will surely be north of 50 before he gets a turn in ermine

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Annakrutitskaya, Jul 31, 2013.

  1. Annakrutitskaya Senior Member

    Dear Native Speakers (especially, British Native Speakers),
    Please, help me to understand the meanings of two parts of this sentence - both are underlined. What does it mean to be north of something? And what is the literal meaning of the metaphor get a turn in ermine. I understand that it means that he will get a throne only when around 50 but I would love to understand the exact meanings and usage of these phrases.

    Prince William will surely be north of 50 before he gets a turn in ermine. (The Economist)

    Thank you!
  2. london calling Senior Member

    It means he will be over 50 before he becomes King (see this photo of Queen Elizabeth, during her coronation: she is wearing an ermine cape. Source: http://www.diamondland.be).
  3. Annakrutitskaya Senior Member

    thank you, but as you can see in my post I understand that overall meaning but I do not understand the exact meaning of these two phrases or metaphors - why is it used in these forms in terms of language; why "to be north of" - what does it mean, if north means North as part of the world, destination, etc.
    And is it a stable metaphor "get a turn in ermine' meaning to get a throne and as I understand now it means that he will get the ermine on him thus getting his turn to be in it? Sorry for this play on words )))
  4. london calling Senior Member

    'Get a turn in ermine' is not a set phrase.;) It means he will have to wait to have his turn wearing the ermine cape. 'To the north of' means over and beyond: this is of course a figurative use.
  5. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    You will hear statements such as "I don't know how many pairs of shoes he owns, but it's north of fifty" to mean "he owns more than fifty pairs of shoes."
  6. mojolicious Member

    English English
    If you look at a map, a location to the north can be described as 'higher' or 'above' a location to the south (lower, below). Similarly one will 'drive down to the south coast' or 'catch a train up to Scotland'.

    If the map is fixed to a wall then equating North and 'up' and South with 'down' is literally correct, but I suspect that not all languages use the same spatial metaphors.

    I would say that 'north of' is most commonly used when talking of age or of money, eg 'I've spent north of £5000 on repair bills for that car'.

    There is *not* a corresponding use of 'south of'!
  7. Annakrutitskaya Senior Member

    Dears!!! Thank you very much for wonderful and very helpful explanations! I do appreciate it! ) Now I understand that I should've deduce the meaning of 'north of' myself ) Hope to make my mind work in that direction in the nearest future )
  8. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    English - England
    The OED explains ermine like this:
    1. An animal of the weasel tribe ( Mustela Erminea), an inhabitant of northern countries, called in England a stoat, whose fur is reddish brown in summer, but in winter (in northern regions) wholly white, except the tip of the tail, which is always black.
    2. a. The fur of the ermine, often having the black tails (formerly pieces of black lamb's-wool) arranged upon it, at regular intervals, for the sake of effect
    3. fig. With reference to the use of ermine in the official robes of judges and the state robes of peers.

    I suspect that the Economist may be imprecise here, as Prince William is surely already entitled to wear ermine as Duke of Cambridge?
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2013
  9. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    Per Wikipedia: Peers' robes comprise a full-length crimson velvet coat, and an ermine cape. Rows of sealskin spots on the cape designate the peer's rank; dukes use four rows, marquesses three and a half, earls three, viscounts two and a half, and barons and lords of Parliament two. Royal dukes use six rows of ermine, ermine on the front of the cape and long trains borne by pages. Peeresses' ranks are designated not by sealskin spots, but by the length of their trains and the width of the ermine edging on the same. ... The robes of peers and peeresses are used only during coronations.
  10. dadane Senior Member

    New Zealand
    English (London/Essex)
    If this is correct then Prince William will have to wear it at his father's coronation.
  11. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English

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