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    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Bulgarian
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      • Bulgaria
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      • Bulgaria

    • Join Date: Sep 2007
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    #1

    box the compass

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to give me your considered opinion concerning the interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentences?

    I want to take his powers away from him; and how I am going to do it? I’ve boxed the compass, trying to figure out how it can be done legally…. (U. Sinclair, “Oil”)

    We more or less boxed the compass on this, trying to guess which order he belonged to. (E. O. Connor, “The Edge of Sadness”)

    box the compass = describe a full circle, enumerate consecutively the points of the compass

    V.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Jul 2010
    • Posts: 283
    #2

    Re: box the compass

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to give me your considered opinion concerning the interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentences?

    I want to take his powers away from him; and how I am going to do it? I’ve boxed the compass, trying to figure out how it can be done legally…. (U. Sinclair, “Oil”)

    We more or less boxed the compass on this, trying to guess which order he belonged to. (E. O. Connor, “The Edge of Sadness”)

    box the compass = describe a full circle, enumerate consecutively the points of the compass

    V.
    According to various internet searches, 'box the compass' means to have a complete reversal of opinion. The phrase has nautical origins, 'To know, and be able to recite the 32 points and quarter points of the magnetic compass from North, both clockwise and anticlockwise' was one definition I found.

    I have to say, I'm a native speaker and have lived in England all my life, I have never heard anyone say 'box the compass'.

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