1

The book I'm reading is 'The death of the heart' of Elizabeth Bowen. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_the_Heart) And this book have very difficult expressions. these are some of them and I want to know meaning of those expression.

  1. He and Irene and Portia, all more and more piano, trailed up and down the cold parts of Riviera, till he caught a chill and died in a nursing home.

In this sentence what is the meaning of 'all more and more piano'? Is there other meaning in piano other than instrument? In the pages I read so far, there's no mention about music at all.

  1. She was a scrap of a widow, ever so plucky, just back from china, with damp little hands, husky voice and defective tear-ducts that gave her eyes always ratehr a swimmy look.

She is Irene in above sentence. In this sentence 'a scrap of a widow' means that she is widow?

  1. She had a prostrated way of looking up at you, and that fluffy, bird's nesty hair that hairpins get lost in.(She also Irene)

'a prostrated way of looking up at you' means, she look at you with exhausted expression in her face?

Thank you in advance.

  • I suspect that 'prostrated' is a mistake and that 'protracted' was intended, with the meaning 'extended for longer than expected'. The 'piano' quote is incomprehensible to me. 'Scrap of a widow' just means she was withered with age. – Nigel J Apr 22 '18 at 5:15
  • One question at a time, please, 277. And questions need evidence of reasonable research (eg AHD for 'piano' here). – Edwin Ashworth Apr 22 '18 at 9:43
0

1) Piano
He and Irene and Portia, all more and more piano [quieter, lower in tone and voice], trailed up and down the cold parts of Riviera, till he caught a chill and died in a nursing home.

Piano [Oxford English Dictionary]
1. a. adj. Of the expression: Soft, low (also fig. gentle, mild, weak). b. adv. Softly, in a low tone or voice. Abbrev. p. 1683 Purcell Sonnatas in 3 Parts Pref., The English Practitioner..will find a few terms of Art perhaps unusual to him, the chief of which are..Piano. 1724 Short Explic. For. Wds. in Mus. Bks. , Piano, or the Letter P, signifies Soft or Low. 1762 Colman Musical Lady i. 11 O Piano, my dear Lady Scrape, Piano. a 1817 Jane Austen Persuasion (1818) IV. vi. 120 James Benwick is rather too piano for me. 1856 Mrs. C. Clarke tr. Berlioz' Instrument. 5 Chords of three or four notes..produce rather a bad effect when played piano. 1884 Blackw. Mag. Dec. 782/2 The cry for peace will probably become very piano. 1886 E. L. Bynner A. Surriage xiv. 157 The music lapsed from piano to pianissimo. 1900 E. Glyn Visits of Elizabeth 188 The Marquis..looked thoroughly worn out and as piano as a beaten dog. 1922 A. Huxley Let. 9 Sept. (1969) 209 Aunt Nettie is with us: but happily she is in a very calm and piano mood so that she is quite an agreeable companion. 1941 [see exalté a.]. 1953 E. M. Forster Hill of Devi 138 Very piano and tired, poor dear.

2) a scrap of a widow [Oxford Talking Dictionary]
The important phrase is 'a scrap of'. To answer your question, the meaning is ambiguous:
Option a) The widow is a (very) short in height.
Unlikely option b) The lady is a very frail widow. She is so sapped that she isn't almost a widow anymore. She may look like she is passing away soon, as she seems so weak.

She was a scrap of [= a very short] widow, ever so plucky, just back from china, with damp little hands, husky voice and defective tear-ducts that gave her eyes always ratehr a swimmy look.

Oxford English Dictionary
d. A small person. colloq.
1898 H. James Two Magics 60 ‘Perhaps she likes it!’ ‘Likes such things—a scrap of an infant!’ 1928 E. P. Oppenheim Chron. Melhampton v. 146, I wasn't here for long, and I was a scrap of a fellow those days. 1939 N. Streatfeild Luke 109, I didn't know the poor little scrap could look so radiant. 1958 Woman's Jrnl. Mar. 77/2 ‘The woman?’.. ‘They picked her up late last night. Poor little scrap.’

3) prostrated [Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary]
She had a prostrated [having lost all strength or all determination because of an illness or an extremely bad experience] way of looking up at you, and that fluffy, bird's nesty hair that hairpins get lost in.

  • 1
    I would interpret 'a scrap of a...' as meaning that the person was very small and of slight build. – Kate Bunting Apr 23 '18 at 8:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.