A Guardian article titled "Enlightened Princesses review – royals who shaped modern Britain" has this:

In 30 brief chapters, some only three pages long, we hear about the avant garde composers these women commissioned, the educational toys they gave their children, the libraries of new thought they assembled on their bookshelves. Some of these essays deliberately overlap – Handel pops up in a music chapter while also making an appearance in the discussion of London’s Foundling hospital, of which he was a patron. Yet far from feeling confused or excessive, this approach builds a rich allusive pattern, a sense of the cross-fertilisations that were everywhere in play. Set alongside these essays are illustrations and close readings of key objects – a useful reminder that something as airy sounding as the Enlightenment was actually grounded in the material world of a Wedgwood dinner service, an architect’s protractor, and a pocket full of solid silver coins.

The last sentence has this noun phrase a pocket full of solid silver coins. Does the phrase mean "a pocket that is full of solid silver coins" or "as many solid silver coins as a pocket can hold"?

I think it's the former. Am I right?

If so, isn't it more correct to say "pocketful" instead of "pocket full"?

...in the material world of a Wedgwood dinner service, an architect’s protractor, and a pocketful of solid silver coins.

Or are both well-formed in the given context regardless of the exact meaning of the phrase?

  • 4
    To me, "a pocket full of silver coins" is "a pocket that is full of silver coins". "A pocketful of silver coins" is a unit of measure (a very informal one) of how many coins one may have. Mar 14 '17 at 3:47
  • 1
    What Goats said. A "pocketful" is not necessarily in a pocket.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 14 '17 at 12:21

I believe the author of this review may not have been interested in supplying any exactness.

a pocket full of solid silver coins.

is clearly an invitation for the reader to imagine.

What sort of pocket is this? What is "solid silver"?

The author is tantalizing , (and saying: "You need to read the book.").

The fact of a question about

a pocket full of solid silver coins

more than suggests the author of the review has done a good job.

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