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I think there's a slight ambiguity in the word longago in this context.

the longago Deputy Speaker who was killed in the National Assembly when the furniture was flung at him by elected representatives. Source: Salman Rushdie - Shame (1983)

I can't figure out whether it means "the former Deputy speaker" or it means "Deputy speaker who died long time ago"

I found a word long-ago and its explanation in Merriam-Webster, but I'm not sure it's the same word.


Some background on events Salman Rushdie is referring to:

Shahed Ali Patwary was a lawyer and prominent politician. He was elected as member of East Pakistan Provincial Assembly. In 1955 he was elected as Deputy Speaker. On 23 September 1958 he was injured in a fight in the assembly and died two days later.

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    I don't think I've ever seen long ago written as one word, but it clearly means that the incident happened a long time ago. If people threw things at him in the Assembly he was presumably in office at the time, and if he was killed he didn't live to be a 'former Deputy Speaker'!. Jun 5, 2019 at 7:52
  • The full Oxford English Dictionary lists hyphenated long-ago as a valid "attributive adjective" form, but it's relatively rare (maybe not so much in "Indian English", which Rushdie might have been deliberately leaning towards). Compare long-time, long-term, both of which are still in common use. Jun 5, 2019 at 11:48
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    @KateBunting - Clearly "long-ago" is modifying "Deputy Speaker", meaning that he is not Deputy Speaker now, nor was he in the near past. Whether he was Deputy Speaker at the time of the incident is unclear, and would have to be derived from the wider context (and perhaps knowledge of the writer's style).
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 5, 2019 at 11:48
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    @HotLicks: Quite. It's even feasible the former Deputy Speaker was actually killed recently - all we know from the text is that it was a long time ago when he held that office, which doesn't necessarily tell us anything about when he died. Jun 5, 2019 at 11:52
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    I would consider 'longago' this a typo or error. Without context, I thought it was some back disease or Italian clown.
    – Mitch
    Jun 5, 2019 at 12:31

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the longago Deputy Speaker who was killed in the National Assembly when the furniture was flung at him by elected representatives. Source: Salman Rushdie - Shame (1983)

As all the comments have said this is just another way of saying long-ago and all it tells us was that the deputy speaker who had furniture thrown at him held his post a long time ago.

We do not know how long he held the post.
It is most likely he was in the post when the incident happened but we can not say that with 100% accuracy[1]. He may have been deputy at 30 and came to visit at 90 when the furniture got thrown.

We do not even know when this was long-ago is >50 years to me >10 years to my teenager.


[1] but if anyone wrote this text not intending you to understand he was the deputy at the time of the furniture incident, they are either bad writers, or writing a riddle. (who was the deputy when somebody got killed with furniture?)

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