a little longer

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Packard

Senior Member
USA, English
Context. I was watching "On the Waterfront" with Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger, et al. Steiger is Brando's older brother. They are taking a ride in a taxicab and this is their conversation:

BRANDO: A steady job...a couple extra potatoes, that's all I want.

STEIGER: That's great when you're a kid, but...you're getting on, you're pushing...slugger. You know it's time to think about getting some ambition.

BRANDO: I always figured I'd live a little bit longer without it...


Question. What does "a little bit longer" reference? Is he saying that his life will last a little bit longer without ambition? Or is he saying that he hopes to wait a little bit longer before getting ambition? Absent the "a little bit" there would be no ambiguity for me. But as it is I cannot decide what is being expressed.


 
  • ms.creant

    Member
    english (canadian)
    I agree with you that it is ambiguous but i agree with your first interpretation, that he always figured he would have a slightly longer life without ambition.

    The "a little bit" seems to indicate that he doesn't think it would be much longer.

    Also, i don't think it would make sense to "always figure" to live "a little bit longer" before doing something. One might say

    "I figured I'd live a little bit longer before getting ambition"

    Also, though I have shamefully never seen the movie, given the type of characters Brando plays, i'd assume it to be the first interpretation.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    As for Packard's original question, I'd plump for this interpretation:
    is he saying that he hopes to wait a little bit longer before getting ambition?
    He never had ambition; he had always thought he was getting along fine without it, at least for the time being.

    With the other interpretation, he thought lack of ambition would prolong his life.:confused:

    I'd have a bit longer life without it. It sounds awkward, and with 'little bit" I think it sounds even worse. In BE I'd say "I'd have a rather longer life without it".
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    As for Packard's original question, I'd plump for this interpretation:


    He never had ambition; he had always thought he was getting along fine without it, at least for the time being.

    With the other interpretation, he thought lack of ambition would prolong his life.:confused:

    I'd have a bit longer life without it. It sounds awkward, and with 'little bit" I think it sounds even worse. In BE I'd say "I'd have a rather longer life without it".
    Many thanks. :)
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    Is he saying that his life will last a little bit longer without ambition?
    I know this question is over ten years old but now that this thread has opened up again, this is what I think it means. He seems to be saying lack of ambition would give him a less stressful life and consequently would help him live a little longer.

    I think "a little bit longer life" is always wrong?
    Not necessarily. I can't think of a convincing example off the cuff but it's generally not a good idea to say that a particular phrase is impossible.
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    I know this question is over ten years old but now that this thread has opened up again, this is what I think it means. He seems to be saying lack of ambition would give him a less stressful life and consequently would help him live a little longer.


    Not necessarily. I can't think of a convincing example off the cuff but it's generally not a good idea to say that a particular phrase is impossible.
    Oh sorry I meant "a little longer life". I at all noticed that I had written "a little bit .." until now.
    Many thanks. :)
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    Yes to both.

    Or rather, "yes" is very likely (because we don't have a full proper sentence or context).
     
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