a first small step but giant leap

Discussion in 'English Only' started by SuprunP, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. SuprunP

    SuprunP Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Ukrainian & Russian
    [...] but aside from that it was the same old moon she was used to seeing, the moon that Neil Armstrong marked with a first small step but giant leap in that hot summer of 1969.
    (H. Murakami; Jay Rubin; Philip Gabriel; 1Q84)

    Why not 'a giant leap'?

    Thanks.
     
  2. poika- Member

    South of Turkey
    Turkish
    Well; in Turkish we have a saying:

    For me, it is a small step (just walking), but for the humanity it is a huge step (improvement)

    So, a giant leap should be something similar to it.
     
  3. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    All I can do is guess, but I would read it as: ... marked with a "first small step but giant leap" in that hot summer of 1969." In other words, as a compression paraphrasing of the original "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." ("Compression paraphrasing" being a term I just made up.) :)
     
  4. SuprunP

    SuprunP Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Ukrainian & Russian
    Is there any room for a mistake, by any chance?

    Thanks.
     
  5. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    No, not in my opinion.
    the moon that Neil Armstrong marked with a first small step but giant leap ... (a small step that was a giant leap)
    the moon that Neil Armstrong marked with a first small step but a giant leap ... (I don't know what to say about this ... grammatically, I would expect "... marked not with a first small step but a giant leap ...)
     
  6. SuprunP

    SuprunP Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Ukrainian & Russian
    Is the 'but' here an adverb as in "he is but a shadow of his former self"?

    If so, is it possible to construct such a sentence:
    "He stood in front of a big cracked mirror - a reflection [being] but a shadow of his former self..."

    Thanks.
     
  7. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    The disease has wasted his body to the point that he's but a shadow of his former self.

    Is it the same but as in your original example -- I don't know, frankly, but it doesn't look like it's being used in the same way to me.
     
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I like Copyright's explanation in post 3 - and his term "Compression paraphrasing":):thumbsup::).
    No, it isn't, Suprun: it's more like the but in "not only but also".
    It might help if you think of the sentence as meaning .... marked with something that was not only a "first small step" but also a "giant leap" ...
     
  9. SuprunP

    SuprunP Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Ukrainian & Russian
    You should definitely remove all the meanings of the 'but' but one (although which one is for you to choose). :D

    So, I can easily write the following sentences and be not afraid of being misunderstood or sounding 'foreign':

    "He was a big man with an athletic build but scholar."
    "She was a painter but writer."
    "He is a translator but interpreter."

    Thanks.
     
  10. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    Your friends won't tell you, but I will -- they're all wrong. ;)

    "He was a big man with an athletic build, but in reality he was a scholar." (Not satisfactory, because there are probably plenty of big, athletic-looking scholars, so the two parts of the sentence don't go together.)
    "She was not only a painter but a writer."
    "He is a translator as well as being an interpreter."

    These are just to make them correct -- they may not be what you have in mind. We have a lot of threads of but and you may wish to consult a grammar book because you don't quite have a handle on it yet. :)
     
  11. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    No, you can't, Suprun.

    The thing is, the phrase first small step but giant leap is an almost-quote: people will understand it as a reference to Neil Armstrong's original words, and interpret it in that light.

    That doesn't mean you can always use "but" to mean not only but also:).

    EDIT: Cross-posted with MrC!
     
  12. SuprunP

    SuprunP Senior Member

    Ukraine
    Ukrainian & Russian
    I was afraid that I couldn't.

    So, to sum it all up - this 'first small step but giant leap' was 'invented' by Jay Rubin on the fly, as it always happens when a native speaker says something no one else would ever say but everybody around understands them perfectly and consider a newly invented phrase that will never be used again totally acceptable.
    Am I right?

    Thanks.

    (I did understand the phrase, and could have easily skipped it over, but that small 'a' would have been nagging at me all day :))
     

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