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
35 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" ...
Piro's user avatar
  • 461
32 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.&...
B. Clay Shannon-B. Crow Raven's user avatar
31 votes
3 answers
11k views

Meaning of a 19 century joke printed in a newspaper, with punchline "Oh, mother, what a good job the cat’s a black one"

From a 19th century newspaper: A family who had the misfortune to lose their father were discussing what mourning would be required, when the youngest, a child of six, said : "Oh, mother, what a ...
CopperKettle's user avatar
  • 2,829
25 votes
4 answers
9k 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 ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 3,419
25 votes
2 answers
7k views

Meaning of "the field was found to be plowed as thoroughly as any young man at Oxford" in 'The Book of Dragons'

E. Nesbit, in The Book of Dragons, toward the end of the chapter titled 'The Island of the Nine Whirlpools', wrote: The nine rubies were used afterwards in agriculture. You had only to throw them out ...
Winky's user avatar
  • 355
25 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?
sno's user avatar
  • 361
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 ...
Akash Jain's 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'...
fi12's user avatar
  • 4,535
20 votes
6 answers
42k 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 ...
ΥΣΕΡ26328's user avatar
19 votes
1 answer
4k views

Meaning of "The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed" in "Ozymandias"

From "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley:                                   Near them on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold ...
Soha Farhin Pine's user avatar
19 votes
1 answer
4k 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 ...
Tom's user avatar
  • 704
19 votes
2 answers
11k 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 ...
Keshav Srinivasan's user avatar
18 votes
2 answers
7k 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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 72.6k
16 votes
3 answers
4k 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
16 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 ...
B. Clay Shannon-B. Crow Raven's user avatar
16 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 ...
Ahmed Samir's user avatar
  • 4,093
16 votes
2 answers
3k 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 &...
foggy's user avatar
  • 411
16 votes
4 answers
6k 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,...
Mithical's user avatar
  • 24.1k
16 votes
4 answers
8k 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 ...
Frank's user avatar
  • 263
15 votes
2 answers
6k views

Meaning of Pratchett's quote about coffee from "Thud!"

Terry Pratchett wrote in Thud!: Coffee was only a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your slightly older self. I am struggling to understand the meaning of it. Is it pro/contra ...
Daraan's user avatar
  • 251
15 votes
2 answers
1k 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". ...
kumold's user avatar
  • 159
15 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 ...
Quuxplusone's user avatar
15 votes
1 answer
3k views

How does soap undermine the church in "A Connecticut Yankee"?

In Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, in the chapter "Morgan Le Fay", the main character explains that he makes the knights have signs for "Persimmon's Soap" ...
Mahesh Bansod's user avatar
15 votes
1 answer
3k views

What makes the Sydney barber's remark rude?

In Banjo Paterson's poem "The Man from Ironbark", a city barber makes a supposedly rude remark to his country bumpkin customer: And as he soaped and rubbed it in he made a rude remark: &...
Jeremy's user avatar
  • 153
15 votes
4 answers
10k views

What did Melville mean by the "Pythagorean Maxim" in "Moby Dick"?

From Herman Melville's Moby Dick. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the ...
Fomalhaut's user avatar
  • 573
14 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 ...
Albert Albert's user avatar
14 votes
3 answers
2k views

Meaning of "none so poor to do him reverence" in Shakespeare's "Julius Cæsar"

I am wondering about the meaning of the word "poor" in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2: Antony But yesterday the word of Caesar might Have stood against the world; now lies he ...
Smerdjakov's user avatar
14 votes
4 answers
4k 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 ...
Mithical's user avatar
  • 24.1k
14 votes
1 answer
1k views

Meaning of "furnished with a pipe and a supply of cold without" in Trollope's "Orley Farm"

In Trollope's Orley Farm we are told that Mr. Moulder was "furnished with a pipe and a supply of cold without." What does this mean? It appears a little later that Moulder also has a glass ...
Richard Hevener's user avatar
14 votes
2 answers
23k 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 ...
Torisuda's user avatar
  • 2,053
14 votes
4 answers
7k 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 ...
David542's user avatar
  • 467
13 votes
4 answers
3k 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 ...
M. Justin's user avatar
  • 345
13 votes
4 answers
3k views

In Kerouac's On The Road, what is snakejuice?

Fairly straightforward question. There are a lot of slang terms for drugs in On the Road, but I was still rather startled by "snakejuice" "Man, do you imagine what it would be like if ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
  • 22.3k
13 votes
3 answers
33k 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 ...
TheFinal Kage's user avatar
13 votes
4 answers
5k views

Meaning/significance of "All the King's horses" in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme?

If you're not familiar with the nursery rhyme: after Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall, you get the two lines All the king's horses and all the king's men Couldn't put Humpty together again But what ...
chausies's user avatar
  • 233
13 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 ...
CopperKettle's user avatar
  • 2,829
13 votes
3 answers
386 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 ...
Mirte's user avatar
  • 2,943
13 votes
3 answers
9k 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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 72.6k
13 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
muru's user avatar
  • 6,930
13 votes
3 answers
6k 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. "Papè Satan, papè Satan aleppe," (VII.1) It seemed rather weird that it wouldn't ...
In Hoc Signo's user avatar
13 votes
2 answers
8k 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 ...
Chris Fraser's user avatar
13 votes
1 answer
789 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 ...
ktm5124's user avatar
  • 639
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 ...
Saeed Vrz's user avatar
  • 151
12 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 72.6k
12 votes
2 answers
1k views

What does "men of straw" refer to in this passage from an Arsène Lupin story?

The story in question is "Le coffre-fort de madame Imbert" or in English "Madame Imbert's Safe". The passage reads, in the translation I've got: For six months, I have worked on ...
pathOS's user avatar
  • 123
12 votes
3 answers
5k 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 ...
TomDot Com's user avatar
  • 1,207
12 votes
2 answers
2k 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
12 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 72.6k
12 votes
1 answer
644 views

Krazy language in Krazy Kat, 25 July 1936

The eponymous hero (or heroine) of George Herriman's Krazy Kat cartoons uses a very peculiar language. Most of the time, it's simply phonetical and is easy to understand, but in the strip that ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
  • 44.6k
12 votes
1 answer
3k 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 ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar

1
2 3 4 5
28