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There is a line I do not understand:

The first editor died a year in, leaving chaos in his wake.

What does here "died a year in" mean? Is "in" here a preposition or adverb? Why is it put at the very end of the sentence?

3 Answers 3

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"a year in" is short for "a year into" (at least in rough meaning)

or, using more words, "at a time/date around one year after commencement of X"

"chaos in his wake" - "wake" means the turbulent water behind a boat and waves jostling everything around - a phrase idiomatically means sort of "turmoil someone or something causes as it goes"

It wouldn't be uncommon for an "editor" to be making the strategic choices and steering decisions, and if the project were 'rudderless' the staff might start working at cross purposes or wrong directions , or basic materials weren't getting ordered etc.

For a bit more of my understanding of how "in" is used here: "in" is at the end (edit) in a way that would be somelike a direction "North" - but instead, "ten yards inwards" "or ten minutes into the first half" shortened to "in".

Consider these imaginary dialogues: Say I was on a phone talking to someone going into a tunnel. "Have gone into the tunnel yet?" "Yes, we are 300 yards in." ... so, like yards are a distance, time is also a distance. Often it is more like "Ten minutes into the first half, the striker scored a goal." "When? " "Ten minutes in.

(edit)As to a part of speech, I believe, it is similar to a directional bearing. (edit)(I am still unsure what part of speech it is when a bearing is used as a shorthand without direct reference)

What the span was/what was commenced, where 'in' was inwards from, would need some context.

It could suggest "around one year after this long term project started, the person who was the initial editor died" ...

It could also one year into the life of a new organization - the first editor ever.

It could be "the first editor during my time there died one year after I started working for that firm"

It could also mean "one year into his contract" ... referring to the elapsed time since the editor was hired.

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  • On the one hand, a year in cannot literally be short for a year into, because the latter is not acceptable in the OP's sentence; you cannot say *The first editor died a year into. Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:12
  • Having said that, I do get the sense there is a relation here. You would say The first editor died a year into his term. But also note you cannot say *The first editor died a year in his term. Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:20
  • Some relevant text from OED, at the beginning of the entry for in as a preposition: 'The preposition expressing the relation of inclusion, situation, position, existence, or action, within limits of space, time, condition, circumstances, etc. In ancient times, expressing also (like Latin in) motion or direction from a point outside to one within limits; the two senses being determined by the case of the word expressing the limits, the former taking the dative (originally locative), the latter the accusative or case of direction. ' Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:36
  • OED continues: 'These cases being subsequently levelled, this distinction ceased to be practicable, and the latter relation is now ordinarily expressed by the compound in-to, into prep. and adj.; but there are various locutions in which (either because the accompanying verb conveys the sense of motion, or through the preservation of an ancient phrase without analysis) in still expresses motion from without to within.' Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:36
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    @linguisticturn perhaps I should delete my answer as I am no more able to document it than you are. Say I was on a phone talking to someone going into a tunnel. "Have gone into the tunnel yet?" "Yes, we are 300 yards in." ... so, like yards are a distance, time is also a distance. Often it is more like "Ten minutes into the first half, the striker scored a goal." "When? " "Ten minutes in."
    – Tom22
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 17:25
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It means that the first editor died a year into his job of being the editor, meaning that they had to find someone to fill the position that he left.

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The meaning of the phrase:

The first editor died a year in, leaving chaos in his wake

means the first editor died in the same time period of his employment as editor for whatever he was editing. His death left the unfinished work that he was employed for in chaos.

Hope this is helpful!

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