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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25
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2answers
14k views

Why is the UK called Airstrip One?

In 1984, London is the chief city of the province Airstrip One (which consists of the UK), which is a part of the superstate Oceania. Is there a reason why it's called Airstrip One?
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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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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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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
1k views

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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5answers
9k 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 ...
12
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2answers
751 views

Language in A View from the Bridge

In page 33 of the play "A View from the Bridge" by Arthur Miller, Eddie describes Rodolfo saying he: looked so sweet there, like an angel – you could kiss him he was so sweet and Paper Doll ...
12
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1answer
1k views

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 ...
11
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1answer
496 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 ...
11
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1answer
191 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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4answers
3k views

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 ...
8
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1answer
914 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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2answers
360 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
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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 ...
7
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1answer
323 views

Why does Mersault say “Hello image!” to his girlfriend?

I have read the novel A Happy Death by Albert Camus. In this novel Mersault (the absurd hero) at one point says to his girlfriend, "Hello, image!". I am wondering why he calls his girlfriend "image". ...
6
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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 ...
6
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2answers
469 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 ...
6
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1answer
119 views

A real meaning of a Bramarbas or a Holofernes?

Before long the madness of intoxication broke out; they attacked one another with fists and knives, and it looked as if they would do murder. Suddenly the Saltmaster’s son, who had stood looking on, ...
6
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1answer
3k views

What does 'trusting sorrow' mean here?

I read the poem 'A Roadside Stand' by Robert Frost, and I have accumulated a few questions through the poem. So, I will be posting some questions from the same poem, if you can please answer my other ...
6
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2answers
1k views

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 ...
6
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1answer
94 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 ...
6
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2answers
869 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, ...
6
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1answer
97 views

Do word replacements in “A Clockwork Orange” affect the interpretation of the book as a whole?

Recently, I started reading "A Clockwork Orange" in English. A feature of the book that jumped out at me was that a lot of words used by the main character are adapted from Russian. Since I am a ...
6
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1answer
3k views

Why are pronouns used in this way in Nalo Hopkinson's “Shift”?

I just read the short story "Shift" by Nalo Hopkinson, which is freely available online. It's a modern, Caribbean-themed story inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest. One thing which confused me on ...
6
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1answer
216 views

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 ...
5
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1answer
805 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 ...
5
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1answer
191 views

Why does Shelby Foote use the phrase “airline miles” in The Civil War: a Narrative?

In The Civil War: a Narrative, Shelby Foote periodically uses the phrase "airline miles" to mean "distance on a straight line." I can't recall offhand hearing this phrase anywhere else; why this ...
4
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1answer
435 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 ...
4
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2answers
169 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, ...
4
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1answer
667 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 ...
4
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1answer
122 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 ...
4
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2answers
191 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 ...
4
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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 ...
4
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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 ...
4
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1answer
109 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— &...
4
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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 ...
3
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1answer
220 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, ...
3
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2answers
69 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 ...
3
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1answer
298 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? ...
3
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2answers
89 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 ...
3
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1answer
153 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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0answers
49 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 ...
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0answers
22 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 ...
3
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0answers
108 views

Understanding the usage of “Philosophy” in Uncle Vanya

In "Uncle Vanya" by Chekhov, I noticed a usage of the word "philosophy" that seemed out of place. ASTROFF. A woman can only become a man's friend after having first been his acquaintance and then ...
2
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2answers
136 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, ...
2
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1answer
223 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 ...
2
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1answer
94 views

A woman falling at a heave from the moon and the sun

In A Ted Hughes poem called "Criminal Ballad" (of the Crow collection), there's a usage of the word "heave" which I can't figure: "A woman fell between the ship and the jetty At a heave from the ...
2
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1answer
28 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 ...
2
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0answers
58 views

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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2answers
225 views

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 ...