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  1. #1
    Mirannah is offline Newbie
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    Default They finding themselves

    Can someone tell me what this means in the following sentence: “Labour is cheap and abundant in Mexico. At El Paso, Mexican labourers could be had for sixty-two and a half cents per day, they finding themselves ; but men could doubtless be procured at even less price.”
    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: They finding themselves

    'if you can get any/if there are any'; [Mexican labourers are not the cheapest available]

    That seems to be the meaning. But people don't use that sort of syntax now. (I'm assuming, perhaps over-optimistically', that the rate of 62.5 ˘ per day points to a pre-war text.)

    Another, not quite so archaic (but still pretty old fashioned) form of words would be 'Mexican labourers, if any there be, can be had ...'.(Incidentally, is the U in "labourers" an editorial or Br Eng addition? If not, it might indicate and even earlier context than early 20th century; 19th, 18th, maybe even earlier.)

    b

  3. #3
    Mirannah is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: They finding themselves

    Well the text comes from The US-Mexican border fence | Good neighbours make fences | The Economist
    It has been written in 2008 so your reply surprises me somehow. I need to have it translated but most dictionaries only give the explanation of "find yourself doing something..." so i'm getting rather frustrated

  4. #4
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    Default Re: They finding themselves

    Quote Originally Posted by Mirannah View Post
    Well the text comes from The US-Mexican border fence | Good neighbours make fences | The Economist
    It has been written in 2008 so your reply surprises me somehow. I need to have it translated but most dictionaries only give the explanation of "find yourself doing something..." so i'm getting rather frustrated
    That article says
    Travelling through Texas in the 1850s, Bartlett encountered plenty of immigrant workers. They found employment in the copper mines for the same reason they now toil in America’s building sites and lettuce fields...
    and goes on to quote a nineteenth century text.

    When a teacher tells you a usage is archaic, it's a good idea look for obvious clues nearby in the context - such as a date - before giving up and saying you're frustrated or surprised.


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    Default Re: They finding themselves

    "... they finding themselves ; but men could doubtless be procured at even less price.”

    Usually, an employer has to advertise a job and wait for someone to apply. That is, the employer has to go about seeking someone to fill the position.
    When there are far more people wanting jobs than there are jobs available, it is the workers who are knocking on the doors of any potential employer asking him if he has any work available - that is, the boss doesn't have to find anyone through advertising, the workers find their own way to his door begging for work! The workers that the boss needs, as if, "find themselves" - the boss doesn't have to go out and find workers.

    In Mexico, probably what happens is, that all those seeking a day's work gather on a particular street corner early each morning; bosses drive by with a small or large truck, and each calls out how many men he needs, and the labourers scramble to get into a truck so that they have a day's work.

  6. #6
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: They finding themselves

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    "... they finding themselves ; but men could doubtless be procured at even less price.”

    Usually, an employer has to advertise a job and wait for someone to apply. That is, the employer has to go about seeking someone to fill the position.
    When there are far more people wanting jobs than there are jobs available, it is the workers who are knocking on the doors of any potential employer asking him if he has any work available - that is, the boss doesn't have to find anyone through advertising, the workers find their own way to his door begging for work! The workers that the boss needs, as if, "find themselves" - the boss doesn't have to go out and find workers.

    In Mexico, probably what happens is, that all those seeking a day's work gather on a particular street corner early each morning; bosses drive by with a small or large truck, and each calls out how many men he needs, and the labourers scramble to get into a truck so that they have a day's work.
    That strikes me as a very late-20th-century explanation. I think the writer, who had been to school in the early nineteenth century and very probably learned Latin, had been exposed to prescriptive grammars of English that more or less said 'Anything you can do with present* participles in Latin is best practice in writing English'.

    But yours is a possible view and I'm not really bothered either way.

    b

    *The Latin would be expressed with a past participle (passive by implication) - so one word in Latin (which has limited use for personal pronouns, as case endings usually make it clear which adjective qualifies which noun) does the same as some clumsy periphrasis such as 'they finding themselves' or even 'they having been found'.
    Last edited by BobK; 24-Apr-2009 at 17:13. Reason: Added footnote

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    Default Re: They finding themselves

    A quick Google to see if perhaps the threader had mistyped (as I had supposed). reveals :

    A fairly recent article in the Economist - but including an antebellum quote!

    Travelling through Texas in the 1850s, Bartlett encountered plenty of immigrant workers. They found employment in the copper mines for the same reason they now toil in America’s building sites and lettuce fields:

    “Labour is cheap and abundant in Mexico. At El Paso, Mexican labourers could be had for sixty-two and a half cents per day, they finding themselves; but men could doubtless be procured at even less price.”

    While the wage gap between America and Mexico persists, Mexicans will continue to “find themselves” in the American labour force, fence or no fence.

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