"A step of ordinary compass"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by davoosh, Dec 9, 2014.

  1. davoosh Senior Member

    I am currently reading 'Dombey and Son' by Charles Dickens, and in the first chapter this phrase appears:

    "Possibly her mincing gaint encouraged the belief, and suggested that her clipping a step of ordinary compass into two or three, originated in her habit of making the most of everything."

    I'm a native speaker, and I have no idea what this refers to? I don't understand how a compass could be "clipped" into different parts?

  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    The noun compass here is related to the verb 'to encompass' and means "that which is encompassed" thus "... her clipping a step of ordinary compass ... " = "...her shortening/cutting a step (i.e. a stride) of the normal distance/length/size/proportion..."
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2014
  3. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    She takes two or three steps to cover a distance (compass; PaulQ explained that) that most people would cover in one step (it's a step of ordinary compass/distance).

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