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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36
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5answers
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" ...
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1answer
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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.&...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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'...
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1answer
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Meaning of "bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur-nuk!"

From Finnegans Wake, What is the meaning of this word? In context: The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur- nuk!) of a once ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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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,...
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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". What exactly does ...
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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 ...
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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 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 "deeper ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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"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 ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
549 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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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1answer
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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.  ...
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1answer
252 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 ...
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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, ...
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4answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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2answers
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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”: ...
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1answer
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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, ...
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1answer
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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 ...
11
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1answer
356 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 ...
11
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1answer
457 views

Why is Rousseau saying that "[...] Russia was civilized too soon"?

In The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau says [...] Russia will never be really civilized, because it was civilized too soon What is he referring to, when saying it was civilized too soon, ...
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1answer
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What specifically is being described as stupid and old-fashioned in this passage on arranged marriage?

I'm trying to rhetorically analyze a passage in Amy Tan's novel titled The Joy Luck Club, where a character, Lindo Jong, describes her experience with the arranged marriage process. I've included the ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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What is the "Isle of the Blessed" and why should a girl see it before marriage?

In Chapter 3 of Theodor Fontane's novel Effi Briest, which I've recently started reading online, Effi and her mother are spending some days in Berlin before her marriage, accompanied by her cousin ...
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Meaning of "And do not drop in for an after-loss" in Shakespeare's sonnet 90

Sonnet 90 by Shakespeare: Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross, Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow, And do not drop in for an ...

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