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    #1

    meaning of "short-handed" and "neutralize" in this sentence

    I'm reading The Muse by Jessie Burton. There is this servant girl Teresa working for Mr. and Mrs. Schloss and their daughter Olive. Olive tells Teresa about some secrets of her family. And it goes:

    "Teresa didnít know what to say to Olive. The Schlosses were so short-handed with each other that it usually neutralized any depth of reference to their past lives. They were actors in costume, performing through the house as if it were a theatre stage and Teresa their sole audience. She desperately wanted to see what happened when they took off their robes and walked into the wings."

    The dictionary says that short-handed means "Lacking the usual or necessary number of workers, employees, or assistants." But I don't understand when two people are "short-handed with each other", what does it mean?

    I'm also at lost about what "neutralize" and the second part of the same sentence mean. Does it simply mean that they don't reveal their past?

  1. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: meaning of "short-handed" and "neutralize" in this sentence

    My guess is they didn't talk to each other much. And since few words were spoken they didn't refer to the past very often. However, I don't have the advantage of having read the book to that point. If you wish to you can make a note (either a mental note or a note on paper) of things you have trouble with. It will probably become clearer as you continue reading.

  2. Skrej's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: meaning of "short-handed" and "neutralize" in this sentence

    Isn't this the same author who inexplicably wrote about a Satyr holding a "canton"? I'd question whether she was a native speaker, but you'd think some of these would be caught by her editors.

    I've not heard the phrase used in the context of speaking, but I wonder if it's a reference to shorthand writing, such as court stenographers use. Perhaps they speak in short abbreviated sentences, akin to writing in shorthand.

    Edit: Either that, or it's a careless error when when she meant to say 'short with each other'. If you're short with someone, you speak to them curtly.

    Edit#2: Indeed, it is the same author and the same book on this thread.
    Last edited by Skrej; 25-Jul-2016 at 21:44.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

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    #4

    Re: meaning of "short-handed" and "neutralize" in this sentence

    Yes, it's the same author and the same work. I've been reading this novel and often find her sentences or use of words unfathomable.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 26-Jul-2016 at 08:09. Reason: Deleting quote.

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    #5

    Re: meaning of "short-handed" and "neutralize" in this sentence

    I Googled the author and found that she's a young, native Anglophone. I would guess that she's not terrifically well-read and often has some other word or phrase in mind when she writes these inscrutable sentences. A good editor would have smoothed out these rough spots in her writing.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #6

    Re: meaning of "short-handed" and "neutralize" in this sentence

    Thanks for your opinion. I'm also curious about if her language makes sense or if her English is good English in native speakers' eyes. Now I know it's probably not my problem that I don't understand her.

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