to make things easier to understand? The person who wrote this is trying to be too fancy and actually made what they were trying to say harder to grasp. They should have stuck to simple language rather than this tortured prose. (Although it's possible that there is text before and/or after this quote that gives better context.) – user362 Aug 2 '11 at 12:50
Good analogy makes things easier to understand, bad analogy does not. Bad analogy is a fallacy. don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#analogy – Unreason Aug 2 '11 at 14:02

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.