What does these sentences mean?
August 10, 2017 8:50 AM   Subscribe

This is from"The Fallen Idol" by Greene. I 'd like to know about some vocabularies.

1) "I've got a job of work for you." Rose shambled in:black cotton stockings drooping over her boots,a gawky Girl Guide manner, a hoarse hostile voice. "More tarts,I suppose." What is "a Girl Guide manner" ? I know that "gawky" means nervously awkward and ungainly. Is the Girl Guide manner like that? And a tart is a slang for a prostitute.(From Wiki) What does she say here, then? 2) Rose shambled from the stove;pink apply-dapply cheeks,loose stockings.She stuck her hands behind her. Her large morgue-like mouth was full of blackened teeth. What does "apply-dapply" mean? What does "morgue- like" look like? I found Potter's story, but a mouse doesn't have pink cheeks. Then when I google "morgue-like", there are some weird gloomy-looking rooms there, but I can't imagine how her mouth looks like actually. Thank you for helping me with my English.
posted by mizukko to Writing & Language (12 answers total)
Girl Guides are like Girl Scouts, so it would be a wholesome, innocent, look. Not too self-aware and somewhat childish.

Not sure about tarts, but when I read it I thought of the food tart, so maybe selling or making tarts.

Apply-dapply, would again be something wholesome and rosy, pink-cheeked. Likely a made up term, a mix of "apple cheeked" and "dappled" (an adjective used to describe the appearance of an apple)

If her mouth is full of black teeth then "morgue-like" is just a way of likening her mouth to a morgue, a place for dead people, full of symbolic blackness if not actual blackness. It conveys something dark, which contrasts with the rest of her appearance (like a Girl Guide, pink cheeked, awkward)
posted by LKWorking at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

"Girl Guide manner" = the awkward manner of a child or very young woman on her best behaviour. (The Girl Guides being the female equivalent of the Boy Scouts.)

"Apply-dapply" is a variant of "apple-cheeked" crossed with "dappled", and means pink cheeks on a white face, associated with milkmaids and other types of healthy outdoorsy young women.

"Morgue-like": a morgue is where you store dead bodies - the blackened teeth are being likened to corpses.
posted by Mocata at 9:01 AM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Girl Guides article on Wikipedia has some pictures for reference, kinda neat how the 1918 British photo has some strong similarities with the 2007 German photo. Girl Guides are around the world now, but for a long time I think it was mainly a thing in EU, UK, USA, AU.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:02 AM on August 10, 2017

Ha we said the same thing! Yes, and "tart" is old slang meaning prostitute or loose woman.
posted by Mocata at 9:03 AM on August 10, 2017

More thoughts. Just read the passage you're referencing and "tarts" definitely refers to prostitutes. Without reading the whole story it appears Rose is a prostitute but that is on friendly-ish terms with the police station so does things for them periodically. Here she assumes she's being asked to do something related to prostitutes, but he really wants her to walk a boy home. In general, her description then is meant to convey that she is trying for a sweet appearance, something like a Girl Guide with rosy cheeks, but is in fact disheveled and in poor health. She is a prostitute herself so is dressed in a way to try to attract customers, but the end result has a grotesque quality.
posted by LKWorking at 9:15 AM on August 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

I don't think "Girl Guide" means "innocent" quite, in this context, perhaps more "inexperienced and therefore awkward". The Guides/Scouts have an air of both wholesomeness and military efficiency --- it can come off as over-eager and over-earnest. Applied to an adult can also imply sexless, frumpy.

I glanced at the page on google books --- basically I think Greene is setting up an ironic contrast --- the Sargent says the situation "needs a women's tact." Implication, a worldly-wise, experienced woman, sensitive to social nuances. The description of Rose is meant to convey someone comprehensively tactless --- juvenile, bluff, awkward. The exact opposite.
posted by Diablevert at 9:21 AM on August 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

Reading over the preceding page, I think Rose is a policewoman. She's been taking the arrested prostitutes to jail but is now due back at the station. That's why he calls her a disgrace to the force; she's on it.
posted by Diablevert at 9:28 AM on August 10, 2017

I agree with Diablevert that these sentences are setting up extreme contrasts. She acts like a gawky Girl Guide, which is basically a club for young girls to go camping and make crafts. She has "apply-dapply" cheeks, which is wordplay that sounds like a child's song and makes me think of a small child that's been playing outside in cool weather. ("Apple-cheeked" is a common description of round red cheeks) She holds her hands behind her back which makes me think of this kind of pose. Those are all words that together make her sound like a friendly young girl.

But she also has a mouth like a morgue, housing dead teeth, a harsh voice, and is using coarse language ("tarts" is quite rude slang for prostitution). All of those things make her sound like an obnoxious person near death.

But then! Her loose stockings get mentioned twice, which makes her sound like an object of sexual desire.

Those are a lot of contrasts to put into two sentences of character description! It's a really weird way to describe a human being. If this story is written in first person, I would consider that the the person telling the story might be an unreliable narrator. If Greene is writing it from an omniscient perspective, I would guess he had some major problems with women unless Rose gets a lot of character development later on.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:25 AM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Guides/Scouts have an air of both wholesomeness and military efficiency --- it can come off as over-eager and over-earnest. Applied to an adult can also imply sexless, frumpy.

Yes. This is what Englishmen of Greene's era meant by it; it was a fairly common way of describing a woman and it wasn't usually a compliment even when the woman's age was the only incongruity. Even men of that vintage who had a particular taste for outdoorsy athletic women, like John Betjeman, weren't very nice about describing them that way. It implies "innocence" only in the sense of obliviousness and forcefulness: sporty, clumsy, officious, determined, making no effort to be sexually appealing.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:18 PM on August 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

"dappled" (an adjective used to describe the appearance of an apple)

No, that's wrong: it means marked with many spots of color or light
posted by scratch at 5:15 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

\I don't think "Girl Guide" means "innocent" quite, in this context, perhaps more "inexperienced and therefore awkward". The Guides/Scouts have an air of both wholesomeness and military efficiency -

If this is at all familiar to you, picture Chummy on Call the Midwife.
posted by Miko at 7:46 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

It occurred to me just now that when Greene says morgue-like he might be referencing not a scene but a smell --- that her breath smelled like rot, death. Fits with the blackened teeth.

Either way, mizukko, mad props to you if you're reading this and English isn't your native tongue. Greene is a subtle mofo, all his words do a lot of work and a much of his stories take place between the lines. Or in other words, he is so allusive and innovative in his use of figurative language that even native speakers may struggle to pick up everything he's laying down. He ain't easy.
posted by Diablevert at 2:12 PM on August 11, 2017

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