Questions tagged [meaning]

Questions regarding the meaning of certain terms or phrases used in a work of literature. If your question concerns the symbolic significance of something whose surface meaning is clear, use the [symbolism] tag instead. Please add specific tags as well: for the author (if known), the language (if not English), and either the work itself (if long) or the [poetry] or [short-stories] tags for short works.

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6
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2answers
420 views

Origin of the war-cry "Eulalia" in Brian Jacques's Redwall series?

In Brian Jacques's Redwall series, "Eulalia" is the traditional war cry of the badgers and hares of Salamandastron. It's also the title of one of the books in the series, but it's used ...
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1answer
49 views

What does Bourne mean by thinking "geometrically" during the post-Victoria Peak debrief?

After the fighting in the Victoria Peak house, Bourne talks to a few government people; they trade information, insights, and heated remarks about the events which brought them there. At one point he ...
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0answers
26 views

In Seamus Heaney's 'North', why are the Vikings' voices "lifted in violence and epiphany"?

Seamus Heaney's poem 'North' contains these lines: those fabulous raiders, those lying in Orkney and Dublin […] were ocean-deafened voices warning me, lifted again in violence and epiphany. It would ...
2
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1answer
38 views

Meaning of "Beneath the water of their lives" quote by Mitch Albom

Recently I was reading the book "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom and I came across this quote: It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that ...
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1answer
564 views

What does "the ass and the wall are quits" mean?

This phrase is used at least twice in the Decameron: In Day 2 Story 9, when the merchants at the beginning of the story are boasting of their infidelity to their wives and justifying themselves by ...
8
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2answers
904 views

Who are these crescent saints?

In the Decameron Day 2 Story 7, the protagonist is a princess of "Babylon" who has numerous sexual misadventures after getting shipwrecked on the way to be married. She is, I believe, ...
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3answers
116 views

Understanding "If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is."

"If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is." John von Neumann Why can't someone think that both math and life are ...
4
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1answer
199 views

What is the lamp-post jag?

This passage from R. A. Lafferty's short story "Dream World" (freely available to read online) puzzles me: "What is the lamp-post jag, Bascomb?" asked Officer Mossback McCarty. &...
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1answer
64 views

What's the connection of a watery food to a book?

Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, volume 2 includes the following letter from Darwin to W. Ogle, written with regard to Dr. Ogle's translation of Kerner's book, 'Flowers and their Unbidden Guests': ...
2
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1answer
63 views

Why does "It is better to incur a mild rebuke than to perform an onerous task" sound hilarious to Henry Sugar's friends?

In the book of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl, Henry Sugar was a rich man, whose wealth was inherited from his dad. He never worked, nor did his wealthy friends. There is a piece of ...
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1answer
33 views

What is the "South Wind of lie"?

One of the poems in John P. Portelli's poetry collection "In Between: Malta and Canada" (freely available online from the author's website, page 91) is the short poem "The Past and the ...
2
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1answer
58 views

What does "beak first" mean in "An Ode to America"?

From "An Ode to America" (The Atlantic's Jan/Feb 2022 issue): “Pretty good nose you got there! You do much fighting with that nose?” New Orleans, 1989. I’m standing on a balcony south of ...
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1answer
242 views

What is "the Throne of Mammon grey" in William Blake's "I Rose Up at the Dawn of Day"?

The poem is fairly self explanatory, but I can not place the "grey" hanging off of "This is the Throne of Mammon": I rose up at the dawn of day— 'Get thee away! get thee away! ...
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1answer
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What is "the line children draw to represent a bird in flight"?

The expression on her face, then, had been the one he'd seen, hours later, on her sleeping face in a port side coffin, her upper lip like the line children draw to represent a bird in flight. I'm ...
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1answer
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Does "sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt" imply social class?

Quote from "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle": His rusty black frock-coat was buttoned right up in front, with the collar turned up, and his lank wrists protruded from his sleeves ...
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1answer
1k views

"Sly frantic wretch, that holp'st to make me great" what is the meaning of "holp'st"?

The Twitter bot Willy Shakes tweeted these lines earlier today: Sly frantic wretch, that holp'st to make me great, In hope thyself should govern Rome and me. [Enter AEMILIUS] — Titus Andronicus I ...
3
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1answer
102 views

In Mary Tighe's Psyche, what is the gemstone referred to by allusion?

In Mary Tighe's "Psyche", Canto 1, lines 413 - 414 (see the text), a gemstone is referred to by allusion to an episode in mythology. To quote, And there the gem which bears his luckless ...
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2answers
144 views

What does, "The period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing..." mean?

It says in Great Expectations, The period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing—and which is always its heaviest and longest punishment—was still far off. What is this "...
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What does "solidification" mean in "his departure or farewell was a kind of solidification"?

But I had to give up on that idea or hope, I had to wrench it out of my head and heart, or out of my cunt, as the women say back in Torre del Greco, and although I never completely gave up, somehow I ...
4
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1answer
270 views

What are "jigging veins of rhyming mother wits"?

The prologue of Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe begins: From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits, And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay, We'll lead you to the stately tent of war, ...
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1answer
73 views

What does "his name is my name too" mean in "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt"?

"John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" is a kid's song that goes like this: John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt His name is my name, too Whenever we go out The people always shout There goes John ...
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What does "worried stone" mean in this poem from "Tumor"?

In "Tumor", by Anna Leahy, the author wrote a poem about her mother's cancer death, with the title "Gravity 2", after she had written a poem about her father's death, with the ...
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2answers
612 views

What does "royalty in nature" in Macbeth mean?

In Macbeth (Act 3, Scene 1), Macbeth says about Banquo: in his royalty of nature Reigns that which would be feared. What does "royalty of nature" mean here? Surely, Banquo is no "king ...
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1answer
860 views

What does "One fancied things sometimes—fancied a fellow was looking at you queerly" mean from And Then There Were None?

From And Then There Were None: Well, he’d enjoy a chat about old times. He’d had a fancy lately that fellows were rather fighting shy of him. All owing to that damned rumour! By God, it was pretty ...
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2answers
592 views

Does "football" mean "rugby" in Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome?

In the book Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome (1933) it says: "It's lucky it's not the football term," said John. "A month might make just the difference about getting into the fifteen&...
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Meaning of "with no why to how it keeps its mystery"

What is the meaning of the following quote from Rumi? I was reading his The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing and came across this quote: Love is an open secret, the most obvious thing in ...
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2answers
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Meaning of 'white mask on my otherwise tan face'

I nearly always saw them at the beach, where it’s difficult to get a good look at anyone. Particularly so in my case, because I’m nearsighted and would rather see everything through a haze than return ...
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0answers
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Meaning of "Her face, a revolving door, swings open and shut, open and shut"

First her ears hear; they open. Then her eyes can see; they open. Her face, a revolving door, swings open and shut, open and shut. She no longer sleeps at night; it’s too hard to breathe after four ...
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0answers
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Catcher in the Rye - Chapter 1 "If I get a chance to remember that kind of stuff..."

In Catcher in the Rye, the narrator failed his school so he had to leave. Before leaving, he thought to say good-by to his history teacher. Then, he brought up his memory of playing football with his ...
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1answer
103 views

What does "in Twos and Threes" mean in this Robert Bly poem?

I'm reading Bly's book of poems Stealing Sugar from the Castle. I cannot understand the title of "Love Poem in Twos and Threes". Does "in Twos and Threes" mean small groups of ...
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1answer
58 views

Meaning of this Graham Greene quote: "A story has no beginning or end ..."

A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. ~ The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene What does the author ...
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1answer
73 views

What does William Hazlitt mean about competitors in this letter to his son?

From William Hazlitt's letter to his son: Remember always that you are but one among others, and you can hardly mistake your place in society. In your father's house, you might do as you pleased: in ...
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1answer
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What do the letters G and D mean in "The Trout" by Sean O'Faolain?

In the story "The Trout", there are two letters that I want to know what they mean. One of the first places Julia always ran to when they arrived in G--- was The Dark Walk. It is a laurel ...
6
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1answer
356 views

Meaning of B.A., S.A.. B.O. in "Love in a Cold Climate"

In Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate, Lady Montdore bemoans her daughter Polly's lack of interest in getting married, or even landing a boyfriend. She says to her friend Lady Patricia: "...
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1answer
59 views

In Great Expectations, why were thieves happy when Mr. Jaggers spoke?

In Great Expectations, when Pip, the protagonist, and Wemmick, his acquaintance, see Mr. Jaggers, a very strong lawyer, in court, Pip remarks that Thieves and thieftakers hung in dread rapture on his ...
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1answer
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What do Mohawks and scaffolding mean in this line from Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm?

What does this line mean from Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm? In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their ...
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1answer
38 views

What does "only more" mean in Tumor?

In Tumor, a book by Anna Leahy, the author discusses the nouns "tumor" and "cancer": The word tumor comes from the Latin for swelling. Indeed, a tumor is an overgrowth, a mass of ...
4
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1answer
93 views

Meaning of "Fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years"

In the story Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck there is this sentence He woke suddenly and completely. It was four o'clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up ...
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1answer
119 views

What does Sri Aurobindo mean by "sweet madness"?

This is from book X, canto III of Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol by Sri Aurobindo: All our earth starts from mud and ends in sky, And Love that was once an animal's desire, Then a sweet madness in ...
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2answers
60 views

The meaning of "to his love and tendance / All sorts of hearts" in Timon of Athens

In Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, I found a difficult passage in 1.1.57-60: (Their services to Lord Timon): his large fortune, Upon his good and gracious nature hanging, Subdues and properties to his ...
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0answers
41 views

Does Rousseau say that men are slaves of governments and laws?

Jean-Jaques Rousseau wrote Discours sur les sciences et les arts. In the very first part, the third paragraph says the following: Original (French) L'esprit a ses besoins, ainsi que le corps. Ceux-ci ...
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0answers
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What happened to Mohini?

In Premchand's short story "The Desired Destination" (first published in 1911, available here in its original Urdu), the narrator is in love with a girl named Mohini and opens by saying that ...
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2answers
638 views

Edmund Spenser's sonnet "My Love is like to ice, and I to fire"

Here is Sonnet XXX from the sonnet cycle Amoretti by Edmund Spenser: My Love is like to ice, and I to fire: How comes it then that this her cold so great Is not dissolved through my so hot desire, ...
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2answers
628 views

Why does "less than" mean "not" in "A little more than kin, and less than kind"?

In Act 1, Scene 2, Line 65, Hamlet [Aside] "A little more than kin, and less than kind" does less than mean not? If so, what semantic notions underlie less than and not? How did less than ...
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2answers
421 views

Does this edit in The Magician's Nephew (from "had her bathe" to "had her bath") fundamentally change the meaning of the sentence?

Later editions of C.S. Lewis 'The Magician's Nephew' have been edited, presumably to reflect modern usage. Polly went down and had her bathe; at least she said that was what she'd been doing, but we ...
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3answers
310 views

What is meant by "traffic" in this list of men's activities?

In the introduction (proem) to the Decameron, the author spends some paragraphs writing about lovesick women and how he hopes his stories may give them some solace as their situation means they're ...
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1answer
62 views

Meaning of "seemed of their own will" and "man were whole"

In the short story "The Enemy" by Pearl S. Buck, there are two phrases that I'm not quite certain whether I have correctly understood. Here are the short passages which contain the phrases: ...
2
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1answer
263 views

Meaning of "take trains like the Twentieth Century"

In the short story 'The Third Level' By Jack Finney, there is a sentence given as such: I turned into Grand Central from Vanderbilt Avenue, and went down the steps to the first level, where you take ...
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1answer
71 views

What's the meaning of "Hassan milled about the periphery of my life"?

From The Kite Runner: Hassan milled about the periphery of my life after that. I made sure our paths crossed as little as possible, planned my day that way. Because when he was around, the oxygen ...
4
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1answer
63 views

What is meant by "descent of their last end"?

What does "the descent of their last end" mean in James Joyce's The Dead? His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the ...

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