over the small, thrumming vacuum motor

Status
Not open for further replies.

keannu

VIP Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Korean
Home Country
South Korea
Current Location
South Korea
1. Does this "over" mean "He shouted louder than the motor" or "along with the motor sound"?
2. Does "thrumming" sound mean "low beating sound"? I can't think of it exactly.

st81)Before inviting Mr. Harton in, Bernard vacuummed.....He shouted the story of Mr. Harton over the small, thrumming vacuum motor, and Fern listened intently, trying to dodge the vacuum's zipping nose.
 

SoothingDave

VIP Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2009
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
1. Does it make more sense that he told the story louder than the vacuum cleaner's noise, or that he tried to harmonize with it?
2. Have you never heard a vacuum cleaner?
 

5jj

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
Czech Republic
Current Location
Czech Republic
1. Does it make more sense that he told the story louder than the vacuum cleaner's noise, or that he tried to harmonize with it?
2. Have you never heard a vacuum cleaner?
:up:

keannu, SD's response is similar to the thoughts I had when I first read your post. I have had similar thoughts when I have read many of your posts.

As I have said before, you sometimes seem to be trying to find a precise definition of a word that would never occur to a native speaker, and/or considering possibilities that the use of a little bit of common sense would throw out.
 

keannu

VIP Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Korean
Home Country
South Korea
Current Location
South Korea
Thanks a lot! It was my fault that I assumed native speakers know every definition of a word - sometimes so many. It would be impossible to know almost ten definitions of a word as if carrying a dictionary in your brain.
I sometimes try to find common phenomena between Korean and English, and as you said, even in Korean, Koreans do infer the meaning of a word depending on context or from the original meaning of the word. So this would be no different in English.
 

5jj

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
Czech Republic
Current Location
Czech Republic
Thanks a lot! It was my fault that I assumed native speakers know every definition of a word - sometimes so many. It would be impossible to know almost ten definitions of a word as if carrying a dictionary in your brain.
You appear to think that we use words after we have learnt the dictionary definitions of them. It's the other way round. Lexicographers write dictionary definitions in an attempt to describe how people use words.

When somebody looks up a word in a dictionary, they are only discovering a generalisation of how most people use the word. If I say "Oh, I didn't know that word X could mean yyyyy", all I am saying is that I did not know that some people used the word with that particular sense. Users of language define words, and lexicographers attempt to record this.

If six moderators, all native speakers, each write in this forum, "My partner's desk is too large for our new flat', we may have rather different ideas in our minds of the actual people/things denoted by the words in red. Generally speaking, the context of the utterance will give the listener a reasonably clear idea of what the speaker is talking about, but we can never know exactly. It doesn't matter. As the speaker has used the word 'flat' in this limited context, s/he is more likely to be British than American, and is more likely to be speaking of a place to live in rather than an uninflated tyre. Whether British or American, s/he is more likely to be talking of a person with whom s/he lives and to whom s/he is probably not married rather than a business associate (though that person could be both).

This is why some of your attempts to discover the precise meanings of words appear pointless to some of us. It should be pretty obvious that, unless the context tells us otherwise, given the choice between 'a piece of furniture like a table [...] where you work' and 'an office at a newspaper [...] that deals with a particular subject' (OALD definitions) that the speaker is thinking in terms of the first definition of 'desk' in this utterance. It is pointless to worry about whether the desk is made of wood, metal plastic, has drawers, is new or old, etc.

Depending on the model and age of the vacuum cleaners we possess, my idea of the word 'thrum' may well involve more decibels than SD's and fewer than Tdol's. Nobody worries about this. If I happen to be in Tdol's palace and he shouts, "I can't hear you over the thrum of my maid's vacuum cleaner", I may respond, "That's not a thrum, that's a roar". We know then that we have a different idea in our minds of an appropriate decibel-level for 'thrum', but normally this would be of little consequence; we'd normally never know.
 

SoothingDave

VIP Member
Joined
Apr 17, 2009
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
I would also note that words like "thrum" are onomatopoeic. I might use some other such word to describe the vacuum cleaner's noise. The word someone chooses may not be the exact one that I would choose. I probably would have said something other than "thrumming." I might have said "hum" or "whoosh."

But the context makes it clear what the meaning is.
 

5jj

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
Czech Republic
Current Location
Czech Republic
My vacuum cleaner is so old it gasps.
 

Rover_KE

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Jun 20, 2010
Member Type
Retired English Teacher
Native Language
English
Home Country
England
Current Location
England
Our vacuum cleaner sucks.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top