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.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
36 votes
5 answers
6k views

Meaning/translation of title "The Light Fantastic" by Terry Pratchett

I have read The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett in English and always interpreted the title as "The Fantastic (adjective) light (noun)". Mostly because I do not see "Fantastic" ...
user avatar
  • 463
31 votes
1 answer
4k views

What does Mark Twain mean by "cheers and a tiger"?

I know about the big stripey cat, but what is "a tiger" in this context: ...finishing up with cheers and a tiger for "Hadleyburg purity and our eighteen immortal representatives of it.&...
user avatar
24 votes
4 answers
8k views

What is a Daniel?

In Chapter Three of The Scarlet Letter we find the following as a response to a question of who the father of Hester’s child is: Of a truth, friend, that matter remaineth a riddle; and the Daniel who ...
user avatar
  • 2,657
24 votes
2 answers
8k views

Explain the 28 Feb 2022 Dilbert cartoon use of the phrase "sticking the landing"

Can someone explain today's Dilbert cartoon, in particular explain what "sticking the landing" means?
user avatar
  • 351
20 votes
5 answers
5k views

Meaning of 'Yawl write, hear?'

I am currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In chapter 6 there is a sentence by Dill. Before leaving, he says 'Yawl write, hear? What does this sentence mean? Does it mean that they ...
user avatar
20 votes
5 answers
3k views

What does it mean to laugh like the letter k?

In Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros, the symbolic meaning of one line is quite confusing. The narrator is referring to her grandfather (abuelo), and she says he: who used to laugh like the letter k I'...
user avatar
  • 4,197
19 votes
1 answer
3k views

What do these espionage tradecraft phrases from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy mean?

When Ricky Tarr is recounting his story to George Smiley, he speculates that Boris -- a Russian spy working undercover as a trade delegate -- was "waiting for a connect, working a letterbox, maybe, or ...
user avatar
  • 590
18 votes
2 answers
8k views

What are the "old euphemisms" in The Great Gatsby?

In chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby, Nick describes Daisy's reaction to the people of West Egg: But the rest offended her—and inarguably, because it wasn’t a gesture but an emotion. She was appalled ...
user avatar
17 votes
5 answers
31k views

The meaning of "The rest is silence" in "Hamlet"

Hamlet's very last words are The rest is silence. What do they actually mean? This being Shakespeare, I reckon the significance of these words cannot be only the banal comparison between death and ...
user avatar
17 votes
2 answers
5k views

What does 'Gilead' mean in The Raven?

Poe's poem The Raven contains the following words in the fifteenth stanza: [...] tell me truly, I implore— Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!" What does 'Gilead' mean ...
user avatar
  • 63.1k
16 votes
3 answers
2k views

Meaning of "bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur-nuk!"

From Finnegans Wake, What is the meaning of this word? In context: The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur- nuk!) of a once ...
user avatar
15 votes
2 answers
961 views

What does "Maybe it's a Big Horse I'm Morporkian" mean?

In Terry Pratchett's book Raising Steam, there is an explanation of the phrase "Have seen the big horse" where the author uses the sentence "Maybe it's a Big Horse I'm Morporkian". ...
user avatar
  • 159
15 votes
1 answer
2k views

What does "if the court knows herself" mean?

In In the Midst of Alarms (1894) by Robert Barr, Yates was camping with his unkind friend in Canada, when the police issued a warrant against Yates. “Stilly,” cried the reporter cheerily, “there’s a ...
user avatar
  • 3,697
15 votes
2 answers
2k views

Is Deeper Magic something more than God (the Emperor beyond the Sea) in Narnia?

When Aslan is asked why he has to die in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he answers something in the sense that there is a "deeper magic" that he has to obey. What exactly is this &...
user avatar
  • 391
15 votes
4 answers
4k views

Explanation of the line 'But you don't really care for music, do you' in "Hallelujah"

In the first verse of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", there are these lines: Now, I've heard there was a secret chord That David played and it pleased the Lord But you don't really care for music,...
user avatar
  • 19.1k
15 votes
4 answers
6k views

What does this quote from The Great Gatsby mean?

Here's the quote: My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his hand. That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama ...
user avatar
  • 253
14 votes
2 answers
1k views

What does "halter" mean here?

The following sentence occurs in Mark Twain's sketch Private History of a Campaign that Failed: The drenching we were getting was misery enough, but a deeper misery still was the reflection that ...
user avatar
14 votes
2 answers
926 views

What does it mean to greet a guest with an unsheathed sword?

In A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, when Tyrion Lannister visits Winterfell on the way back from the Wall: “Any man of the Night’s Watch is welcome here at Winterfell for as long as he wishes to ...
user avatar
  • 6,624
13 votes
1 answer
2k views

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 ...
user avatar
13 votes
1 answer
4k views

"My father declared he should invent a slip button"

From Lady Saba Holland's memoir of her father the Rev. Sydney Smith, published circa 1855: The reigning bore at this time in Edinburgh was ——; his favourite subject, the North Pole. It mattered not ...
user avatar
13 votes
3 answers
325 views

What is a bootless oath?

In Book X (10) of The Illiad Hector (edition: Britannica Great Books of the Western World (The Illiad and The Odessey together), rendered into English prose by Samuel Butler) swears the following oath ...
user avatar
  • 2,843
13 votes
2 answers
3k views

What did Dante mean by "Papè Satan, papè Satan aleppe" in the Inferno?

So, I was recently re-reading the Inferno, and I have come across this quote which I can't make sense of. "Daddy Satan, daddy Satan aleppe," (VII.1) It seemed rather weird that it wouldn't ...
user avatar
13 votes
4 answers
6k views

What does "The Edge of Doom" mean?

The following stanza is from Robert Frost's Into My Own: One of my wishes is that those dark trees, So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze, Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask ...
user avatar
  • 435
12 votes
3 answers
2k views

Meaning of a Trollope quotation about the "best dressed gentleman"

In the self-help manual Pushing to the Front (1911) by Orison Swett Marden, at the start of Chapter XV ("What a good appearance will do"), I find this quotation: I hold that gentleman to be the ...
user avatar
  • 151
12 votes
3 answers
4k views

Why does "it always turn out to be the King of Sweden"

In Reginald at the Theatre, Saki writes: [Reginald]: “There are certain fixed rules that one observes for one’s own comfort. For instance, never be flippantly rude to any inoffensive grey-bearded ...
user avatar
  • 1,117
12 votes
4 answers
3k views

What does it mean for a person to be "up" themselves?

I've just come across the short story "Do You Love Me?" by Peter Carey via a story-ID over at SFF. The basic premise of the story is that when something isn't loved, it disappears. Upon reading ...
user avatar
  • 19.1k
12 votes
2 answers
2k views

Meaning of "d-n" in "'T is strange—the Hebrew noun which means 'I am,' the English always used to govern d—n"

From Byron's Don Juan: She liked the English and the Hebrew tongue, And said there was analogy between 'em; She proved it somehow out of sacred song, But I must leave the proofs ...
user avatar
  • 2,377
12 votes
3 answers
8k views

What are the "dark Satanic mills" in Blake's Jerusalem?

The short poem Jerusalem by William Blake - not to be confused with his much longer epic poem of the same title; I'm talking about the "did those feet in ancient times" one - contains the following ...
user avatar
  • 63.1k
12 votes
1 answer
1k views

What is the "a-" prefix in "a-flying" and "a-getting" in Herrick's "To the Virgins"?

From Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time": Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,     Old Time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles to day,     To morrow will ...
user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
1k views

What's the meaning of "give someone the lie" in Macbeth?

As I have noticed there are multiple interpretations of the following lines from William Shakespeare 's Macbeth. For example, "drink gave thee the lie" has been interpreted as diversely as "deceived ...
user avatar
  • 121
12 votes
2 answers
4k views

What does the last sentence in chapter 2 of Crime and Punishment really mean?

The sentence I'm referring to is this one. ‘And what if I am wrong,’ he cried suddenly after a moment’s thought. ‘What if man is not really a scoundrel, man in general, I mean, the whole race ...
user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
590 views

What does "kettle at the heel" mean in this Yeats poem, "The Tower"?

What shall I do with this absurdity — O heart, O troubled heart — this caricature, Decrepit age that has been tied to me As to a dog's tail? Never had I more Excited, passionate, fantastical ...
user avatar
  • 629
12 votes
1 answer
3k views

Meaning of this William Faulkner quote

In a specific scene of Requiem for a Nun by William Faulkner, Temple Drake states that Temple Drake is dead. In response, Gavin, Nancy's lawyer, responds: The past is never dead. It's not ...
user avatar
  • 223
12 votes
1 answer
260 views

What is "vulgar white of personal aims"? Why is it "white"?

From Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 'I have not stood long on the strand of life, And these salt waters have had scarcely time To creep so high up as to wet my feet. I cannot ...
user avatar
  • 2,377
12 votes
1 answer
253 views

Why did Martin Eden live at night with the gods in a colossal nightmare?

Re-reading Jack London's Martin Eden for my project, I've come across this passage: Martin had ascended from pitch to pitch of intellectual living, and here he was at a higher pitch than ever.  ...
user avatar
  • 8,017
11 votes
3 answers
2k views

How do these lines in Shakespeare's Sonnet 151 mean what they're supposed to?

How do these lines in Shakespeare's Sonnet 151 mean what they're supposed to? Here's the sonnet: Love is too young to know what conscience is, Yet who knows not conscience is born of love? Then, ...
user avatar
  • 175
11 votes
3 answers
2k views

What is meant by "without resorting to the sexton's spade that buried Jacob Marley" in A Christmas Carol?

Near the end of Stave 3 of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge a Christmas party hosted by Scrooge's nephew Fred. Fred's wife plays a song that was familiar with Scrooge's ...
user avatar
  • 275
11 votes
4 answers
5k views

What does “Until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him” mean?

I came across the following passage in Dan Brown’s fiction, “Inferno”: [...] their physical being and cosmic importance shrinking to the size of a mere speck in the face of God … an atom in the ...
user avatar
11 votes
3 answers
2k views

What does "But... They went home" mean in Maya Angelou's "They Went Home"?

Maya Angelou's "They Went Home" opens like this: They went home and told their wives, that never once in all their lives, had they known a girl like me, But... They went home. The end of ...
user avatar
  • 19.1k
11 votes
1 answer
2k views

What does "Bool-var" mean in "In the Midst of Alarms"?

In In the Midst of Alarms (1894) by Robert Barr, Yates was defeated in a friendly fight by his friend, professor Renmark, and he was astonished by the fighting skill of this quiet educated professor ...
user avatar
  • 3,697
11 votes
2 answers
1k views

What does "skimmish" mean, in this eye dialect?

This is perhaps a surprising instalment in my sequence of Watership Down questions, being about human dialect and nothing to do with rabbits at all. Of course, it comes from the chapter "Dea ex ...
user avatar
  • 63.1k
11 votes
2 answers
1k views

What is "the poem" that the spider refers to in Philip Dick's short story "Expendable"?

In the short story "Expendable" by Philip K. Dick, the protagonist is a man who can communicate with spiders. At one point, after fighting off a home invasion by an army of ants, the ...
user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 63.1k
11 votes
3 answers
28k views

In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does "let the dead bury the dead" mean?

In the ending chapter of "To Kill a Mockingbird", Atticus and Mr Heck Tate (the Sheriff) are deciding who is responsible for the death of Mr Ewell. Atticus thinks Jem killed Mr Ewell but Heck knows it ...
user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
2k views

What is the libellous meaning of ‘daffy-down-dilly’?

In Dorothy L. Sayers’ novel Unnatural Death, the barrister Mr Towkington advises Lord Peter Wimsey to be careful to avoid libel: ‘You are too easily surprised,’ said Mr Towkington. ‘Many words have ...
user avatar
  • 38.8k
11 votes
1 answer
9k views

Meaning of "How can one admire a girl...so young she doesn't know how to bite her fingers"

In a book of short stories by Maasthi Venkatesa Iyengar, translated from Kannada to English, there is a story set in colonial India in which two male characters are discussing marriage. One character ...
user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
522 views

What is the meaning of “the drumstick” in this novel by John Galsworthy?

I'm translating a novel by John Galsworthy, A Stoic, written at the beginning of the 20th century (full text on Project Gutenberg), and I've come across this peculiar use of the word “drumstick”: ...
user avatar
  • 367
11 votes
1 answer
1k views

In "The Importance of Being Earnest", what does 'Or they come in the evening, at any rate' mean?

In The Importance of Being Earnest, when Lady Bracknell asks Jack about his politics, he answers "Liberal Unionist". Here's the exchange: Lady Bracknell: What are your politics? Jack: Well, ...
user avatar
  • 113
11 votes
1 answer
19k views

Why did the stars throw down their spears?

William Blake's poem “The Tyger” from Songs of Experience contains one couplet whose meaning has always puzzled me, lines 17–18, the first two lines of the fifth stanza: When the stars threw ...
user avatar
  • 1,843
11 votes
1 answer
386 views

Who are the Mephistophelians?

In Mark Dunn's "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable" Ella Minnow Pea, the populace of a small island are forbidden the use of certain letters of the English alphabet in speech and writing as ...
user avatar
  • 5,556

1
2 3 4 5
22