I came across a passage: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/7946668/Short-breaks-make-people-happier-than-one-long-holiday-psychologists-claim.html

In the last paragraph, the author, who I believed to be a native, states :"

If you pack three times as many holidays into the same amount of leave, you can expect three times as much trouble. It's not obvious to me that it's worth it.

The clause in italics sounds weird and illogical to me.

My reasoning is that a holiday is more like an container possibly comprising more than one day leave, therefore one could only group several days together and make them a holiday, and such grouping i.e. holiday may be more than one.

I would then rephrase the original sentence into:

If you pack the same amount of leave into three times as many holidays

Am I wrong or the original sentence. And if I am wrong, is it because "pack" is just used as such or because it changes the original meaning.

Please help me out...

  • 2
    The amount of leave stays the same. It doesn't get packed. Suppose you have two weeks of leave annually. You could then take a two-week holiday (one holiday). Or you could break it up into seven two-day segments, each segment being a separate holiday. That's seven holidays instead of one holiday. Hence the packing part. A holiday in this case is any continuous period of time when you're not working. – Ricky Nov 19 '15 at 7:04
  • 1
    Yes, a holiday in the sense used is a discrete thing. What it's theoretically comprised of doesn't matter. It's like saying that you can't pack sentences into a paragraph because a sentence is a collection of words. – ralph.m Nov 19 '15 at 8:35

In the above sentence, pack has 2 meanings:

Fill (a suitcase or bag) with clothes and other items needed for travel: 'I packed a bag and left.' [NO OBJECT]: she had packed and checked out of the hotel

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

to fill with packing


It means:

If you take an increased number of trips, i.e. three holidays in one-week leave period instead of just one holiday for a full week, it will increase the stress and trouble because it will take not only more time in packing and travelling, but also more cost for gas and tickets.

The writer used the verb "pack" because it is broadly used to mean "to prepare to travel".

Note: "Leave" means a period of time granted by your company and "holiday" means a period of time you are taking per one holiday trip.

Edit: As @Ricky commented, if you change the verb "pack" to "cram" (1.1 meaning), it would be easier to understand the sentence.

  • so could I understand "one-week leave" as": seven continuous days of leaving, rather than seven days in total but not necessarily consecutive – eudoraleer Nov 19 '15 at 7:25
  • @eudoraleer Actually it doesn't matter. But for comparison, it is easier to understand that way. For example, you have a total of 10-day leave granted by your company. The writer thinks it is better to take fewer holidays for the trouble and stress. – user140086 Nov 19 '15 at 7:37
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    I beg to differ. A good synonym for "pack" in this case would be "cram." – Ricky Nov 19 '15 at 8:05
  • @Ricky Thank you for your comment. I edited my answer and take a look. :) – user140086 Nov 19 '15 at 8:20

The confusion comes from the verb pack.

Remember to pack your shirts.

Have you packed your suitcase?

The verb can be used to describe the action of placing something into a container, in which case that something is a direct object (pack your shirts); or the verb can be used to describe the action of filling a container with things, in which case the container is the direct object (pack your suitcase).

In the text quoted in the OP, the author is making more or less this analogy:

shirt : suitcase ::  trip :  total number of vacation days

The total number of vacation days available is the container. The container can be packed with one large thing, or with multiple smaller things (e.g. day-trips).

...pack three times as many holidays into the same amount of leave...

The same amount of leave is the container into which things (holidays) are being packed.

  • Is the downvote because of the phrase "direct object" or some other perceived shortcoming? – TRomano Nov 19 '15 at 17:18

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