I see a lot of sentences with "the fabric of X" in them.

For example,

  • "The veteran feels trusted, respected and understood -- re-integrated into the fabric of his or her homeland."
  • "Half a century ago, working quietly in a New Orleans laboratory, Ruth Benerito helped smooth the fabric of modern life"
  • "A joint and concerted effort is needed to restore the fabric of communities..."
  • "This is the fabric of the social contract that each generation knows..."

Why did those authors choose to include it? In other words, what effect in a literary sense does it bring? How does the meaning change without "the fabric of"?

The reason why I asked is that if I removed "the fabric of," the sentences seemed perfectly fine, if not more concise. I might be wrong.

  • 1
    The fabric of is a metaphor describing the close knit or seamless nature of a community or reintegration. It works, as you noted, without the emphasis, but not really as well. Smooth modern life? Hmm. Smooth the fabric of modern life? Better. But just a choice. Metaphors are exceedingly numerous and useful. They add richness to our language. – anongoodnurse Feb 20 '15 at 6:17
  • "2. A complex underlying structure: destroyed the very fabric of the ancient abbey during wartime bombing; needs to protect the fabric of civilized society." thefreedictionary.com/fabric – Kris Feb 20 '15 at 6:22
  • @medica fabric is not a metaphor here, it's literal. "late 15c., "building; thing made; a structure of any kind," etymonline etymonline.com/index.php?term=fabric – Kris Feb 20 '15 at 6:23
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    According to Otto Santa Ana: 'For alternative views of nation, the FABRIC metaphor, such as "the intricate weave of American peoples into the national fabric", may be considered.' It's a figurative usage of the textile sense, not the possibly original structure sense. It's an extended metaphor. And I don't remember John Lawler having mentioned this one on ELU yet. But doubtless he has. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 20 '15 at 7:17

According to Otto Santa Ana (Brown Tide Rising: Metaphors of Latinos in Contemporary American Public ...)

For alternative views of nation, the FABRIC metaphor, such as 'the intricate weave of American peoples into the national fabric', may be considered. Textile invokes often complex warps and weaves which can be associated with patterns of relations among social groups as well as individuals. Fabric is also reticulated, which lends this semantic domain to the social network Cloth likewise evokes wholeness and inclusivity. Different threads and strands are woven together to create a 'whole cloth' which is greater than the sum of its parts....

The rich tapestry of life.

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