Questions citing excerpts from works of literature.

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3answers
550 views

Dickens: meaning of “preserves” in “preserves of loaves and fishes”

What is the meaning of preserves in the opening passage of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities? There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there ...
3
votes
2answers
162 views

Does hunx have an origin?

I was reading Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. A character calls an old man, "an old hunx" during an argument. I was wondering if Trollope was writing in an accent or if hunx was an old slang ...
2
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3answers
967 views

Meaning of “garn” in My Fair Lady

At the beginning of the My Fair Lady movie, there is a monologue of prof. Higgins like this: Hear a Yorkshireman, or worse Hear a Cornishman converse I'd rather hear a choir singing flat Chickens ...
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2answers
97 views

Can “lackadaisical” be used in literature?

Has lackadaisical ever been used in literary works? My Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has no quotation that includes this word. Who first used lackadaisical in the 1760s as the OED claims?
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2answers
299 views

What is Poetry? What does not count as Poetry? [closed]

Background: a google "define:poem" did not give me much closure: poem: a piece of writing in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by particular attention to diction ...
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3answers
795 views

Who really gave two figs?

The statement was in a poem whose name is " the White Troops Had Their Orders but the Negroes looked like Men". The context:... Who really gave two figs? Neither the earth nor heaven ever trembled... ...
0
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1answer
146 views

Determiners and Plurality in literature [duplicate]

Many times we come across examples like these :- Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people... For they are a little people, smaller than Dwarves... ~ From The Fellowship of the ...
0
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1answer
4k views

What does this quote by Johnny Quid mean?

What does this quote mean: Oh, beauty is a beguiling call to death and I'm addicted to the sweet pitch of its siren." The quote is attributed to Johnny Quid in the movie RocknRolla.
2
votes
1answer
184 views

What does “passion-tearing” mean?

What does "passion-tearing" mean in the following context? My parents were at the summer theater singing a first matinee performance of "You Can't Take It With You". In summer stock productions ...
2
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1answer
142 views

What does 'turn things over his fingers' mean?

Below is the first paragraph of Salinger's "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls". I wonder what to turn things over his fingers means in this context? I imagine the little boy juggling things, but I don't ...
0
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1answer
495 views

Is there a countable form for “literature”?

Literature is an uncountable noun, so we can't say one literature or two literatures. But is there a countable form, as there is for information? One piece of information, for instance.
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1answer
130 views

What does “disarm and waylay one's heart” mean?

In Salinger's "Paula" there is the following passage: "I so desperately want our baby born safely, darling. I’m afraid of falling. I’m afraid of a thousand things." Mrs. Hincher paused, suddenly ...
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2answers
605 views

Is a “blue bird” the same as a “bluebird”?

Is “blue bird” in the following quotation from Lady Chatterley’s Lover referring to an actual bluebird? The lush, dark green of hyacinths was a sea, with buds rising like pale corn, while in the ...
3
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1answer
70 views

What is a “Web tailer”?

Yet another question from Salinger's Ocean Full of Bowling Balls. Holden writes to his brother from a camp: Ask him if he ever read corinthans. Corinthans is in the bible and is very good and ...
5
votes
4answers
486 views

What is a “blue card” in this context?

I'm reading Salinger's "Ocean Full Of Bowling Balls" and came across the "blue card". I wonder what that means in that context. I found that "blue card" is currently used for immigrant agricultural ...
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3answers
1k views

Using “might as well have been” in analogies

I've seen this phrase in many literary works. Does it have the same purpose as like, as if, and as though (in the context of similes/metaphors)? For example: She might as well have been a skinny ...
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1answer
2k views

“It was then that…” vs “That was when…”

I'm not very sure if both mean exactly the same but I've noticed that the former is more widely use in Japanese novels translated into English. Whereas the latter is more often used in English novels ...
2
votes
2answers
244 views

What does this text from The Haunted House by Charles Dickens mean?

"Who is--or who was--the hooded woman with the owl? Do you know?" "Well!" said Ikey, holding up his cap with one hand while he scratched his head with the other, "they say, in general, that ...
0
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3answers
116 views

What does 'had been took with fits and held down in 'em' mean?

The following appears in The Haunted House by Charles Dickens. What is the meaning of the bolded phrase? This very concise summary of the facts was all I could learn, except that a young man, as ...
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3answers
2k views

Meaning of a mixed metaphor from “The Gift of The Magi”?

This is from The Gift of The Magi by O Henry (William Sydney Porter). Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. (part 4, paragraph 5 in the reference ...
0
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1answer
88 views

What does “breathing of the lighter elements” mean? [closed]

I'm reading Yelizaveta Bam of Daniil Kharms (tr. Neil Cornwell) and stumbled upon the following dialogue: Ivan I.: But who then lights the lamp? Pyotr N.: No one, it burns by itself. Ivan ...
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1answer
2k views

What does “meanest flower might blow” mean

A beautiful woman risking everything for a mad passion. A few wild weeks of happiness cut short by a hideous, treacherous crime. Months of voiceless agony, and then a child born in pain. The mother ...
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3answers
322 views

Can you explain the pun “erpigarms”

Here is an extract from a short story: When Pushkin broke his legs, he started to go about on wheels. His friends used to enjoy teasing Pushkin and grabbing him by his wheels. Pushkin took this ...
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4answers
1k views

What does the initial fragment of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy mean?

I begun reading Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This is one of the initial fragments, emphasis mine: This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of ...
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1answer
2k views

Why is Beowulf considered one of the most important works in the history of the English language? [closed]

Apologies if this is too subjective of a question. I'm currently studying Beowulf. I've seen it referred to as one of the, if not the first, most influential works of Anglo-Saxon literature. Some ...
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3answers
1k views

Meaning of “Where will wants not, a way opens”

I have been reading "The Lord of the Rings" and came across this phrase in the "The Return of the King". “Where will wants not, a way opens, so we say,” he whispered. “and so I have found myself.” ...
2
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1answer
655 views

Words at beginning of sentences with first letter displayed within brackets?

I've been reading The Deer Slayer, and I can't help but notice that some words at the beginning of sentences display their first letter within square brackets. Here are some examples: [W]hen five ...
4
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2answers
159 views

Can “But!” be a sentence?

From Dune by Frank Herbert: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and ...
3
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2answers
378 views

Meaning of “catch birds for”?

I am reading B. Traven's adventure The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is about three men who secretly go prospecting for gold. On their way home with their new-found loot they cover their tracks ...
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3answers
2k views

How to use “learn you” [closed]

While I was reading "The Adventures of Tom sawyer",I came across this phrase. Huck said ,"I will learn you." Is it right to say like that?Or we should say "I will learn from you"?
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2answers
3k views

Quintology or Pentalogy?

Recently I was looking at the X-Men box set and saw that currently five have been released. I had it in my head that these would be called a quintology but I have seen them being called a pentalogy. ...
6
votes
1answer
149 views

Meaning of “holidays of hay”

What does this phrase, from Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow, mean? Schnorp, his hair blown like holidays of hay… There are no references to "holidays" or "hay" in the preceding several pages. ...
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2answers
470 views

Meaning of “cry creek” and “cock of the game”

I'm reading an excerpt from John Lyly (1554–1606), and there are some phrases that I can't find anything about on the net or elsewhere. Here is the context: Though Cutio be as hot as a toast, yet ...
6
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1answer
197 views

Meaning of “Let us hit with him, and not miss with him”

I'm reading one of Sir Philip Sidney's prose essays, "An Apology for Poetry" and I bumped into the following phrase which I never heard of. Can anyone please help me with it? Yet will some bring ...
0
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1answer
4k views

What does “fiend angelical” stand for?

Juliet--"Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!" (Act III Scene ii Line 77) When Juliet refers to Romeo as a "beautiful tyrant," she is expressing an oxymoron because the acts of a tyrant will rarely ...
7
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2answers
94 views

Who is “Martha” alluded to in “Eight Cousins”?

Early in Louisa May Alcott's novel Eight Cousins, a character is described thus: Aunt Plenty was utterly dissimilar, being a stout, brisk old lady, with a sharp eye, a lively tongue, and a face ...
3
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2answers
457 views

Literary device: frequently referenced object which never appears

What do you call an object or a person which is frequently referenced but never actually appears? For example, Godot from ‘Waiting for Godot’?
4
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1answer
427 views

Meaning of “shot” cloth

"A truly beautiful shade! A cloth of smoked grey, shot with flame colour!" —Gogol, trans. by D. J. Hogarth 'Shot' is what is confusing me. In my mind I imagine it refers to a repeated pattern. ...
3
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0answers
181 views

How is she to describe how she likes him, when he doesn't know? [closed]

There's a friend of mine—let's call her Lily—and a guy—David. Lily told me that she feels very happy each time she meets, talks, plays games, dines (and so on) with David. I guess she's falling in ...
6
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2answers
518 views

Meaning of “Y-o-u-u Tom!”

In the opening chapter of Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom's aunt Polly calls out to him in a rather peculiar fashion: She went to the open door and stood in it, and looked out among the ...
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1answer
419 views

Can someone please explain the following passage from Milton's Paradise Lost?

I understand all the words, but not quite the meaning of the following passage, from Milton's Paradise Lost, Book I: 635 For me be witness all the host of heaven, 636 If counsels different, or ...
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1answer
291 views

Some help in understanding Dickens [closed]

It's from a page of "Our Mutual Friend". The specific phrases/vocabulary I didn't understand are in bold, while the general gists which are lost on me are in italics: 'I merely referred', Mr ...
5
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1answer
376 views

Could “old fashioned” mean “angry” or “disconsolate” in early 19th Century England?

Patrick O'Brian wrote the Aubrey/Maturin seafaring novels during the late 20th Century, but the novels read as if they were written during the early 1800s (at least as far as I can tell, which isn't ...
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2answers
4k views

What does “in the sere and yellow” mean?

I am currently reading "A Study in Scarlet" by Arthur Conan Doyle. On page 33 is a sentence I don't understand: Well, if a man can stride four and a-half feet without the smallest effort, he can't ...
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4answers
2k views

What does 'rare device' refer to?

What does rare device refer to in the line 'It was a miracle of rare device' of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan?
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2answers
379 views

An Epithet of the River Styx

I have a question that falls under literature, but I remember that Dante, Greek mythology, and Milton were required reading in my English courses in high school and university. It's about an epithet ...
4
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2answers
154 views

What is the meaning of “pole of time” here?

In the translation of a story by Daniil Kharms, I see the following sentence: Thirty-five poles of time elapsed and mine host brought Ivan Ivanovich his entrecote on a round wooden platter. Two ...
5
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2answers
361 views

What does the phrase “a fine one” mean in this context?

In one one Daniil Kharms' short stories, Tikakeyev “insults” Koratygin by saying: A fine one you are! This causes a fight between the two. When I first read this, I didn't see the “insult”, ...
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3answers
1k views

Technical term for `avoiding responsibility` with decision-makers?

Suppose a parliament that tries to "outsource" their responsibility in various ways (they take the gains but not wanting to take the risks). Of course, the situation cannot last: risks and gains ...
2
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4answers
5k views

Charles Dickens' “for good and for evil” and “superlative degree of comparison”

Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" starts with the words: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of ...