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If I were to say that, in his perilous negotiations with the slavers (transcribed below), Tyrion Lannister had “acquitted” himself, would I be saying that Tyrion had A) repaid or settled a debt or obligation incurred (i.e., the insult of the slaver’s disparaging assumption) or B) conducted himself in a specified manner? Either sense seems plausible, but not both in the instant case.

Prior to my inquiry I was unfamiliar with sense (A). On the few occasions I’ve encountered the usage of “acquit” outside of the legal sense of being found “not guilty,” it has always collocated with “well,” as in the latter sense (B) and the lexicons I’ve consulted fail to specify the conduct. Is it even possible to “acquit oneself” other than adroitly (well)?

Scene: Boss Slaver and his Lieutenant discussing the fate of their captives

Lt. Slaver: (indicating Jorah Mormont) Salt mines?

Boss Slaver: That ... or a galley-slave. He looks strong enough.

Lt. Slaver: What about the dwarf?

Boss Slaver: Worthless. Cut his throat.

Tyrion: Wait. Wait. Wait, wait, wait! Let’s discuss this!

Boss Slaver: And then ... chop off his cock. We’ll sell it for a fortune ... a dwarf’s cock has magic powers.

Tyrion: Wait. Wait. Wait, wait, wait! You can’t just hand a dried cock to a merchant and expect him to pay for it! He has ta know it came from a dwarf! And how could he know, unless he sees the dwarf?

Lt. Slaver: It will be a dwarf-sized cock.

Tyrion: Guess again!

ACQUIT

Collins defines "acquit" thusly:

acquit vb (tr):

3. to repay or settle (something, such as a debt or obligation)

4. to perform (one's part); conduct (oneself)

[C13: from Old French aquiter, from quiter to release, free from, quit]

Whereas, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines acquit:

2. To conduct (oneself) in a specified manner: acquitted herself well during the interview.

3. Archaic To release or discharge from an obligation, such as a debt.

4. Obsolete To repay.

[Middle English aquiten, from Old French aquiter: a-, to (from Latin ad-; see quite in Indo-European roots).] Definitions/etymology from TFD

SPOILER ALERT: Tyrion manages to hold on to his genitalia ... so far.

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In my search of Google Books, I came across references to acquitting oneself not only "well" or "honorably", but "creditably", "better than the others". "adequately", and even "badly". So there are definitely degrees.

That said, it seems two things are clear:

1) The usage of "acquit himself" has been declining rather steadily since its zenith (circa 1700), see Ngram.

2) "Acquit oneself" seems to have had a third sense, (perhaps derived from the "debt" one), which seems wider, and very much like "rid oneself of": to acquit oneself of a duty, of a foolish notion, or of whatever thing one wants to be rid of. Sort of like how one can use quitar in Spanish to describe anything from taking off your clothes to abandoning a relationship.

Sorry I couldn't paste in some examples, but here's the link.

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For your third sense, Oxford tells us that the idiom is:

(acquit oneself of) archaic Discharge (a duty or responsibility):

they acquitted themselves of their charge with vigilance


PS- I don't think using acquit here makes sense. I think Tyrion was just saving his skin, which isn't much of a 'responsibility', per se; nor a repayment or a settlement. acquit could be used in other cases, though. Say, if Ser Jorah saved Tyrion from the Stone Men out of a sense of responsibility, then it could be said that 'Ser Jorah acquitted himself of his responsibility towards his prisoner'.

  • Why doesn't "acquit" make sense here? PS: Just figured out that you are A51FD! – user98990 Jun 4 '15 at 6:59
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    @LittleEva: Yeah, I am. It's been a while since your last post, I guess. Changed my name as my Area 51 proposal isn't exactly making waves. Anyway, please see edit. – Tushar Raj Jun 4 '15 at 7:43

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