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I was reading Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel, where on page 191 I found this line:

William began to be aware of his housemaster's wife during his last two terms at St. Paul's. She was a good-looking woman, a little slack around the stomach and hips perhaps, but she carried her splendid bosim well and the luxuriant dark hair piled on top of her head was no more streaked with grey than was becoming.

Now, my problem is with the bold part of the passage. What is the meaning of this comparative sentence? We know that the hair is dark. And we don't know how it was becoming. Is it right to analyze that there was no trace of grey in her hair? Or is it slightly grey?

Please help me analyze the meaning grammatically.

1 Answer 1

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This is using "becoming" as an adjective:

suitable, fitting; especially : attractively suitable

[Merriam-Webster]

So it means that the woman's otherwise-dark hair was just streaked enough with grey to suit her attractively.

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    I would note that, at least in US and Canadian English (not sure about Britain or internationally), this usage is considered at least moderately archaic, and would probably elicit a raised eyebrow in conversation. Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 10:28
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    @SebastianLenartowicz. Also in BE - Jeffrey Archer is not known for his thoughtful use of English.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 11:10
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    Note the book is now 42 years old. It may have felt less archaic when it was written. Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 11:56
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    The rest of the passage e.g. "splendid bosom" is also very dated.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 12:11

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