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From The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry:

It was, as Bill afterward expressed it, "during a moment of temporary mental apparition;" but we didn't find that out till later.

What is meant by it?

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closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, tchrist, medica, phenry, choster Feb 4 '14 at 4:22

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
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Have you looked up the constituent words? – simchona Sep 13 '11 at 4:02
@simchona An apparition is a spirit. Or, it can be a condition in which a object can be in two places at once. The Harry Potter definition is 'teleport/disappear', but I'm not entirely sure if that's it or I'm missing something. – Mateen Ulhaq Sep 13 '11 at 4:09
Sorry, asking if the OP has looked up a word is usually my first question. Why don't you come into chat and I can try to help you work through it if you'd like? – simchona Sep 13 '11 at 4:12
Also @muntoo: If you're asking for a literary analysis, we can't do that, but if you're just asking what a "temporary mental apparition" is we can. – simchona Sep 13 '11 at 4:13
This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a mistranscription (or malapropistic error) for aberration. – FumbleFingers Feb 3 '14 at 21:34
up vote 3 down vote accepted

For context, the full first paragraph is:

It looked like a good thing: but wait till I tell you. We were down South, in Alabama -- Bill Driscoll and myself -- when this kidnapping idea struck us. It was, as Bill afterward expressed it, "during a moment of temporary mental apparition"; but we didn't find that out till later.

According to this copy of the story, here Bill mistakenly uses apparition for aberration--a disorder of the mind. There are several definitions of aberration, but the relevant one is:

mental irregularity or disorder, especially of a minor or temporary nature; lapse from a sound mental state.

So the temporary mental apparition was supposed to be temporary mental aberration--that is, a moment of temporary insanity.

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@Muntoo: You might be interested in reading the paper I linked--there are quite a few words which are purposeful misspellings in the story. – simchona Sep 13 '11 at 4:38
For instance, is there really such a thing as a flannel-cake (mentioned in the second paragraph)? – Peter Shor Sep 13 '11 at 4:42
@Peter: It would taste a bit fuzzy, I suppose. – simchona Sep 13 '11 at 4:42
@muntoo: I've never analyzed this story, but I think the author may be saying that Bill (and Sam, who also makes mistakes) are quite the sharpest tools in the shed. If you'd like to perhaps ask why the author did this, then I suggest you go to Literature.SE – simchona Sep 13 '11 at 4:46
Ignore my previous comment. Googling shows that flannel cake is an Irish-origin expression for something like a pancake. – Peter Shor Sep 14 '11 at 10:44

First, my copy of the story is expressed differently. My story's first paragraph:

It looked like a good thing, but wait till I tell you. We were down south in Alabama - Bil Driscoll and myself - when we thought of this kidnapping idea. It was "during an instant of momentary madness," as Bill said afterward. But we did not find that out till later.

Basically, what Bill is saying that it was a mistake. Much like later told in the story.

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@sim I am rolling your edit back. I want to make the sentence more noticable. – Phonics The Hedgehog Sep 13 '11 at 4:15
Please don't. It makes it entirely over-formatted. – simchona Sep 13 '11 at 4:15
@sim It makes it clear which is the answer. – Phonics The Hedgehog Sep 13 '11 at 4:17

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