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    #1

    to laugh sb. to scorn...?

    "Young Goodman Brown" (Nathaniel Hawthorn):

    "..., as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn."

    Except the fact the "Nature" is a singular none so it probably more likely "was" than "were laughing" (which often happens in Hawthorn writing ), but that phrase "to laugh sb. to scorn"...? I think I get the main sens of it (unless I'm wrong) - "... was laughing him in scorn", yet

    first - do I understand the meaning correctly?,

    second - if not, what does it actually mean?,

    third - is it a construct you could call a "contemporary English one"? Thank you

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    #2

    Re: to laugh sb. to scorn...?

    [not a teacher]

    I read "all Nature" as plural on its face. But in context, it most certainly is: >> first - do I understand the meaning correctly?
    It’s hard to tell, because you didn’t explain what you think it means (I’ve never heard “in scorn”). My reading is that “to scorn” is the infinitive verb meaning “reject or dismiss as contemptible or unworthy”, meaning that “all of nature is laughing at him to reject him as contemptible”.

    >> third - is it a construct you could call a "contemporary English one"?
    “were laughing him” is not a construct I’m familiar with. Perhaps it's the same as “the parents were lulling him to sleep.”

    I’m anxious to hear what others think!

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: to laugh sb. to scorn...?

    It's fine, and you have understood right. It's maybe a bit old-fashioned.

    b

    PS This is a response to the OP. 'In scorn' is meaningful, but not common - people seem to prefer an adverb such as 'scornfully' or 'derisively', or maybe a verb that implies scorn - such as 'sneer'/'look down one's nose'/'turn one's nose up at'. (I don't know what the etymological mechanism is, but lots of words to do with noses seem to start with 'sn-': snub, snort, snout, sniff...)
    Last edited by BobK; 05-Jan-2012 at 13:53. Reason: PS added

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    #4

    Re: to laugh sb. to scorn...?

    Thanks guys.

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