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"It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago --- she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them." wrote Mark Twain in 1883, when Chicago was just fifty years old.

I think "she" refers to "Chicago", and "he" refers to "the occasional visitor". But what does "outgrows his prophecies" mean? Does it mean Chicago grows very fast?

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Less than a hundred years later, Alvin Toffler would coin a term for this kind of disorientation: future shock. – Robusto Feb 12 '12 at 16:44
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes, you are right, except that I think it's not talking only about the size of Chicago, but in many other ways that it might outgrow (i.e. outstrip) somebody's prophesies.

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She refers to Chicago. In English she is used for cities, planes, ships; it's supposed to be romantic and poetic.

Chicago was the big boom city of the time. In the 1850s and 1860s it was the fastest growing city on Earth; it built the first first sky scrapers; it was the "Internet" of the 1880s.

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"Prophecies" is used here as a synonym for "expectations".

"...outgrows prophecies" is the same as "...exceeds expectations".

"Boom town", I think, fits the bill here.

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