A few sessions on the rack might speed along the process

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
“The Little Pigeon breeds them,” Dick Straw informed them. “He buys tall slaves from all over the world, mates the men to the women, and keeps their tallest offspring for the Herons. One day he hopes to be able to dispense with the stilts.”
A few sessions on the rack might speed along the process,” suggested the big man.
(A Dance with Dragons, novel)

Hi. The Little Pigeon is a lord who trains tall slave soldiers who stand on the stilts.
What does the underlined sentence mean?
Thank you.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    the rack historical An instrument of torture consisting of a frame on which the victim was stretched by turning rollers to which the wrists and ankles were tied.

    OXFORD DICTIONARY
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. I see. So the sentence literally means an amount of time (“a few sessions”) spent on the rack might speed up (“speed along”) the process (of dispensing with the stilts). Right?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    He was clearly referring to the rack. The remark could have been meant as a sick joke, but I’m not familiar with the book.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thand you. I understand the idea now. Just another question: “speed along” in the sense of “speed up” is not a normal idiom, right?
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. So “speed along” and “speed up” are often interchangeable to mean he same thing?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    There is a difference in nuance and emphasis in the literal meaning but not in the effect of using either. In this context, both mean "to cause X to go at a higher rate."

    to speed up X = to cause X to accelerate towards a constant speed (usually by expending more energy); The emphasis is on the process of change from one speed to another
    to speed X along = to cause X to travel at a faster rate (usually by aiding, encouragement, agreement or urging.) The emphasis is on the higher rate that now exists.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    There is a difference in nuance and emphasis in the literal meaning but not in the effect of using either. In this context, both mean "to cause X to go at a higher rate."

    to speed up X = to cause X to accelerate towards a constant speed (usually by expending more energy); The emphasis is on the process of change from one speed to another
    to speed X along = to cause X to travel at a faster rate (usually by aiding, encouragement, agreement or urging.) The emphasis is on the higher rate that now exists.
    Thank you very much. So could you provide some examples to show the difference?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Such examples would require a lot of context as both phrasal verbs are not particularly common in the transitive form. Perhaps you can see the difference in the intransitive form:

    He was travelling at 50kph but when he left the town he sped up to 140kph.
    He was in a hurry and sped along at 140 kph.
     
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