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  1. #1
    RobertPetroff's Avatar
    RobertPetroff is offline Newbie
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    figured away with plate on their sideboards

    Hello everyone.
    I am reading a book and I encountered a paragraph, that really puzzled me. I would appreciate any suggestion that would help discover the meaning of the last sentence in the text below. This is only a part of the paragraph:
    A contemporary described the Newport merchants as "... men in flaming scarlet coats and waistcoats, laced and fringed with brightest glaring yellow. The Sly Quakers, not venturing on these charming coats and waistcoats, yet loving finery, figured away with plate on their sideboards."
    I am not sure if "figured away" is a phrasal verb and if yes what is the relation with the other words...
    The text, in my opinion, has been written in the seventeenth century.
    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Re: figured away with plate on their sideboards

    Welcome to the forum, Robert.

    Always tell us the title and author of any book you quote from, please.

  3. #3
    RobertPetroff's Avatar
    RobertPetroff is offline Newbie
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    Re: figured away with plate on their sideboards

    Thank you. I didn't mean to violate the forum rules. The book I am reading is "A people's history of the United States" by Howard Zinn.
    Since the English is not my native language, it is really difficult for me to understand that last sentence from the text.

  4. #4
    Skrej's Avatar
    Skrej is offline Key Member
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    Re: figured away with plate on their sideboards

    The Quaker religion required members to dress plainly, so they avoided the brightly colored and garnished clothing popular of the time.

    However, they could indulge in finery if it wasn't something that was visibly worn. Quakers developed a reputation for honest, but shrewd businessmen and many were quite successful, with the financial means to invest in highly figured (decorated) dishware. A sideboard is a cupboard for holding and displaying dishware.

    I would imagine that dishware was both porcelain and silverware. Porcelain (especially from China) was more even more expensive than silver. Both were typically highly decorated and embellished with designs. Since it wasn't a public display of ostentation however, it skirted the the tenements of the Quaker faith requiring simplicity and plainness.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

  5. #5
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: figured away with plate on their sideboards

    I believe plate meant silver-plated flatware, which would also be displayed on the sideboard.
    I am not a teacher.

  6. #6
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    Post Re: figured away with plate on their sideboards

    Thank you Skrej. Your detailed explanation is very helpful. Now I understand the sentence. First I thought "figure away" was a phrasal verb and looked it up, but I didn't find anything, so I started wandering what is the purpose of "away" here. In my opinion it adds more energy or eagerness to the verb before it in the sentence. In this case they decorated their sideboards with expensive plates with more eagerness than ususal. Do you think this is so?

  7. #7
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: figured away with plate on their sideboards

    Yes, but I'd be more inclined to use the word enthusiasm.
    I am not a teacher.

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