Is complete someone's confusion a popular expression that makes sense?

This expression pops up so often I wonder I am missing something here.

Does complete here mean to 'resolve'/ 'clarify'?

Blaise Pascal, et al., The provincial letters of Pascal, p314

And is it necessary, in order to complete your confusion, to bring forward the words of M. de St. Cyran, in the same letter, in which he speaks of the sacrifice of the Mass as the most excellent of all, …

Sergey Fomin, Symmetric Functions 2001:, p.30

To complete your confusion, we define another morphism a: #n_i,n ->F (15) sending (/n_i, /n) to (/n, P)-

Brown University: Man's contracting world in an expanding universe:, p165

Then I shall make a summary statement to complete your confusion.

Although, I was imagining the expression should, if at all, mean further confounding, as in:

Jane Aiken Hodge, Runaway bride, p191

"… And now, to complete your confusion, she too, is run off. It is not an edifying story, Mr. Gurning."

  • This makes me think of the state of being in complete confusion, synonymous with total/utter disarray. Now that you mention it, it does seem an ill-defined phrase. What would complete confusion look like? With a list, for example, would it be when no element is in its right place? Or when extra items are introduced into the list? Is a list that's empty when it shouldn't be in complete confusion? Saying completing one's confusion then seems a paradoxical or at least hyperbole. Good question. – user39720 Feb 2 '14 at 19:31

I believe to complete your confusion means to deepen it, not resolve it. It is a very mildly sardonic way of saying, "and now, as if that wasn't bad enough, I add this fact..." or a self-deprecating way of saying "if I've confused you, I'm sorry to make it worse by adding yet more to it."

It's clearer in this answer to a foreign language speaker who was wondering why blue - which to her meant only a color - was being used to describe a vacuum cleaner ("How to Clean a Magic Blue Vacuum Cleaner".) A responder pointed out different meanings of blue (feeling blue, a blue moon, blue movies) and added, to sum it up,

and to complete your confusion, some one with red hair is often called Bluey.

In this blogpost, someone muses on how Germans perceive vs. name colors. Turning to examples in beer, he mentions

"White" beer, otherwise known as Wheat beer, Hefe-Weizen, Weissbier, Witbier, etc. is a fine, delicious example. The term "White" comes from the brewing process when the wort boils to a point when the top foam becomes a particular 'white' color... In Berlin, however, there are two varieties of this "Weisse Bier": Red White beer and Green White beer...

To which someone replies

To complete your confusion: there exists also “schwarzes Weissbier” – black white beer which tastes more like malt and smoke.

  • To add to Susan's answer with whom I agree, the original of Pascal's sentence for which @Kris gives a translation is "pour achever de vous confondre" achever meaning "to finish", "to finalize". (Before you ask achever doesn't mean "to achieve" (at least in the modern sense of the word). – None Feb 2 '14 at 9:31
  • Thanks @Laure, It wasn't my translation, I picked up the quote from the cited translated work. To finish or finalize still implies to complete, sort of, right? – Kris Feb 2 '14 at 12:15
  • +1 Jane uses it the same way in her Runaway bride that I cited last. What about the other three respectable sources then? – Kris Feb 2 '14 at 12:17
  • I tried to access p.165, and saw only a small portion of text, but I expect it's the same. Of the Pascal and Fomin selections, I'm sure of it. Pascal even prefaces his statement by referring to the absurdity already present. – anongoodnurse Feb 2 '14 at 12:24
  • 1
    @Kris. My mistake if my formulation meant you'd translated the sentence, I know you were quoting (should I have said "Kris's quoted translation?"). Yes complete means finalize/ finish. I have difficulty understanding here the ambiguity in English but no ambiguity possible in original French text. Would "finish to confuse you", "finish confusing you", "finally confuse you", "eventually confuse you", "ultimately confuse you" all mean the same and any of those a possible non ambiguous translation from the French? – None Feb 2 '14 at 12:32

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