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What's the meaning of this sentence?

From the book "A History of the Cries of London", page 101:

Have you observ’d the wench in the street, She’s scarce any hose or shoes to her feet; And when she cries, she sings, ‘I have hot Codlings, hot Codlings.’

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Correct, she is not dressed well. –  Mitch Jul 22 '12 at 13:45
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@Mitch can you be a bit more elaborate and respond as an answer? Sounds like you have it. –  New Alexandria Jul 22 '12 at 14:28
    
@NewAlexandria: I thought the question deserved some kind of response, but it was too GR to warrant an explanation. ALl it would take is looking up dictionary items, and then inferring as with any language, not particular to English. –  Mitch Jul 22 '12 at 16:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Compensating for contraction, ellipsis ("The omission of a grammatically required word or phrase that can be inferred"), and substituting equivalent terms, etc. gives us the following sequence:

• She’s scarce any hose or shoes to her feet
• She has scarce any hose or shoes to her feet
• She has scarcely any hose or shoes for (or on) her feet
• She has almost no stockings or shoes for her feet

Stockings and hose or hosiery differ, hose implying longer garments covering much more of the legs than stockings. I think the original sentence might refer either to tattered and worn hose and shoes, or tattered hose and missing shoes. In either case, use of unkempt ("dishevelled; untidy; dirty; not kept up") here is possible, but note that dirty is not implied by scarce any.

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It's just a variation of the 'so poor we went to school barefoot' phrase. Hose is an archaic term for stockings (possibly the origin of pantyhose -but being neither female nor American, I can't confirm that), and a street vendor might well be so poor as to have only the remnants of shoes and stockings.

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hose is from German Hose: trousers –  vonjd Jul 23 '12 at 18:46

She’s scarce any is a contraction of she has scarcely any. I.e, she does not have much/many.

Scarce(ly) is a Negative trigger for the NPI any. And negative adjectives or adverbs scarcely ever are completely regular, whence the lack of -ly.

Finally, the -'s contraction can represent either is or has, though the latter is rare these days, and downright ungrammatical in the 'possess' sense of have. But this isn't Modern English.

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