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In the quote:

The Hoover administration had deployed tanks and tear gas to drive a bedraggled remnant of World War I veterans (the Bonus Marchers) from Washington but otherwise appeared incapable of responding to the crisis.

  1. How do we understand the phrase "bedraggled remnant"? Is it a set phrase? Or it just means that those veterans are dirty or wet?

  2. What is the logic in this sentence? Is it the tanks and tear gas that made those veterans bedraggled? Or is it the economic crisis that made them bedraggled?

  3. What is emphasized here with the phrase "but otherwise"? What does the author intend to convey to the readers?

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More simply put, this could be rewritten as:

The Hoover administration had used tanks and tear gas to drive the last weary WWI veterans from Washington, while simultaneously looking unable to respond to the issues at hand.

Plain English then and now are not quite the same :)

  • Wow, your paraphrase of this sentence is precise and can be easily understood. Thank you a lot! :) – Jarl Jul 21 '15 at 15:39
  • I'm glad for that. I've found that over the years that I've become fond of simple English. I like flowery English and English that waxes poetic, but sometimes the more simple it can be, the better it is for actual communication. :) – Jesse Williams Jul 21 '15 at 15:41
  • I don't see that the term bedraggled remnant is any less usable today than it would have been in 1918. It seems to bring a better pictorial understanding than simply saying weary. I support "plain English". But plainness is not the same thing as "dumbing down". It is perfectly possible to write in an elegantly descriptive manner, but for sentences to be clear and understandable. – WS2 Sep 16 '16 at 8:38
  • I agree, and I'm not an anti-intellectual. I don't believe in "dumbing down" the language either. However, while it's no less usable today than it was a century ago, it wouldn't be as readily understood. In this case, I don't see it as a lowering of the quality of English usage as much as a change in the way descriptors are used. Contemporary English has a bit less prose to it than 19th- and early 20th-century English. In the end, it's all about your target audience. – Jesse Williams Sep 16 '16 at 13:26
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Bedraggled Remnant does mean that they were at least disheveled (not necessarily wet). In other words, it was a sort of pathetic gathering of some World War I veterans who were hit hard by the economic crisis.


The use of bedraggled remnant is used to mock the use of such extreme force by Hoover. The bonus march was just a bunch of jobless men who needed the government's help, but were instead driven away by military force. So the author is saying that they were using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.


"but otherwise" looks like it's used here to emphasize the inefficiency of the Hoover administration in dealing with the crisis (as in all they did was drive away the Bonus Marchers, but have not dealt with the real problems facing the country).

  • Great! Thank you so much for your detailed explanations. I thouht that the veterans were incapable of responding to the crisis, but actually it proves to be the Hoover administration's incapability. Brilliant! :) – Jarl Jul 21 '15 at 15:34

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