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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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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4answers
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Where did the term Kwisatz Haderach in Dune originate?

I've always been curious how names and words are created in literature. Having finished the main Dune books last year, I was thinking how the term "Kwisatz Haderach" came about. Did Herbert make it up,...
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1answer
629 views

Why did Emerson choose 'hobgoblin' in his quote 'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds'?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. I understand the quote. But Wikipedia doesn't explain the origin of the following signification? It differs from the ...
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3answers
10k views

Why is the king 'baffled' in "Hallelujah"?

At the end of the first verse of "Hallelujah"... It goes like this The fourth, the fifth The minor fall, the major lift The baffled king composing Hallelujah I take it the king is referring ...
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2answers
92 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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
32 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 ...
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256 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, ...
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927 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 ...
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Why does the Lady of Shalott stay instead of stray?

In Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott" there is the following verse: There she weaves by night and day A magic web with colours gay. She has heard a whisper say, A curse is on her if she ...
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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 ...
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Why does Anastasia describe her reaction to Christian as "irrational"?

I'm reading Fifty Shades of Grey. There's one passage that I don't understand: I close my eyes and take a deep, purifying breath, trying to recover what’s left of my equilibrium. No man has ever ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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Symbolism of "hot gammon" in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land

I'm reading T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land (which you can read for free online) and one particular line stuck out at me: Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon, And they ...
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1answer
47 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 ...
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1answer
110 views

What did G. K. Chesterton mean by these two paragraphs from the first chapter of 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'?

'Jenkins,' he repeated. 'Surely you don't mean Jefferson Jenkins, the social reformer? I mean the man who's fighting for the new cottage-estate scheme. It would be as interesting to meet him as any ...
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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 ...
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1answer
142 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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
437 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 ...
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What did G. K. Chesterton mean by this sentence from the first chapter of 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'?

Walking in wind and sun in the very landscape of liberty, he was still young enough to remember his politics and not merely try to forget them. I want to make sure that "the very landscape of ...
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"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 ...
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1answer
232 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, ...
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380 views

Comparing frequency of word use across Shakespeare's plays

There are numerous concordances that list all of the words, and their frequency of use within each of Shakespeare's plays. However, I am interested in the presence and frequency of use of words across ...
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1answer
518 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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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 ...
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2answers
894 views

What does Hamlet mean when he calls Claudius a "villain"?

In Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, prince Hamlet repeatedly calls Claudius a "villain". Here is a quote from Act 2 Scene 2 : Bloody, bawdy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, ...
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1answer
815 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 ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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1answer
52 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 ...
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4answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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Why are there three different versions of the "solid/sullied/sallied flesh" line in Hamlet?

While looking up about the passage asked about in this previous question, I noticed that there are different versions of the same line in Hamlet, Act I Scene II, line 333: O that this too too solid ...
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1answer
756 views

What does "balks account" mean in Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric"?

Walt Whitman's poem "I Sing the Body Electric" is a sort of celebration of the human body. A phrase that recurs a few times is "balks account": The love of the body of man or ...
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1answer
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Does the line "writing in the time of covid-19" reference some work of literature? [closed]

Someone sent me this literature joke but I don't get it, can someone help me please? He wrote: *writing in the time of covid-19 Apparently the joke has something to do with literature, so if anyone ...
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Is a fish "Alive with breath" or "Alive without breath"?

J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit contains many lovely riddles, posed in-universe by Gollum and Bilbo to each other. Most of them are original compositions by Tolkien himself, as he explained in one of ...
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1answer
114 views

At the start of 6th Spice and Wolf light novel, what's up with the discrepancy between "like" and "love"?

Note: I'd like to request no spoilers beyond the start of the 6th novel. At the very end of the 4th S&W novel, Lawrence says "I like you". And yet Lawrence embraced Holo. And then— &...
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1answer
98 views

What does "atom" mean in Don Quixote?

This is a question about Don Quijote de la Mancha (Edición conmemorativa de la RAE y la ASALE / 400th-anniversary commemorative edition by the Spanish language academies). In Chapter XXVI of the ...
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1answer
155 views

Why does Sara frequently describe herself using derogatory words in Pack Challenge?

Someone recommended Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston to me. It's erotica FYI--not really sure if this is the place for questions about that, but I thought I would try anyway. The main character has ...
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2answers
542 views

Bad Grammar in The Great Gatsby?

I'm sure many here have encountered a common error in written English, whereby 'have' is substituted by 'of'; 'should of', 'would of', 'could of', etc. It's my understanding that this is always ...
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1answer
230 views

Does Joyce, in Finnegans Wake or Ulysses, link the sound form "hoe" to "whore"?

Does Joyce, in Finnegans Wake or Ulysses, link the sound form "hoe" to "whore", as in the current day "ho"? For example, is it probable that Joyce intended the (additional) modern day pun in the ...
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4answers
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What does Lady Macbeth mean by "what thou art promised"?

In Macbeth Act I Scene 5, Lady Macbeth says the following: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human ...
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1answer
343 views

Shakespeare's vasty deep: was "vasty" a recognised variant of "vast" at the time?

From Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1, Act III Scene 1: GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep. HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them? ...
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1answer
407 views

Why "a creeper climbs" in Our Casuarina Tree by Toru Dutt?

In the poem "Our Casuarina Tree" by Toru Dutt, why has she written 'a creeper climbs...'? Instead, she might have written 'a climber climbs'! Does it imply anything?
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2answers
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Context of "swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow"?

I go, I go; look how I go, Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow. -- Puck, Act III Scene II, A Midsummer Night's Dream This is a well-known line from a Shakespeare play, but did Shakespeare ...
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2answers
195 views

If Hamlet, being a prince, outranked Horatio, why did he address him as "sir"?

Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2: HAMLET: So much for this, sir. Now shall you see the other. You do remember all the circumstance? HORATIO: Remember it, my lord! Horatio replies to Hamlet calling ...
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2answers
163 views

Why does my copy of "Jude the Obscure" use 'part first' instead of 'first part' or something like that?

I recently procured a copy of Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. Upon opening it, something struck me as odd: It says 'part first' instead of 'first part' or 'part one'. I've never seen this before, ...
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1answer
155 views

Did Edith Wharton make a mistake in her introduction to "Ethan Frome"?

I just finished reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton for a school assignment and upon a second review of the introduction, I noticed something odd. First, I shall give some background. The novel ...
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5answers
10k views

What is the "heap of broken images" in The Waste Land?

In T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land (which you can read online), T. S. Eliot claims that someone (probably either humankind or the reader) only knows "a heap of broken images". What are the roots ...