I’d like to ask on the sentence in The Mistake of the Machine, one of Father Brown tales by G.K. Chesterton.

There burst and fell into his private room a man in the filthiest rags, with a greasy squash hat still askew on his head, and a shabby green shade shoved up from one of his eyes, both of which were glaring like a tiger’s.

This “man” here is a billionaire trying to disguise as the poorest of the poor. I don’t understand what “a shabby green shade shoved up from one of his eyes” means. I can get the picture of the other parts somehow but this one..  I can’t pinpoint the meaning of the word “shade” here. Is this green shade some kind of sunglass? Was he wearing the glass onto one of his eye? Or does this shade indicate bruise around his eye, which might’ve been common among the poor in those days? I also don’t know what this “shoved up” means. If it means “to put into” as dictionaries say, doesn’t it sit poorly with the preposition “from” used alongside it, don’t you think? I mean the direction indicated by each word (“shove up” and “from”) seems quite opposite to me. Could someone clarify what did the part around one of his eye look like for me please? Thanks.

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    If it had only covered one eye, perhaps it was an eye patch (think fictional pirates)? -though they are traditionally black, not green. Maybe he had been pretending to have a blind or disfigured eye as part of the disguise, but as both eyes were really sound he had pushed the shade out of the way in order to see better. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 11:53
  • Thanks. I'm inclined to think this patch stuff of yours is the case considering the man in question already wore a shabby hat on his head. You could wear both hat and visor at the same time though.
    – giraffe
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 0:39
  • I'm lost by the fact you put "man" in quotations. Please explain. Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 3:09
  • @JoshuaBurns seems like OP is quoting all words and phrases which are taken directly from the quote. Nothing out of ordinary here.
    – justhalf
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 9:42

2 Answers 2


I presume the author is referring to the green eyeshade that was once popular in certain professions, pushed up at one side.

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Image from First Things

Wikipedia has an entry:

Green Eyeshades are a type of visor that were worn most often from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century by accountants, telegraphers, copy editors and others engaged in vision-intensive, detail-oriented occupations to lessen eye strain due to early incandescent lights and candles, which tended to be harsh (the classic banker's lamp had a green shade for similar reasons). Because they were often worn by people involved in accounting, auditing, economics, and budgeting, they became associated with these activities.

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    I still have a vivid recollection of my grandfather wearing one of these shades in the mid-1950s when he was doing his business accounts in the evening. The shade was particularly useful when light was only available from a table lamp of some description, placed in front of the wearer, and directly in their field of view. That said, I tend to agree with Kate Bunting that, since it had only covered one eye, it was some form of medical eye-patch. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 14:18
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    @Duckspindle “a shabby green shade shoved up from one of his eyes” does not suggest that the shade covered only one eye - it indicates that the shade was at an angle to the line of his eyebrows, i.e. it was further above one eye than it was above the other.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 16:27
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    @greybeard : that makes a lot more sense of the original passage and is an interpretation I hadn't considered. Could he possibly mean that the shade was pushed up on one side only, leaving the other eye shaded? That being so, I take issue with G. K. Chesterton for lack of clarity! I've edited my answer accordingly. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 17:07
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    Hmm if this green shade I didn't know was so common in the past, this might be the case. But I wonder if this visor was associated with poor (or even homeless) people who this rich guy was trying pretending to be.
    – giraffe
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 0:44

To tackle the other part of the question, it is necessary to take the word shove on its own: shove: to push quickly, forcefully, or roughly (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.)

So the man in the filthy rags had roughly pushed the shade upward from its original position.

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    "So the man in the filthy rags had roughly pushed the shade upward from its original position." No, shoved does not describe the act of moving the shade or how it was done, but rather in conjunction with up describes its current position, as well as emphasizing the fact that it has been moved from its normal position.
    – Glen Yates
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 19:01
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    @Glen Yates : I think that we are describing two aspects of the same thing. I'm describing the action; you're describing the result. So we are both correct. Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 20:47
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    I thought "shove up" meant to push "into/onto" his face or something. But if this was to push "upward", it doesn't contradict with whatever I was thinking. So I guess I understand now, thanks.
    – giraffe
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 0:48

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