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In Mark Ravenhill's The Cane, there is a line which I think it's a slang, but I can't find any references on the net. Please help me:

Maureen: Which is why I’ve invited the Head here today. I want his assurance that the staff will lend their full support to protect everyone attending the farewell and to prevent any disruption or physical attack.
Anna: If he just apologizes.
Maureen: If you leave now
Anna: I understand how to put together a form of words
Maureen: Go before the numbers build.
Anna: that will operate as an apology without recognizing any legal...

What are their means? Especially Maureen's line.

  • Needs more context, what does Anna mean when she says "a form of words"? Have you copied the text correctly? A good idea would be to post a link to the book and the precise passage. – Mari-Lou A Feb 22 at 8:34
  • Note that Google only provides two results for Anna's sentence "I understand how to put together a form of words" – Mari-Lou A Feb 22 at 8:36
  • I copied exactly from the text. I put more lines: Maureen: Which is why I’ve invited the Head here today. I want his assurance that the staff will lend their full support to protect everyone attending the farewell and to prevent any disruption or physical attack. Anna: If he just apologizes. Maureen: If you leave now Anna: I understand how to put together a form of words Maureen: Go before the numbers build. Anna: that will operate as an apology without recognizing any legal – Shahruz Raad Feb 22 at 9:05
  • OK, I'm trying to help because neither Anna's nor Maureen's phrases make much sense to me. Can you write what Anna said before " I understand how to put together a form of words" and what was said after Maureen's line IN your question, please? P.S Is Anna American or British in the story? – Mari-Lou A Feb 22 at 9:09
  • @Mari-Lou: Anna's phrase is interrupted. In full, it's: I understand how to put together a form of words that will operate as an apology without recognizing any legal ... – Peter Shor Feb 22 at 11:39
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In my reading, the two characters are talking past each other, rather than responding to each other. Anna seems to be some kind of public relations officer whom Maureen believes will actually make the situation worse if she hangs around.

Maureen says, "If you leave now", and the next thing she says is "Go before the numbers build.". It's a continuation of that idea. She's effectively saying that people are arriving and that Anna should leave before the crowd becomes large ("the numbers" refers to the number of people). Presumably Maureen thinks it will be harder for Anna to leave at that point. The phrase "If you leave now" is a polite command, rather than a real conditional.

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    The "Head" refers to the Head of school or the "Principal" (US), the play appears to be set in a British school. – Mari-Lou A Feb 22 at 10:11

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