1

In using a contrasting simile, I think I have fallen into a trap. I want to say:

The academy is far from a placid house of learning.

In the sense of:

The academy is not at all a serene place for study.

Unfortunately, the literal meaning connotes physical distance, as in:

The academy is 500 miles from a quiet school that I know.

I have checked Ngram Viewer, and is far from a place does not come up with any hits, and the limit is five words per phrase. I could not pinpoint the problem in any of the usage dictionaries either. Might one say:

The academy is far from being a quiet place of study?

That doesn't sound right at all. Being should not be a verb.

  • Which sentence, the first or the last? – Mike Sep 20 '16 at 8:42
  • I forced to come up with some form of the above I would say "The academy is a far from placid house of learning.", but this is still a bit confusing and clunky. I'd just scrap this line and rewrite it if I was you, I think it's inherently confusing. – Max Williams Sep 20 '16 at 8:45
  • "The academy is far from being a quiet place of study" sounds right to me, but neither would I ever make a literal interpretation of 'far from a quiet place of study' even if a preceding part of the conversation had specifically been about a known place of quiet study, in which instance I'd say "the Academy is a long way from/far away from that quiet study place.". And I'd only say that if for some reason I'd forgotten the name of the quiet place. – Spagirl Sep 20 '16 at 9:14
2

That same connecting phrase has several forms:

  1. "...far from..."
  2. "...far from being..."
  3. "...a far cry from..."

Here are some examples:

  1. The academy is far from calm.
  2. The academy is far from being a calm place of study.
  3. The academy is a far cry from a calm place of study.

To say that something is "far from" is to say that its meaning, reality, or qualities are very different from something else.

Here is the general form of the phrase:

[one thing] is far from [its opposite]

Or:

[one thing] is far from being [its opposite]

Or:

[one thing] is a far cry from [its opposite]

Examples

If a child was told to be quiet but keeps yelling, an adult may come in and say: "It is far from quiet in here."

If a person was told to pick up a dog as a holiday present for a child, but arrives with a cat instead, someone might say: "That is far from being a dog."

If someone is sleeping in their car, one might say to them: "Your car is a far cry from an apartment."

Explanation

Something is "a far cry" from something else, when it is so far away in physical location that even if crying out, one could not be heard. This phrase refers to a physical distance, but is figuratively used to denote a conceptual distance. Such a conceptual distance exists when things are opposites in terms of some defining quality (e.g. day and night are opposites in terms of light, silence and noise are opposites in terms of volume, etc.).

In the case of "a far cry," the two connecting ideas may be literal or figurative:

The academy is a far cry from calm.

"Calm" is meant literally here, and the sentiment is that the academy is not calm.

The academy is a far cry from a monastery.

This is figurative. Of course the academy is not a monastery. However, the point here is figurative in that qualities that may be shown by a monastery -- calmness, quiet, studiousness, seriousness, etc. -- are not present at the academy.

Source(s)

AudioEnglish.org: definition of 'far cry'

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