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It is often claimed-by mountaineers needless to say-that mountaineering has a more distinguished literature than any other sport or pastime.Certainly, the best of what is written in the major journals stands comparison with the best essays written in the English Language. Mountaineering has produced a huge library of books, and a significant number of them are of lasting importance. (Is mountaineering a sport? in Philosophy and Sport, ed. by Anthony O'Hear)

I do not understand the meaning of the second sentence at all. Also another parts of the article gives no hint about it; the author just presupposes that the reader should know what it means.

Mountaineering, in the eyes of this Oxbridge professor, is a real sport which is for fun and diversion.It is even the most gracious one.

Thus much I can say, please help me clarify what the second sentence means!

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    The idea is that some writing shrivels up and dies when compared with the best essays written in English—but not the best writing about mountaineering that appears in the best mountaineering journals. They stand (that is, withstand) the comparison without collapsing in embarrassed or embarrassing wretchedness—because they are themselves of lasting importance. – Sven Yargs Oct 14 '13 at 22:59
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The second sentence is expressing that the quality of mountaineering journals' content rivals that of the best English-language essays. That the writing is a cut above what you might find in, say, a fly-fishing journal computer gaming magazine.

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    That slur on fly-fishing journals seems unfounded and I think should be retracted. Feel free to replace it with a slur on computer-gaming magazines. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Oct 14 '13 at 18:10
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Seems limpid : the best ever written essays in general literature are not outdone by the best writings referring to mountaineering.

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    I don't think anyone said anything about being outdone. Stand comparison with means are in the same class as – Jim Oct 14 '13 at 15:07
  • @Jim I checked afterwards what I often read : it's shown with exactly this meaning in the Collins senior (British English) ; I could have used "surpassed"; "stand comparison" was used in the question. – ex-user2728 Oct 14 '13 at 15:25
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    Essays on mountaineering can't be topped. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 14 '13 at 15:58
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Firstly, I think there may be a typo in the paragraph. Fixing them a bit makes it easier to understand:

It is often claimed -- by mountaineers needless to say -- that mountaineering has a more distinguished literature than any other sport or pastime. Certainly, the best of what is written in the major journals stands in comparison with the best essays written in the English Language. Mountaineering has produced a huge library of books, and a significant number of them are of lasting importance. (Is mountaineering a sport? in Philosophy and Sport, ed. by Anthony O'Hear)

The sentence in question is:

Certainly, the best of what is written in the major journals stands in comparison with the best essays written in the English Language.

The point of the sentence is that the quality of mountaineering journals is as good as the quality of the best essays written in the English Language. Another way to phrase it would be:

The best of mountaineering journals are comparable to the best essays written in the English Language.

The key phrase here is "stands in comparison":

Alice's intelligence stands in comparison to the smartest in her field.

Bob's artwork stands in comparison to the best art produced by this school.

The meaning is that both parts being compared are in the top tier of their classification. In the quoted example, this is literary quality. The phrase can also be used as a question:

Does Charlie's performance stand in comparison to the best actors of the stage?

This is asking whether Charlie's performance is top tier or among the best.

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    The phrase stands in comparison seems to be a bit metaphoric, suggesting the literal standing of two items side by side and evaluating their respective characteristics. – bib Oct 14 '13 at 16:28
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    I agree with your interpretation of meaning, but not with your use of 'in'. I agree with @bib's comment. The original sentence was fine. 'Stand' here does not mean 'placed', it is more in the sense of 'withstand/ stand up to' (taking a stand). It could be replaced by 'bears' ie 'bears comparison with the best....'. Also the first sentence already has 2 dashes and you have inserted a third. It reads (with clearer spacing than OP has): "It is often claimed - by mountaineers needless to say - that mountaineering has a more distinguished literature than any other sport or pastime." – Mynamite Oct 14 '13 at 23:46
  • Oop, good catch regarding dashes. I disagree regarding "stands comparison" but mostly because I've never heard the phrase without an "in". "X stands comparison with Y" doesn't have any meaning to me. – MrHen Oct 15 '13 at 3:03
  • I don't think stands in comparison has the same meaning. I would take that to mean that a notable authority has actually compared them, not necessarily favorably. In contrast, I take stands comparison to mean just the opposite, that it compares favorably, but not necessarily that it's been authoritatively judged. I agree with Mynamite that it means “withstands” or “bears.” – Bradd Szonye Oct 15 '13 at 3:17
  • To reiterate, I have never heard "stands comparison" and my description of "stands in comparison" is backed by a simple lookup of the phrase. Perhaps this is a regional difference? – MrHen Oct 15 '13 at 13:41

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