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Thread: some questions

  1. #1

    some questions

    Hi, I have some questions about the excerpt from a novel:
    "At the first gesture of morning, flies began stirring. Inman's eyes and the long wound at his neck drew them, and the sound of their wings and the touch of their feet were soon more potent than a yardful of roosters in rousing a man to wake. So he came to yet one more day in the hospital ward. He flapped the flies away with his hands and looked across the foot of his bed to an open triple-hung window. Ordinarily he could see to the red road and the oak tree and the low brick wall. And beyond them to a sweep of fields and flat piney woods that stretched to the western horizon. The view was a long one for the flatlands, the hospital having been built on the only swell within eyeshot. But it was too early yet for a vista. The window might as well have been painted grey.......By now he had stared at the window all through a late summer so hot and wet that the air both day and night felt like breathing through a dishrag, so damp it caused fresh sheets to sour under him and tiny black mushrooms to grow overnight from the limp pages of the book on his bedside table. Inman suspected that after such long examination, the grey window had finally said about all it had to say. That morning, though, it surprised him, for it brought to mind a lost memory of sitting in school, a similar tall window beside him framing a scene of pastures and low green ridges terracing up to the vast hump of Cold Mountain. It was September. The hayfield beyond the beaten dirt of the school playground stood pant-waist high, and the heads of grasses were turning yellow from need of cutting. The teacher was a round little man, hairless and pink of face. He owned but one rusty black suit of clothes and a pair of old overlarge dress boots that curled up at the toes and were so worn down that the heels were wedgelike. He stood at the front of the room rocking on the points. He talked at length through the morning about history, teaching the older students of grand wars fought in ancient England.After a time of actively not listening, the young Inman had taken his hat from under the desk and held it by its brim. He flipped his wrist, and the hat skimmed out the window and caught an updraft and soared. It landed far out across the playground at the edge of the hayfield and rested there black as the shadow of a crow squatted on the ground. The teacher saw what Inman had done and told him to go get it and to come back and take his whipping. The man had a big paddleboard with holes augured in it, and he liked to use it. Inman never did know what seized him at that moment, but he stepped out the door and set the hat on his head at a dapper rake and walked away, never to return."
    Q1:What does "might as well" mean in here?
    Q2:What does "rocking on the points" mean in here?
    Q3:What does "augur" mean in here?

    • Join Date: Sep 2006
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    Re: some questions

    Might as well

    This is quite difficult to explain! My grammar book says:

    "Might as well is used to compare one unpleasant situation with another."

    So in this case: because he can't see anything outside the window, he could be looking at a painted board. It's a way of saying that you could be something - but you're not literally that thing.

    "It's so dark, I can't see anything. I might as well be blind."
    "He never talks to me. I might as well not exist."

    It's also used in another way:

    "I'll never win the race. I might as well not run."
    "There's nothing on at the cinema. We might as well stay in."

    I don't know if that helps. Perhaps somebody else can explain more effectively.

    Rocking on the points

    I imagine that he teacher is rocking back on his heels - leaning back and then forwards again. If the heels have been word down to wedges, the point would be the very back of the heel.

    holes augured in it

    I've never heard "augured" used in this way, and I can't find any definition that would fit. As you've probably found already, augur means to predict, so the use of the word here makes no sense.

    Okay, found the explanation: auger -- Encyclopśdia Britannica

    It's either a spelling mistake, or the author has confused the two words. If an auger is a drill, then conceivably the word could be used as a verb meaning to drill, although I can't find any dictionary that lists it as a verb.

    Hey, I learned something! Thanks.

  2. BobK's Avatar
    Harmless drudge
    English Teacher
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    Re: some questions

    Quote Originally Posted by boothling View Post

    Rocking on the points

    I imagine that he teacher is rocking back on his heels - leaning back and then forwards again. If the heels have been word down to wedges, the point would be the very back of the heel.
    When I tried to picture the scene, I imagined the teacher rocking on the balls of his feet (the "ball of the foot" is where the toes start - I have known many teachers who did this, to signify that they were waiting [for silence, an answer, whatever]). I think "on the points"is just a mistake. When someone is "on the points of his feet" he's on tip-toe (as high as he can comfortable get). A ballerina gets higher than is comfortable, by wearing special shoes and standing "on point" - both of these are obviously inappropriate here.

    Given the augur/auger mistake I'm not sure whether the writer has AmE as a first language - (s)he is obviously extremely competent, but there are some oddnesses in the usage throughout. But as the context is AmE ("rooster", "Cold Mountain" etc) I'm not confident on this point - it's just that, in BrE at least, I wouldn't expect expressions like "flapped the flies away" in the case of someone lying in a hospital bed (for example).


    • Join Date: Sep 2006
    • Posts: 150

    Re: some questions

    If the excerpt is from "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier, then the author has a PhD in English (according to Wikipedia).

    That points thing isn't clear to me either. I'm assuming it must refer to the heels because otherwise it makes no sense.

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