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    • Join Date: Sep 2008
    • Posts: 37
    #1

    them

    This is an excerpt from "How to Tell a Story" by Mark Twain.
    'That' in the first sentence means 'a funny story.




    It takes only a minute and a half to tell that in its comic-story form; and isn't worth the telling, after all. Put into the humorous-story form it takes ten minutes, and is about the funniest thing I have ever listened to--as James Whitcomb Riley tells it.

    He tells it in the character of a dull-witted old farmer who has just heard it for the first time, thinks it is unspeakably funny, and is trying to repeat it to a neighbor. But he can't remember it; so he gets all mixed up and wanders helplessly round and round, putting in tedious details that don't belong in the tale and only retard it; taking them out conscientiously and putting in others that are just as useless; making minor mistakes now and then and stopping to correct them and explain how he came to make them; remembering things which he forgot to put in in their proper place and going back to put them in there; stopping his narrative a good while in order to try to recall the name of the soldier that was hurt, and finally remembering that the soldier's name was not mentioned, and remarking placidly that the name is of no real importance, anyway--better, of course, if one knew it, but not essential, after all--and so on, and so on, and so on.



    My questions:
    1 What does "them" indicate? Tedious details?
    2 Is "just as useless" different from "just useless"?
    What is the function of "as" in this sentence?


    Thank you in advance.
    Unepomme
    Last edited by unepomme; 13-Oct-2009 at 03:33.


    • Join Date: Aug 2009
    • Posts: 1,131
    #2

    Re: them

    Quote Originally Posted by unepomme View Post
    This is an excerpt from "How to Tell a Story" by Mark Twain.
    'That' in the first sentence means 'a funny story.




    It takes only a minute and a half to tell that in its comic-story form; and isn't worth the telling, after all. Put into the humorous-story form it takes ten minutes, and is about the funniest thing I have ever listened to--as James Whitcomb Riley tells it.

    He tells it in the character of a dull-witted old farmer who has just heard it for the first time, thinks it is unspeakably funny, and is trying to repeat it to a neighbor. But he can't remember it; so he gets all mixed up and wanders helplessly round and round, putting in tedious details that don't belong in the tale and only retard it; taking them out conscientiously and putting in others that are just as useless; making minor mistakes now and then and stopping to correct them and explain how he came to make them; remembering things which he forgot to put in in their proper place and going back to put them in there; stopping his narrative a good while in order to try to recall the name of the soldier that was hurt, and finally remembering that the soldier's name was not mentioned, and remarking placidly that the name is of no real importance, anyway--better, of course, if one knew it, but not essential, after all--and so on, and so on, and so on.



    My question:
    What does "them" indicate? Tedious details?


    Thank you in advance.
    Unepomme
    Yes, it means "tedious details."

    The reference is to a certain type of speaker who just can't get to the point.

    "Last Wednesday ... oh, wait, or was it Tuesday? .. no, Wednesday, I guess ... well, anyway, it doesn't matter what day it was, and I was down by Raymond's Garage ... you know Raymond. He's the one whose sister was voted Homecoming Queen in 1995.... 1995? .... 1996? ... I guess it was 1995, that was the year the dam out at the Miller place almost broke. Boy! That was a story! Well, there I was down at Raymond's when up pulls this big ol' Cadillac, just about the shiniest thing you've ever seen... unless you count that Crown Vic that Jeb Dawson owned. How he loved that big-a** car! It was a 1999 model, or maybe 1998? 1999? That was the car he wrapped around a pole on his way back from the football game against Tech. We won 32-18 .. no, I lie ... 32 to 21. Ha ha! Everyone exaggerates! Ha ha! Well sir, if that big ol' Caddie didn't just pull right up to the pump just as natural as daylight and out gets a travelin' man ... all slicked up in his fancy suit and a little bow tie ..."

    This is an actual type.

    I consider it a triumph of the social contract over Darwinism that they survive long enough to reproduce their kind.


    • Join Date: Sep 2008
    • Posts: 37
    #3

    Re: them

    Thank you for your fast reply, Ann1977.
    The specific example you wrote greatly helped me understand it.
    So I get it now.

    By the way, after I posted the original, I added one more question, but it was too late.

    If you notice this and answer the other question, I'll be very pleased.

    Thank you in advance.
    Unepomme


    • Join Date: Aug 2009
    • Posts: 1,131
    #4

    Re: them

    Quote Originally Posted by unepomme View Post
    This is an excerpt from "How to Tell a Story" by Mark Twain.
    'That' in the first sentence means 'a funny story.




    It takes only a minute and a half to tell that in its comic-story form; and isn't worth the telling, after all. Put into the humorous-story form it takes ten minutes, and is about the funniest thing I have ever listened to--as James Whitcomb Riley tells it.

    He tells it in the character of a dull-witted old farmer who has just heard it for the first time, thinks it is unspeakably funny, and is trying to repeat it to a neighbor. But he can't remember it; so he gets all mixed up and wanders helplessly round and round, putting in tedious details that don't belong in the tale and only retard it; taking them out conscientiously and putting in others that are just as useless; making minor mistakes now and then and stopping to correct them and explain how he came to make them; remembering things which he forgot to put in in their proper place and going back to put them in there; stopping his narrative a good while in order to try to recall the name of the soldier that was hurt, and finally remembering that the soldier's name was not mentioned, and remarking placidly that the name is of no real importance, anyway--better, of course, if one knew it, but not essential, after all--and so on, and so on, and so on.



    M
    2 Is "just as useless" different from "just useless"?
    What is the function of "as" in this sentence?


    Thank you in advance.
    Unepomme
    "Just as useless as..." is not the same as "just useless."

    "Just as useless as..." is a comparison statement, a claim that one thing was the same (or as much as) another thing.

    "just useless" is a description, with "just" working as an intensifier.

    "He was just ugly!" means that he was REALLY ugly.

    "He was just as ugly as his brother" means that one boy was as ugly as the other one -- that the brothers were the same in this way.

    "One detail just as useless as the other detail" means that he would take one detail out of the story -- only to replace it with another one equally useless!

    This fellow came into the store this morning and started looking at the packages of candy (<--- first useless detail) -- no, wait - it wasn't the candy(<--- taking the useless detail out) It was the chewing gum (<--- replacement of the first useless detail with another detail as useless as the first one) -- and he says, now wait a minute while I get this exactly right ....
    (long pause)
    .... he rears back and he said," Now, Jeb ..." He called me Jeb just as big as life ... "Now Jeb," he says, and hasn't anyone called me Jeb since my Grandma died back in 1988. Buried out of the Landover Baptists ...

    "just as useless as..." means "as useless as..."

    Saying "This web site is just as useless as the first one" means that the web site is as useless as the first one. Adding "just" stresses the idea that they are EXACTLY alike in their uselessness -- not simply "almost as useless," but "EXACTLY as useless."

    The expression "just useless" is not a comparison. It's a description.
    "This web site is just useless!"
    Here "just" is an intensifier meaning "completely useless" or "nothing but useless."
    Last edited by Ann1977; 13-Oct-2009 at 08:14.


    • Join Date: Sep 2008
    • Posts: 37
    #5

    Re: them

    Thank you again, Ann1977.
    It was really helpful.

    By the way, I'm interested in the last comment of your first post.

    I consider it a triumph of the social contract over Darwinism that they survive long enough to reproduce their kind.

    I'm not sure of the whole meaning.
    Do you mean that if the theory of Darwin properly worked, such persons would have been extinct?


    Thank you in advance.
    Unepomme


    • Join Date: Aug 2009
    • Posts: 1,131
    #6

    Re: them

    Quote Originally Posted by unepomme View Post

    I consider it a triumph of the social contract over Darwinism that they survive long enough to reproduce their kind.

    I'm not sure of the whole meaning.
    Do you mean that if the theory of Darwin properly worked, such persons would have been extinct?
    Yes. As a joke, I said that they would be extinct because everyone would MURDER them! -- and that it is only the "social contract" that is stopping us!

    Social contract - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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