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14 votes

What does "epesthai to logo" mean in this letter from Charles Kingsley to Charles Darwin?

In “Let us know what is”, the verb “is” is being used in the sense “exists, occurs, happens” (OED). In the previous paragraph, Kingsley wrote, “if you be right, I must give up much that I have ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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11 votes

What does "remote in scale" mean here?

I think this means that the different fish which have electric organs are very remote from each other in the size (scale) of their bodies. It doesn't mean scales as in the plates that cover a fish's ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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10 votes

What is the "wash" for which Charles Lyell paid 4 shillings and sixpence?

What this passage means is that Darwin's letters, unlike some letters he receives, are worth paying the extra postage for. This meaning of wash is in the OED. Here is their definition, along with some ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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7 votes

What did Darwin mean by "approximately the line of Behring's Straits"?

The sense of “line” here is line, n. V.26.a. Track, course, direction; route Oxford English Dictionary. I looked in Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart., but didn’t find the letter ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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6 votes

What did Adam Sedgwick mean by "tra-road"?

Whenever I see something weird in a transcribed book at, I try to find a scan of the original. This one turns out to be a bad OCR. The word is tram-road, a road for wheeled carts. The ...
shoover's user avatar
  • 1,489
5 votes

What did Bentham mean by "outworks" in an address to the Linnean Society?

outwork, n. 1.a. […] any detached or advanced work forming part of the defence of a place; an outer defence Oxford English Dictionary. So Bentham is giving us a metaphor in which his belief in the ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
  • 58.2k
4 votes

What does "keep up to the mark" mean in this letter from Darwin to Hooker?

The "mark" here is an antiquated term for "target". So, here, "keep up to the mark" means to stay on task or "on target", as we would say today, towards meeting ...
Calvin Saxon's user avatar
3 votes

What's the connection of a watery food to a book?

As indicated by Stuart F. in a comment, it seems likely that Darwin was making an allusion to the difficulty of the book and how that might translate to it having more substance and value. A young ...
Sean Duggan's user avatar
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2 votes

What exactly do these words from "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin" mean in this context?

The sentence you quoted is from a letter by Julia Wedgwood to the magazine The Spectator, printed on 3rd September 1881, a week after the death of Erasmus Darwin on 26th August. (Julia Wedgwood was ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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1 vote

What's based here on studying domestic variation?

Let us discuss this first: what an enormous field of undesigned variability there is ready for natural selection to appropriate for any purpose useful to each creature. If this were a stand-alone ...
Mary's user avatar
  • 6,080

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