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This sentence

Partly this was because she was the only person on the island with whom I could be something approaching myself

is from John Harding, The Girl Who Couldn’t Read (2014). I can't understand the structure, nor the meaning. Is it that the narrator can be himself around her or what? And why is it put in such a strange manner, it's the first time I see something like that.

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  • I read it like that too, yes, that the narrator can be almost himself. (Not quite himself though, just an approximation.)
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Dec 27, 2019 at 8:26
  • 'Partly this was because she was the only person on the island with whom I could really let my defences down and be the real me (well, almost).' Commented Dec 27, 2019 at 12:32
  • The twist that makes this ugly is the something approaching modifying myself.*[S]he was the only person on the island with whom I could be myself* makes sense. It is poorly phrased.
    – jimm101
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 14:50

1 Answer 1

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"Approaching" can literally mean "nearing", and in this kind of context it means "almost" or "only just".

For example, this quote:

"It had been a while since I had been anywhere with food that I deemed approaching edible."

Here the author is describing food as "approaching edible" to mean it is only just worthy of eating.

So, in your example:

Partly this was because she was the only person on the island with whom I could be something approaching myself.

This means that the first person has not been able to 'act like themself' with most people, but she has found someone with whom she can almost be like herself, ie she still has some reserve perhaps.

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