4

This excerpt is from The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. I can't figure out the italicized part. The excerpt follows:

"But they take long enough to get well, don't they? ... There was my sister's son, Tom, jest cut his arm with a scythe, tumbled on it in the 'ayfield, and, bless me! he was three months tied up sir. You'd hardly believe it. It's regular given me a dread of a scythe, sir."

"I can quite understand that," said the visitor.

"He was afraid, one time, that he'd have to have an op'ration—he was that bad, sir."

The visitor laughed abruptly, a bark of a laugh that he seemed to bite and kill in his mouth. "Was he?" he said.

"He was, sir. And no laughing matter to them as had the doing for him, as I had—my sister being took up with her little ones so much. There was bandages to do, sir, and bandages to undo. So that if I may make so bold as to say it, sir—"

"Will you get me some matches?" said the visitor, quite abruptly. "My pipe is out."

  • I don't see an italicized part. – rogermue Jun 15 '15 at 5:25
  • @rogermue See the second last paragraph. – Kaptan Singh Jun 28 '15 at 15:02
3

And no laughing matter to them as had the doing for him, as I had—my sister being took up with her little ones so much

There may well be a better 'translation' or gloss but this is the gist of the sentence:

And it was no laughing matter for those of us who had all the looking after him to do, like I had - what with my sister being so wrapped up in looking after the kids.

Here's a kind of step by step gloss:

And [it was] no laughing matter for those [/them] who had the doing [all his stuff] for him [to do], like I had [to] - with my sister being taken [/took] up with her children [little ones] so much.

The section them as had the doing for him is a type of relative clause. In modern standard English, we prefer not to have an accusative pronoun like them as an antecedent for a relative clause - hence those in the modern gloss above. The relative clause is fronted by as instead of a modern subordinator such as that or a relative pronoun such as who.

  • A nice answer, Araucaria! Should it really be "what with my sister" and not "that with my sister", I wonder. I first thought it a typo but now am unsure. – CowperKettle Oct 31 '14 at 16:54
  • 1
    @CopperKettle Thanks :) We have a kind of fixed phrase what (tiny pause) with. It means some thing like considering or because of, it gives an idea of there being lots of things to consider. It was a bit difficult to understand what she was saying, what with all the noise, and commotion and everything .... – Araucaria Oct 31 '14 at 18:05
  • @Kaptan Singh - This is not so much grammar but rendering of a certain kind of very colloquial speech. Typical is "them as" instead of "those who", – rogermue Jun 28 '15 at 15:14

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.