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  1. #1
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Deep used as a noun

    In the following paragraph from Mark Twain's Running for Governor, the word DEEPS is the source of my question. Apparently the original meaning of deeps is sea. In this case, it is used metaphorically, as happiness is compared to liquid contained in the DEEPS, or more accurately the DEEPS are composed of happiness. My question is: since "deeps" is from the adjective deep (I assume the sea is deep), when used as a noun to mean sea, does the word DEEPS still retain some of the adjective quality (deep or shallow)? If yes, how much of the adjective quality has been left? I am trying to figure out, as a native speaker, when he or she uses the word, the image of deep vs shallow is still there. Thanks.
    *************************************

    A few months ago I was nominated for Governor of the great State of New York, to run against Mr. Stewart L. Woodford and Mr. John T. Hoffman on an independent ticket. I somehow felt that I had one prominent advantage over these gentlemen, and that was—good character. It was easy to see by the newspapers that, if ever they had known what it was to bear a good name, that time had gone by. It was plain that in these latter years they had become familiar with all manner of shameful crimes. But at the very moment that I was exalting my advantage and joying in it in secret, there was a muddy undercurrent of discomfort “riling” the deeps of my happiness, and that was—the having to hear my name bandied about in familiar connection with those of such people.

  2. #2
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Deep used as a noun

    My impression is that Twain was using deeps as an alternative to the word depths, meaning the limits of his happiness. If you look up depth in any dictionary (dictionary.com will do) you will find several definitions that fit the context of what Twain was saying.

  3. #3
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: Deep used as a noun

    Thanks for your reply. I may not have expressed myself clearly. But if you see the verb "riling", you feel compelled to interpret the following "deeps" as water, which leads me to think "deeps" in terms of liquid. I am very comfortable to take your interpretation, that is, deeps of happiness refers to the depths of his happy feelings. But I mean the original metaphor, when interpreted as depths of happy feelings, is very much weakened, if not completely gone. Thanks again.

  4. #4
    eggtar is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Deep used as a noun

    i agree with mykwyner. i think "deeps" here means the deepest places / bottom of the ocean, instead of the whole volume of water. the metaphor is still there. just imagine someone riling the ocean from deep down, what a phenomenal stir would happen at the surface!

  5. #5
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: Deep used as a noun

    Thanks. Of course, I was not saying deeps is water. Eggtar's reply actually answered my question (bottom of the ocean). I was trying to regard deeps of happiness as ocean of happiness, but was curious about how much adjectival quality the word still has. It seems to me that even when the word used as a noun, meaning ocean, the meaning of DEEP is still there. That was my curiosity. Thank you two for your insight.

  6. #6
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Deep used as a noun

    A little background is needed here.

    Before he was a writer, Mark Twain was the pilot of a Mississippi River steamboat (ca. 1860). This was a very demanding and dangerous job as the river is filled with ever-changing treacherous currents. This is where Twain learned all about muddy undercurrents and riling depths. The sentence in your passage is an extended metaphor where Twain's happiness, or overall mood is being compared to the Mississippi River.

  7. #7
    ian2 is offline Member
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    Default Re: Deep used as a noun

    I see. I have never thought of that. Thanks again.

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