Across the street somebody had delirium tremens in the front yard and a mixed quartet tore what was left of the night into small strips and did what they could to make the strips miserable. While this was going on the exotic brunette didn't move more than one eyelash.

(Philip Marlow is interviewing the brunette. The wild party with the mixed quartet across from hers is part of the sitz im leben of the interview.)

I can't figure out the meaning of strip here. (It's from "Red Wind" by Raymond Chandler.)

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  • strip, n.: a long, narrow piece of something. – Hellion Jan 19 '15 at 0:38
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    I would surmise that "strip" hear means a narrow piece of something such as paper or fabric. But it is being used in a highly figurative sense to mean that the peace of the evening was destroyed and "tortured". – Hot Licks Jan 19 '15 at 0:39
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    The whole narrative is perfectly in accord with both the phonosemantics of the STR- assonance and the phonosemantics of the -IP rime. – John Lawler Jan 19 '15 at 1:03
  • I think this may be off-topic because it's about interpreting a highly metaphoric one-off "literary/poetic" usage. – FumbleFingers Jan 19 '15 at 14:10

This seems to be a metaphorical use of the word strip using a common definition:



  1. A long, narrow piece of cloth, paper, plastic, or some other material:

This is confirmed by reading the larger context on pages 22-23 of the PDF version of Red Wind:

The night was being ruined by several means, and tearing it into small strips offers a word picture of the mixed quartet's miserable ruinous work. Imagine someone taking your favorite outfit and tearing it into useless strips. That is how this hard-boiled character feels about the mixed quartet.


There are a few metaphors in this paragraph. What "small strips" really stands for largely depends on what "what was left of the night" really means. Discarded outfits? Maybe. Papers? Perhaps if one reads the novel and gets used to the writer's style, these will be easier to understand. As for "somebody had delirium tremens", I believe there is an empty bottle of delirium tremens (brand of belgian beer) somewhere, and not that somebody had in falct had that neurologic symptom.

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