an athlete run to books

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Janeca

Senior Member
Portuguese
Hello, everyone,


Please, I'm having some trouble understandind the exact meaning of «an athlete run to books», which I found in John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids (1954).

The characters are describing a man they just met, stressing that is in «decided contrast» to another man, who is chubby and very trimmed:

«He was lean, tall, broad-shouldered, and slightly stooping with something of the air of an athlete run to books.»

Does this mean thar he lookes like an athlete forced to live/work with books instead of exercizing in the open?

Thank you in advance!
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I think the only sense of "run to" is about the same as "turned to": he started out as an athlete, but then tended towards books. I get the sense that the diversion from athletics to books was probably an active choice on his part, but in the sense of following an inborn inclination or an innate tendency, or even a natural deviation (something in his character originally left his character open to such accidents that would radically transform it). There's something kindof biological and evolutionary about the phrase - which makes it appropriate for the novel it's in.

    Love that book, by the way! Hope you're enjoying it.
     

    Janeca

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    So, it's a little more neutral than In thought (less «tragical» for the character personal life).

    Thank you very much, Lucas! That has helped a lot. :)
     

    Janeca

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    I think the only sense of "run to" is about the same as "turned to": he started out as an athlete, but then tended towards books. I get the sense that the diversion from athletics to books was probably an active choice on his part, but in the sense of following an inborn inclination or an innate tendency, or even a natural deviation (something in his character originally left his character open to such accidents that would radically transform it). There's something kindof biological and evolutionary about the phrase - which makes it appropriate for the novel it's in.

    Love that book, by the way! Hope you're enjoying it.
    By the way, yes, I am enjoying it. Funny how the narrator streches the limits of what would be considered morally acceptable in those days.

    Thank you!
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    There's a idiomatic phrase, "run to seed" "He used to be a Sergeant Major, but look at his figure now! He's run to seed." He has become flabby, lazy, fat, etc.

    Wyndham is adapting the saying but keeping the same meaning.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Oh good. I thought there was something like "run to seed" but since we don't have it in the US I didn't want to speak for British English. (We only use "gone to seed" or "gone to pot" over here.) Thanks for the clarification.
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Oh good. I thought there was something like "run to seed" but since we don't have it in the US I didn't want to speak for British English. (We only use "gone to seed" or "gone to pot" over here.) Thanks for the clarification.
    I'm familiar with "run to seed." It's included in The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    But surely it's not still current in most AE usage? What dates does your idiom dictionary give for its use?
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I am also familiar with "run to fat". Changing the last word to "books" seems to me an intentional and original twist of a standard phrase. The author is using a verbal surprise to make the description more vivid.
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I've heard and seen it enough times to be able to recognize it. The idiom dictionary I'm looking at on Google Books was published in 1997, and it has an entry for "run to seed, also go to seed."
     
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    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    That's really interesting. As far as I know, I've never heard anyone say "run to seed" (the google does suggest that it's vastly less common than "go(ne) to seed"). There's no reason why it shouldn't still be in usage in the US, but probably not this far west if I'm not familiar with it...

    The dictionary you're consulting does say that "run to seed" dates from the early 19th century, so I wouldn't at all be surprised if it had changed into another form over time. But I'm glad some speakers somewhere seem to be keeping the dream alive!
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "" << >> probably the vagueries of a Portuguese keyboard. If I start typing in French, my computer picks << >> up and inserts them automatically.
     

    Janeca

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    I agree with everybody else; I just wanted to point out that we don't use <<these things>> for quotations in English; we use "these things."
    I'm afraid these are the vagueries of a Portuguese mind, not the ones of a Portuguese keyboard... For the fact is I didn't know that... :p

    So thank you, pob14!
     
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