About the usage of "that"


New Member
Hello, there. A small thing has been bugging me. Could anyone shed some light on it?

From The Wind in the Willows:
" The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his
forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. 'Lean on that!' he said.
'Now then, step lively!' and the Mole to his surprise and rapture found
himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat."

As for the Rat's line 'Lean on that!', if I'm not mistaken, he is referring to his own forepaw (hand).
If it is the case, how natural is it to refer to your own hand by using "that" in English, compared with something like "Grab/Take my forepaw (hand)", here?
Alternatively, if there is any other interpretation, could you tell me about it?

Thank you.
  • Waterrat

    New Member
    Thanks for the reply.
    It's perfectly natural, if the meaning is evident to the person (or mole) to whom you're speaking.
    You are right. I didn't have a problem with their locations since the Rat extended his forepaw to the Mole so that it gets near to the Mole rather than the Rat, himself. In this case, "that" is more suitable than "this."
    What bugged me is that I feel it's pretty unnatural to refer to my own hand by "that", or more precisely, the correspondent word to it, in my mother tongue. Guess it's due to the difference between the languages.

    Anyway, thanks again. Glad that we have the internet (and some helpful people at the other end ;)) nowadays since, sometimes, dictionaries won't help that much.
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