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  1. #1
    Nils13587 is offline Newbie
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    Default stitching flags & carving paving stones

    Hello everybody. I would like some help with possible metaphoric meanings in these two sentences: 1. People stitched themselves to the flag. 2. They carved paving stones for the streets. Does the first sentence mean 'becoming patriotic'? And can the second sentence be read in a way to suggest that people plant their roots in a certain place? Thank you in advance for all the help.

  2. #2
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: stitching flags & carving paving stones

    I think these two questions are unrelated. But as they present you with the idea for one post/thread, I suppose there is the possibility that somewhere in the context there is play on the two words flag [='flag-stone": a paving stone] and paving-stone. (There is no useful word-play in the part you have quoted, but I wonder if your two related questions are related by something in the context.

    I've never heard of someone 'stitching himself into a flag', but - with the sense you suggest - people are often said to be 'wrapping' or 'clothing ' themselves in a flag.

    'They carved paving stones for the streets' means just that. A reason for the carving might be to give a tree's roots room to be fed and watered.

    b

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    Nils13587 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: stitching flags & carving paving stones

    Bob,
    thank you for your message. The sentences I quoted are taken from the novel 'Ragtime' by E. L. Doctorow who is writing about the plight of Eastern European jews migrating to the US at the turn of the 20th century. After describing how the migrants arrived in NYC and how they led a life marked by extreme poverty, discrimination and death, the narrative goes on: "But somehow piano lessons began to be heard. People stitched themselves to the flag. They carved paving stones for the the streets. They sang. They told jokes." So there is a sense of making this new und forbidding place one's home, of life showing its more positive aspects in this paragraph which goes on to describe how the women earn a living by sewing pants while the men work as street peddlers which clearly bears some relation to the stitching and carving. But I still don't know what to make of these sentences.
    Last edited by Nils13587; 04-Jun-2011 at 16:58.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: stitching flags & carving paving stones

    I don't think it's playing on the other sense of 'flag' (which might be just Br Eng anyway).

    The 'they carved paving stones...' is just an example of hard manual labour - particularly relevant because it's visible to the general public going about their daily business - going to work, shopping etc. (unlike, say, coal mining).

    b

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: stitching flags & carving paving stones

    The first could mean that they showed loyalty/patriotism. And, as BobK suggests, the second is hard work to do, presumably on an unpaid basis but to improve their area. It could also suggest an independence- building their own infrastructure rather than expecting or waiting for the state to do it.

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