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    #1

    Neuter and stiff

    Hi,

    Can anybody tell me in what sense the word neuter and stiffed are used here?

    Briefly, as soon as Mr Smith had got into the lift his gaze, bent downwards, chanced to fasten on a pair,
    of shoes. He seemed to recognise those shoes; did recognise, with qualms, the pants above. Still, there was
    something strange about them, too. The limbs which they presumably encased had—there was actually no other
    word—a curious quality of being neuter. Although invisible, their character somehow revealed itself. They were
    each as blankly, as shockingly neuter as an umbrella handle or the turned leg of a sofa. At the same instant
    that Mr Smith’s glance, travelling upwards, fixed itself in a glassy stare of horror on a changing head, came,
    from the operator, an appalling shriek.
    Past the remaining floors (say six or seven) the lift shot swiftly on its downward way. None of the three
    stiffed. At the bottom the cage bumped to a standstill. The grille rattled open, allowing Mr Smith and the now
    idiot operator to spill themselves upon the marble floor. The third occupant of the elevator got out the last.
    Nobody much was about. Mr Smith remained sitting on the floor. The operator had just begun to gibber.
    Neither of them, however, took his eyes off the back of a retreating figure, moving slowly toward the door on
    to Sixth Avenue.

    Mr. Meldrum Mania, John Metcalfe, 1925

    Thank you.
    Not a Teacher

  1. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Neuter and stiff

    Apparently, he couldn't tell if the legs belonged to a woman or a man. As for "stiffed", I am not sure about its meaning in this context.

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    #3

    Re: Neuter and stiff

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarheel View Post
    Apparently, he couldn't tell if the legs belonged to a woman or a man. As for "stiffed", I am not sure about its meaning in this context.
    It must mean "died", as an extension of the slangy noun 'stiff' (meaning "corpse").
    I am not a teacher.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Neuter and stiff

    I think it should have said "stiffened". It says that the lift was moving very quickly downward. In that situation, most people might brace their legs so that they can keep their footing, or brace their arms against the walls of the lift. If you brace yourself, you stiffen your limbs and muscles. So I think the writer intended to indicate that despite the speed of the lift, the people inside did not stiffen their limbs against the speed.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #5

    Re: Neuter and stiff

    It occured to me it could be a typo. None of the three stirred. Could it be so?
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  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Neuter and stiff

    It could be. Unfortunately, only the author knows what he meant and I think it's a bit too late to ask Mr Metcalfe!
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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