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He survived 10 attempts on his life, and at 82 his health was a subject of speculation.

What do the people speculate, health or subject ?

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It means the subject of their speculation was his health.

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They are speculating that his health might be in less than stellar shape. What is the subject of speculation? "His health". Speculation requires a subject, like a conversation, or a contemplation.

This is either about Mubarak, or perhaps Steve Jobs.

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    thank you, Chris. This is a news about Mubarak. Democracy!
    – lovespring
    Feb 10, 2011 at 23:21
  • Yeah, the "Steve Jobs" bit was a poor attempt at humor. Feb 10, 2011 at 23:54
  • In my native language, 'speculate' almost cannot be used as a noun, so we usually say:" His heath is a speculated subject".
    – lovespring
    Feb 11, 2011 at 0:49
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The health.

"This talk is on the subject of the local teenagers" It's a formal, but useless addition to many sentences. You would say subjection to talk about what is being done to the teenagers.

With your quote it can be ambiguous, his health may have been notably unperfect before, as is the case with Mubarak.

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"His health was a subject...."

But that sentence begs the question: a subject in what sense? A subject of irony? Of embitterment? Of disgust? Of discussion? To be a "subject" just means, here, to be a topic of conversation.

So the sentence then adds: "His health was a subject of speculation", or in other words, a subject about which many people offered estimates or guesses.

Further, your question should read "About what do the people speculate?", or "What is it the people speculate about?" One could answer it this way:

"What are the people speculating upon?" "A subject." "What subject???" "His health."

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