In Gerard Durrell's The Whispering Land I ran into the sentence below:

At that precise moment we were heading towards the massive building that looked like a cross between the Parthenon and the Reichstag in whose interior lurked the most formidable enemy of sanity and liberty in Argentina: the Aduana, or Customs.

May I ask what "cross between Parthenon and the Reichstag" means here? I guess there might be some cultural implication behind this but I cannot find anything after searching extensively.

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    I'm guessing that architecturally it has features of both. Parthenon Reichstag
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 17, 2019 at 2:35
  • @HotLicks I just found that a cross between could mean A mixture or compromise of two things in Oxford dictionary. Now it makes perfect sense as these two buildings have something in common. Thanks! Jan 17, 2019 at 2:58
  • "Cross", in the sense of this idiom, likely is a metaphorical reference to "cross breeding" -- the inter-breeding of two species of plant or animal.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 17, 2019 at 3:01
  • @HotLicks Yes. Previously I fixated on the literal meaning of cross and thus get myself confused over it. Cross breeding would make sense and the sentence is easy to understand now. It's the typical satiric the author used in his book. Jan 17, 2019 at 3:06
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    @XintingWANG Saying that "A is a cross between B and C" does not always imply that B and C are similar in any way. Indeed some of the most striking uses of this type of description are ones where B and C are very different. The use of this type of comparison is usually a derogatory comment on the nature or design of A often, as in the case of the Aduana, implying unnecessary grandiosity. Its use isn't restricted to buildings either, for instance it would be possible to refer to a Humvee as "a cross between a jeep and a gun emplacement"
    – BoldBen
    Jan 17, 2019 at 6:13

1 Answer 1


The Parthenon is a Greek Temple that is distinguished by its thick pillars which surround the perimeter to support the structure.

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The Reichstag is a German political building that is well known for its iconic glass dome constructed on the top and its parliamentarian style.

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When the author said cross between Parthenon and the Reichstag, he might have implied that the building was a parliamentarian type building supported by pillars, since cross between means a mixture of.

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