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She smiled , and in those deep blue eyes I saw what I found so irresistible about her. It wasn't just that she was the proverbial ten and a half.

What does the last sentence mean?

  • I hope the sentence doesn't mean "she" was "ten-and-a-half" years old! (Shades of Lolita!) – rhetorician Dec 12 '13 at 0:21
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More context might be needed for this one.

Here are some possibilities:

Your question reads:

"what does proverbial mean?"

but the word you've highlighted seems to be "preverbial".

So, assuming you've mistyped proverbial, here are some interpretations:

Proverbial

We'll start with what proverbial means, then look at what it could mean in that sentence.

Google tells us this...

Proverbial -

adjective

(of a word or phrase) referred to in a proverb or idiom.

"I'm going to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb"

So if we're looking at something that means "of a proverb" or "just like in the common saying", let's look at the sentence. Note my guessed corrections at the writer's (or transcriber's) intentions in bold.

She smiled, and in those deep blue eyes I saw what I found so irresistible about her. It wasn't just that she was [the] proverbial ten and a half...

I don't know of any 'proverb' involving 10.5 (ten and a half), but this may be an oblique reference to the 1979 movie "10" - the reference being specifically to a woman's beauty rated out of ten. Ten and a half may be therefore a reference to the woman being somewhat a 'cliche' of perfection, or meeting (or exceeding) some cliched ideal of physical perfection.

Preverbial?

I highly doubt it, but if you didn't mean proverbial, you might have meant preverbal? As proverbial is given in the question, I'm all but certain this isn't what you meant, but if it is the case it changes the meaning drastically and I would need more context, other than to say someone is 10.5 years old and still can't speak... and that this quality is somehow irresistible ('cute' or 'adorable', let's hope). This is just a cover all, of course. But I'm guessing the above meaning (for proverbial) is what you're after: "the woman is not just beyond perfectly beautiful..." is the intended meaning.

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A proverb is a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice. Synonyms include: saying, adage,maxim, axiom, motto, epigram, dictum, and precept; they are words of wisdom.

Many rate things on a scale of one to ten. This is done, for example, in the Olympics. In 1979, a film, 10 was released, in which a beautiful woman is described as a 10 out of 10; she is perfectly beautiful.

Since that very popular movie, people often assign women a score.

Proverbial (adjective) refers to in a proverb or idiom; it also means well known, esp. so as to be stereotypical. (Synonyms: famous, famed, renowned, traditional, time-honored, legendary, etc.)

The word proverbial in your sentence can be replaced with the word stereotypical. It is easily understood what a 10 is, as well as a ten and a half (better than perfect). Therefore it is proverbial.

  • What you say is all quite true, but I've never come across the usage before, and OP's citation seems to be the only one in Google Books, so I'd say the writer (James Patterson?) is a bit disingenuous calling it "proverbial". – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '13 at 1:39
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    You certainly squeezed every last drop out of that metaphor. (Till the pips squeaked, even! :) Actually, I had no trouble finding references to "on a scale of one to ten she's an eleven", but I can't say Patterson would have been any better going with "the proverbial eleven". (which I'm ashamed to say puts me in mind of a fan/groupie/would-be-WAG getting it on with a team of eleven dissolute football players :( – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '13 at 2:28

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