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Questions tagged [wording-choice]

Questions about a writer's precise selection of words as determined by a number of factors, including denotative and connotative meaning, specificity, level of diction, tone, and audience.

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Aspects of Kamala Das's Poem 'My Mother at Sixty-Six'

This poem 'My Mother at Sixty-Six' is in our curriculum and I have a few questions on this: Why does the poet capitalise 'Young Trees'? Why not just leave it as 'young trees' as it is not a proper ...
Harikrishnan M's user avatar
14 votes
1 answer
2k views

Did Philip Larkin use a swearword while quoting from Pym's Excellent Women?

In a letter to Barbara Pym dated 18 July 1971, Philip Larkin allegedly wrote: I reread Excellent Women before coming away—what a marvellous set of characters it contains! Sometimes it's hard to ...
verbose's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
721 views

Where can I take a deeper dive into Jane Austen's vocabulary?

I'm translating some Jane Austen into Latin, and I'm wondering whether there's a resource that would allow me to do a deeper dive into the nuances of the vocabulary she uses, especially the words that ...
Faustus's user avatar
  • 93
2 votes
2 answers
684 views

Significance of "further up and further in"?

In C.S. Lewis's Narnia grand finale, The Last Battle, one chapter is entitled "Further Up and Further In", and this phrase is repeated a great many times by various characters: "Then [...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
12 votes
1 answer
3k views

Why Pallas in "The Raven"?

In Poe's famous poem "The Raven", the eponymous bird, after tapping on the narrator's window, steps smartly inside and perches upon a bust of Pallas. Why Pallas? As far as I know, this ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
129 views

What does "the balance of this paragraph" mean in the annotated American Gods?

In Gaiman's Annotated American Gods, the annotator often refers to the balance of a paragraph. For example annotation #73 says "The balance of this paragraph does not appear in the first edition&...
David Meehan's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
732 views

What does "to the sack" mean in Hunchback of Notre Dame?

What does "to the sack" mean in this context: To the sack, to the sack!” rose the cry on all sides. At that moment, the tapestry of the dressing-room, which we have described above, was ...
ICD's user avatar
  • 171
5 votes
0 answers
75 views

Why are the non-fellow-students not referred to as guns in Clint Smith's "The Gun"?

This is sort of the reverse of my previous question on Clint Smith's poem "The Gun". While it's blatant about referring to all of the kids as "guns", I find it interesting that the ...
bobble's user avatar
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23 votes
5 answers
4k views

Why are all the schoolchildren referred to as guns in Clint Smith's "The Gun"?

Clint Smith's poem "The Gun" describes a school shooting from the perspective of a child. However, the central character, as well as its fellow classmates, are all referred to as "guns&...
bobble's user avatar
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12 votes
2 answers
2k views

"Miss" as a form of address to a married teacher in Bethan Roberts' "My Policeman"

In Bethan Roberts' 2012 novel My Policeman, Marion Taylor begins working as a schoolteacher in 1957. She writes her name on the chalkboard for her students: A moment passed as I gathered myself, then ...
verbose's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
395 views

Long John Silver, "you may lay to that"

In Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, the "ambiguous rogue" (I saw this phrase somewhere and it's my favourite description of the character) Long John Silver frequently uses the ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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22 votes
6 answers
9k views

In Ozymandias, who is the "ye" in the line "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" meant to be addressing?

Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias is a well-known and oft-referenced English-language poem from the early 19th century, and purports to quote — presumably in translation from Egyptian hieroglyphs — a ...
Mark S's user avatar
  • 345
3 votes
1 answer
92 views

Understanding the nature of the footsteps imagery in Henry Longfellow's "Footsteps of Angels"

I'm trying to understand the sense of the image of divine footsteps used in Henry Longfellow's religious poem "Footsteps of Angels": With a slow and noiseless footstep Comes that messenger ...
user2450223's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
86 views

Why call them the "little pointy hours"?

This is the start of James Parker's "An Ode to Being Read To", which is in October 2022's The Atlantic. I fixed my insomnia with whiskey and audiobooks. Seriously. I was a terrible non-...
bobble's user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
353 views

Meaning of a "dry palate" and "frozen rain" in Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"

I am currently reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, consider the following passage. The colonizers just came to the tribe of Mbanta and everyone seemed uninterested... But there was a young ...
Kryptic Coconut's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
110 views

Why is Len Deighton so fond of American English?

I am British and have lived in Britain my entire life. I have never heard anyone refer to an estate car as a “station wagon”. I have never heard anyone refer to a criminal as a “hood”. I have never ...
Edward Hubbard's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
175 views

Why does Tolkien keep referring to the Fellowship as "the Company"?

I noticed that the group making the journey from Rivendell is called "the Company" rather than "the Fellowship". The title of the book has "The Fellowship", yet he doesn'...
Gloin's user avatar
  • 29
2 votes
1 answer
97 views

Meaning and significance of "cacheremo" in the Decameron?

In Day 3 Story 8 of the Decameron (Italian original), a prisoner in an abbey, who believes himself to be in purgatory, asks how far he is from his own country, and received the following reply: “And ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
2k views

What can be gleaned from Lovecraft's usage of the words "obscene" and "blasphemous"?

Throughout his collective writings, the author H. P. Lovecraft makes frequent use of the words "obscene" and "blasphemous" in order to convey a sense that something is the object ...
Aaargh Zombies's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
94 views

What did Virginia Woolf mean by "walked on the past the flower–bed" in Kew Gardens?

From Virginia Woolf's short story "Kew Gardens": They walked on the past the flower-bed, now walking four abreast, and soon diminished in size among the trees and looked half transparent as ...
aformentia's user avatar
8 votes
1 answer
809 views

Why is Philoktetes specifically hunting "doves"?

I am reading James Scully's translation of Philoktetes (also known as Philoctetes), in The Complete Plays of Sophocles, translated by Robert Bagg & James Scully. Twice it is mentioned that the ...
bobble's user avatar
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4 votes
2 answers
416 views

Why are "doves" used in this simile from "Aias"?

This is from James Scully's translation of Aias (also known as Ajax), in The Complete Plays of Sophocles, translated by Robert Bagg & James Scully. Son of Telamon, rock of Salamis towering up ...
bobble's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
241 views

Why "Cagots" for albinos in Morpurgo's Robin Hood story?

In Michael Morpurgo's short novel Robin of Sherwood (1998), republished in 2012 as Outlaw: the True Story of Robin Hood, the band of outlaws in Sherwood forest starts off as outcast misfits including ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
5 votes
1 answer
159 views

What does it mean to "graze on the fizzy air"?

This is from James Scully's translation of Aias (also known as Ajax), in The Complete Plays of Sophocles, translated by Robert Bagg & James Scully.                      Dear boy may you be ...
bobble's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
130 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 ...
bobble's user avatar
  • 9,824
7 votes
1 answer
277 views

Why is Helen's speech here in the Iliad described as being given "warmly"?

In Book VI of The Iliad, when Hector has come to try to get Paris to fight, Helen chips in with her point of view: Hector answered nothing, but Helen said warmly: "Brother dear, I am ashamed; I ...
Mithical's user avatar
  • 25k
7 votes
1 answer
686 views

Why is snow compared to "ash" in the poem "Snowfall"?

"Snowfall", by Ravi Shankar, has this as its first verse: Particulate as ash, new year's first snow falls upon peaked roofs, car hoods, undulant hills, in imitation of motion that moves the ...
bobble's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
942 views

In Halsey's "You Should Be Sad", why is the expression "alligator tears" instead of "crocodile tears"?

In Halsey's "You Should Be Sad", there's one part that goes like this: I'm just glad I made it out without breakin' down And then ran so fuckin' far That you would never ever touch me again ...
Mithical's user avatar
  • 25k
13 votes
3 answers
7k views

Why is a "cucumber sandwich" specifically used as what English faith has "only just enough teeth to get through"?

In Chapter 34 of The Kingdoms, Kite goes on this musing about religion: The golden dome of the cathedral at Cadiz showed, just. He had been trying not to stare at it as much as he'd been trying not ...
bobble's user avatar
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11 votes
2 answers
3k views

Use of "pounds" instead of "roubles" in passage of "The Idiot"

In the 1st Chapter, Part I of Dostoevsky's The Idiot (Eva Martin's translation) you can find the following passage: These men generally have about a hundred pounds a year to live on (...) In this ...
LLCampos's user avatar
  • 541
4 votes
2 answers
185 views

Use of the word "tyke" in American English, as it is used in "Gathering Blue"

In Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue, she used the word "tyke" instead of "boy" or "child". Do Americans use this word in a specific context? Her world in this novel is ...
Hamza Maher Abdurrahman's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
132 views

Why does Mussolini refer to war as female?

In the beginning of Chapter Three of his autobiography, Benito Mussolini writes the following: War had come — war — that female of dreads and fascinations. What is supposed to be conveyed by calling ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 3,419
5 votes
2 answers
5k views

Why did Hamlet tell Ophelia: "Get thee to a nunnery!"?

In Hamlet [III, 1], Hamlet tells Ophelia (lines 1814,27,34): Get thee to a nunnery! […] Go thy ways to a nunnery. […] Get thee to a nunnery. […] To a nunnery, go; and quickly too. […] To a nunnery, ...
Geremia's user avatar
  • 191
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

"Marry, in her buttocks: I found it out by the bogs."

From The Comedy of Errors, Act III Scene II: DROMIO OF SYRACUSE: No longer from head to foot than from hip to hip: she is spherical, like a globe; I could find out countries in her. ANTIPHOLUS OF ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
1 vote
0 answers
24 views

Walter Malone's "The World is My Home"

Walter Malone's poem "The World is My Home" is, on the face of it, openly a plea for humanity to come together as one united brotherhood rather than engage in disputes and wars: Travel to ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
4 votes
1 answer
78 views

Why was "a world" used in this sentence of Melville?

I cannot make much sense of "a world" in the following passage from Moby-Dick: There’s your law of precedents; there’s your utility of traditions; there’s the story of your obstinate ...
John Smith's user avatar
  • 1,615
10 votes
1 answer
24k views

Origin and significance of E-I-E-I-O in the Old MacDonald song

The well-known children's song "Old MacDonald had a Farm" has lyrics in the following format: Old MacDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O ! And on that farm he had {article} {singular or plural ...
verbose's user avatar
  • 28.6k
0 votes
0 answers
98 views

What does "I ween that you are better where you are" in "The Heart of the Raven" mean?

The chorus of the song "The Heart of the Raven" by the German band MONO INC. goes like this: But here in the raven's heart Your heart is beating on I ween that you are better where you are ...
Mithical's user avatar
  • 25k
5 votes
1 answer
714 views

Why are the lotos-eaters "mild-eyed" and "melancholy"?

In Tennyson's famous poem "The Lotos-eaters", a group of mariners find themselves on an island inhabited by "Lotos-eaters", and themselves decide to stay after eating lotos has had ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
4 votes
1 answer
469 views

Which does this part refer to, a pencil or the words?

I’d like to ask about the sentence in The Red Circle by Conan Doyle. The words are written with a broad-pointed, violet-tinted pencil of a not unusual pattern. This is uttered by Holmes when he saw ...
giraffe's user avatar
  • 493
3 votes
0 answers
74 views

Why these specific "things that fly" in "Kite-Flying"?

Rose Justice, the main character of Rose Under Fire, writes several poems that appear in various places in the book. This is the second verse of Kite-Flying: Hope waits stubbornly, watching the sky ...
bobble's user avatar
  • 9,824
3 votes
1 answer
86 views

Why is death a redeemer in Robinson Jeffers's "Hurt Hawks"?

The poem "Hurt Hawks" by Robinson Jeffers is about a red-tailed hawk whose wing is so badly hurt that he'll never be able to fly again. Two lines of this poem are as follows: The curs of ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
0 votes
2 answers
134 views

"otherwise" in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

In Chapter Seven of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (published 1816), I saw the following sentence: I remembered also the nervous fever with which I had been seized just at the time that I dated my ...
Apollyon's user avatar
  • 399
3 votes
1 answer
802 views

Why "in the midst of alarms" in William Cowper's poem "The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk"?

The second quatrain of William Cowper's poem "The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk" is: O Solitude! where are the charms That sages have seen in thy face? Better dwell in the midst of alarms, ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
3 votes
0 answers
145 views

Is there any significance to the lemons and the port in Ko Un's "Asking the Way"?

"Asking the Way" is a short poem by Ko Un, addressing "You fools who ask what god is" and telling them to ask about life instead, illustrating the principle with examples about ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
10 votes
3 answers
1k views

In Macbeth, why is Fleance 'scaped?

I've always been curious about the precise phrasing of this line from Macbeth, spoken by the First Murderer: Most royal sir, Fleance is 'scaped. The meaning of this, and as far as I can tell the ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
  • 22.6k
0 votes
1 answer
62 views

Why does Bradbury use "had to" in "what they had to offer."?

An excerpt from "Just this Side of Byzantium" by Ray Bradbury: I had to send myself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they had to offer. Why does the ...
HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
3k views

Why does Ray Bradbury use "flounder" for an action with a positive outcome?

From "Just this Side of Byzantium" by Ray Bradbury: It was with great relief, then, that in my early twenties I floundered into a word-association process in which I simply got out of bed ...
HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy's user avatar
21 votes
5 answers
7k views

Why do the Pern novels use regular words as profanity?

In the Pern novels, characters use words that would normally be innocuous as profanity. Some prominent examples are "shards" and "shells". There's a list of in-universe curse ...
bobble's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
209 views

Harry Potter German translation - use of word "Eingeweide"

I am currently reading (aloud with my kids) the German translation of the Harry Potter series and I am a bit surprised that the German word 'Eingeweide' is used so often. 'Entrails', 'guts', 'bowels' ...
Stefan Korn's user avatar