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Would you tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentence?
I was so ragged and dirty that you wouldn’t have touched me with pair of tongs. (Dickens’ “Hard Times”)
I would not touch him with a barge-pole = I would not touch him with pair of tongs = don't want to make common cause with him; he’s a very odious/ lousy person; I hate even to come close to him
Thank you for your efforts.
Last edited by vil; 15-Oct-2010 at 07:06.
You are right in your interpretation, Vil, but I wonder if the quote from Dickens should read 'a pair of tongs'?
Tongs were often used for picking up very hot things, i.e. things you would want to keep at a distance. A barge pole is a long pole used to propel a barge. In both cases, an instrument used to keep things at a distance would not be long enough to keep away a dirty/unpleasant/hateful person.
More modern people such as lauralie2 might prefer a ten-foot pole, but we old-timers (I'm 64) prefer a barge pole.
Thank you for your amendment.
I beg your pardon for my unmeant foolish mistake. I was mislead by the close sounding if the “tongs” and “tongue”.
Between you and me you are well-night in my age. I am 67 years old now but unfortunately I have begun to study English just since 2004, i.e. I have studied English only for the last 6 years of my existing life. This accounts my tedious imperfection.
Thank you again for your kindness.