1

I specifically need help understanding the "to recommend a wine firm in whose hands you could not go very far wrong" part. Thanks.

"Previous governesses had limited their conversation on the wine topic to a respectful and doubtless sincere expression of a preference for water. When this one went as far as to recommend a wine firm in whose hands you could not go very far wrong Mrs. Quabarl thought it time to turn the conversation into more usual channels."

Quote from the The Schartz-Metterklume Method by Saki, or H. H. Munro

  • Do you understand the sentence if you read firm as a noun (= wine business) rather than as an adjective (= hard, strong)? – Shoe Aug 13 '18 at 9:27
  • I listened to the audiobook and the voice narrator used firm as an adjective, but I'm still having trouble understanding. – Ashly Chi Aug 13 '18 at 9:32
  • Can you explain what you mean by the voice narrator used firm as an adjective? – Shoe Aug 13 '18 at 9:34
  • There was a pause between wine and firm. For example, "When [the governess] went as far as to recommend a wine, firm in whose hands you could not go very far wrong, Mrs. Quabarl thought it time to turn the conversation into more usual channels." – Ashly Chi Aug 13 '18 at 9:40
2

According to your comment, the narrator paused between the words wine and firm, leading you to read firm as an adjective. This is an understandable assumption, but I think the narrator has led you astray on this.

The expression "You can't go wrong in the hands of X" is commonly used in advertising to indicate the quality of the product or service on offer. Here are a few examples:

... you can't go wrong in the hands of Chefs Alex and Mike (http://scoutmob.com/atlanta/deals/1990)

You can't go wrong in the hands of a Master Roaster! (https://allevents.in/woodridge/starbucks-master-roaster-coffee-experience-inside-macys/198777784006100)

...in need of auto body work then you can't go wrong in the hands of Kings County auto body shop. (https://www.yelp.com/biz/kings-county-auto-body-brooklyn)

In this case, the governess is saying (in paraphrase):

I recommend XX wine firm. You cannot go wrong in their hands.

Saki has made a relative clause out of the second sentence in the paraphrase. He could equally well have written:

When this one went as far as to recommend a wine firm in the hands of whom you could not go very far wrong,....

These constructions are formal, but perfectly grammatical.

  • Thank you so much. Your answer makes perfect sense. I just looked up that phrase, and I understand the sentence so much better now that you explained it to me. I really appreciate your help! – Ashly Chi Aug 13 '18 at 10:10
  • @Ashly Chi. Since there is no comma between wine and firm in Saki's text, I don't understand why the narrator paused! – Shoe Aug 13 '18 at 10:11
  • I think I misheard it. Now that I listen to it there isn't a pause. You can listen to it at youtube.com/watch?v=1ywmwzvGNrM at 2:10:40 and tell me what you think. – Ashly Chi Aug 13 '18 at 10:15
  • I don't hear a pause, but I think the slight overstressing of firm tends to impede the understanding of wine firm as a single unit. – Shoe Aug 13 '18 at 10:25

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.