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Thread: that and down

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    #1

    that and down

    Junkie. Pothead. Thatís where Iíd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadnít been about (that), me trying to prove what a (down) brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory.
    (Dreams from my father by Barack Obama )
    Please answer the following questions.
    1. What does (that) refer to in the above sentences?
    Is it "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man" or "me trying to prove what a (down) brother I was"?
    2. What does (down)mean?
    Does it mean cool or poor?

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    #2

    Re: that and down

    Quote Originally Posted by UFOcatcher View Post
    Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn’t been about that [no parentheses], me trying to prove what a down [no parentheses] brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory.
    (Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama )
    Please answer the following questions.
    1. What does "that" refer to where I've colored it green in the above sentences?
    Is it "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man" or "me trying to prove what a (down) brother I was"?
    2. What does "down" mean?
    Does it mean "cool" or "poor"?
    1. President Obama was, I think, using a forward reference: that refers to "me trying to prove what a down brother I was." I don't find it a very well-crafted sentence.

    2. I think cool is the intended meaning.

    Please don't use parentheses ("brackets" in BrE) to mark text you want to highlight; they make the text hard to read. Use a distinctive color or an asterisk instead. When you write questions, enclose words you're asking about in quotation marks or set them in italics.

    Capitalize each main word in a title, and set the title in italics: Dreams from my Father.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #3

    Re: that and down

    The oxford dictionary of English says that refers to a specific thing previously mentioned, known, or understood, so I think as follows: that refers to "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man"
    Please tell me the reason the above idea is wrong.
    Last edited by UFOcatcher; 10-Feb-2017 at 07:23.

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    #4

    Re: that and down

    Quote Originally Posted by UFOcatcher View Post
    , so I think as follows: that refers to "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man"
    I think "that" refers to "Junkie. Pothead. Thatís ... the young would-be black man" and that "me trying to prove what a down brother I was" gives the reason for "the highs hadnít been about that".
    Last edited by YAMATO2201; 10-Feb-2017 at 15:31.
    I am not a teacher. I am currently studying basic English grammar.

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    #5

    Re: that and down

    Quote Originally Posted by UFOcatcher View Post
    Junkie. Pothead. Thatís where Iíd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadnít been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was.
    I removed the distracting parentheses from the above quote. I colored the word that in the second sentence green.

    Quote Originally Posted by UFOcatcher View Post
    The Oxford Dictionary of English says that refers to a specific thing previously mentioned, known, or understood, so I think as follows: that refers to "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man"
    Please tell me the reason the above idea is wrong.
    The first that​ refers to the phrase you quoted. The second one can't refer to that phrase because it wouldn't be logical. Why would he write the highs hadn't been about the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man? Rather, Obama is emphasizing the phrase immediately after that, using the word in a way the lexicographer didn't consider in the Oxford Dictionary. I don't recommend emulating this usage.

    This passage really speaks to me in Obama's voice, for better or worse; it uses turns of speech which he uses frequently when speaking extemporaneously. I can easily imagine that he dictated it.
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    #6

    Re: that and down

    "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man." is paraphrased as "me trying to prove what a down brother I was". Essentially, the two sentences have the same meaning. Authors often change wording so as not to make a banal remark.
    The pronoun"that" refers to "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man because the pronoun"that" never grammatically refers to the following things
    except making ironical remarks. For exapmle, "I like that."

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    #7

    Re: that and down

    You can choose to understand the sentence that way. This native Anglophone finds that understanding illogical. Obama has the habit of using that to refer to something he is about to say, whether or not Oxford approves.
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    #8

    Re: that and down

    You said Obama has the habit of using that to refer to something he is about to say, whether or not Oxford approves.
    But I have never seen such strange habit in his other works.
    If the habit is so impressive as to make you remain in your memory, please extract some examples from his other works and post them.
    Last edited by UFOcatcher; 11-Feb-2017 at 19:19.

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    #9

    Re: that and down

    I can't think of any way to search for that usage. I'll post quotes if I find any. Meanwhile I suggest you accept the opinions of native speakers.

    Do any other Americans care to chime in here?
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    #10

    Re: that and down

    You used the word"habit".
    The oxford dictionary of English says habit is a settled or regualr tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
    So, if you have never seen other examples, you can't use the word"habit".
    That is the reason why I said "If the habit is so impressive as to make you remain in your memory, please extract some examples from his other works and post them".
    Your use of the word"habit" doesn't corrrespond with dictionary definition.
    You used the word"habit" incorrectly, so your explanation is wrong.
    Last edited by UFOcatcher; 12-Feb-2017 at 05:10.

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