What does "the handle broken off short" mean when referring to an axe?

Does it mean the handle is broken off and it is a little far from the rest, or that it is broken close to the axe and there is only a small part of the handle still attached, or something else?

(The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Chapter 13 - Rescuing the Tin Woodman)

  • 2
    Please, provide more context. We have no way of knowing what this means without more information.
    – aedia λ
    Feb 16 '13 at 20:03
  • I edited the question and here is the full phrase: His axe was near him, but the blade was rusted and the handle broken off short.
    – Kiron
    Feb 16 '13 at 23:17
  • +1 Just for asking about this wonderful book. Please put the full phrase in the question itself, not just in comment.
    – MetaEd
    Feb 17 '13 at 2:10

This is a very common idiom, which really means little or nothing more than broken off by itself. Short is the result of the breaking: the handle is now short, or at least substantially shorter than it was.

In my experience the expression is used more often intransitively, of utterances, than transitively of physical objects:

“What in the world is—?” He broke off short. “Oh. Now I see.”

  • The idiomatic broke off short is indeed common in relation to discourse, but it would be vanishingly rare for that sense to be intended with the form broken off short. Feb 16 '13 at 22:10
  • Not as rare as the verbing of aposiopesis. Feb 16 '13 at 22:15
  • @FumbleFingers Rare, but not unknown. Google Books gives 4 instances among 107 actual hits on “broken off short”, from Edith Nesbit (2), James Jones and Georgette Heyer, and three more instances in which texts are so broken. Feb 16 '13 at 23:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.