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I learned the following sentence from The Economist.

Perfectly efficient electric cables, more powerful generators and motors, magnetic levitation and a host of other technological wonders beckoned.

I have looked it up in the dictionary:

beckon
intransitive verb
1 : to summon or signal typically with a wave or nod
2 : to appear inviting : ATTRACT

But I am still not able to understand the sentence above with either explanation of "beckon". How should I understand this word and the sentence?

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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You can simply plug the dictionary definition that fits into the sentence:

Perfectly efficient electric cables, more powerful generators and motors, magnetic levitation and a host of other technological wonders [appeared inviting].

Or to put it another way, we were seduced by the prospect of these technological wonders.

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It's the second use. Those technological wonders attracted or appeared inviting to observers, or developers, or to some other group of people not mentioned in the sentence.

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The implication is that the combined prospect of all these factors was highly attractive - ie. the sentence could be rephrased as

"The prospect of perfectly efficient electric cables, more powerful generators and motors, magnetic levitation and a host of other technological wonders was highly attractive."

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The second usage is appropriate, e.g.:

The shop window decorations beckoned.

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It's mostly #2. I didn't read the article, but from this sentence I'd guess it's referring to either a very new technology or one just out of reach that scientists are working towards. Your sentence would then means that the applications of this discovery (or discovery-to-be) are very attractive, giving the scientists a very strong incentive (a more metaphorical/anthropomorphic summoning) to make and apply said discovery.

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