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    #1

    give somebody (something) a wide berth

    Dear teachers,

    Would you help to me to interpret in plain English the meaning of the expression in bold in the following sentence?

    “Them” said the captain, “is the terms I offer. If they’re hard upon you, brother, as may hap they are, give them a wide berth, sheer off, and part company cheerily.

    give somebody (something) a wide berth = keep away from someone

    Thanks for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V

  1. Banned
    Interested in Language
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    #2

    Re: give somebody (something) a wide berth

    Definition of shun verb from Cambridge Dictionary Online: Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus

    In your sentence, the idiom in bold does not mean 'shun'. It means, as you rightly think,
    'keep away from someone'.

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: give somebody (something) a wide berth

    Note that the speaker is a captain, and the sense of 'berth' used here is naval.

    b

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    #4

    Re: give somebody (something) a wide berth

    Hi BobK,

    Thank you for your reminder but for all that the proper interpretation of the phrase in question is " to keep clear of someone; avoid somebody" or "keep away from someone"

    Regards,

    V.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: give somebody (something) a wide berth

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Hi BobK,

    Thank you for your reminder but for all that the proper interpretation of the phrase in question is " to keep clear of someone; avoid somebody" or "keep away from someone"

    Regards,

    V.
    My point was that many (arguably all, but let's not go there) words start life as metaphors. And as the people using them want to communicate, words based on specialist meanings tend to be used by specialists in one field or another. A 21st speaker from any walk of life can give someone 'a wide berth', but I would be prepared to bet - if it were possible to prove such a thing - that the first user was someone who had contact with ships and/or the sea.

    b

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