and the many reasons for not insulting whom

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Gabriel Aparta

Senior Member
Español - Venezuela
Hello everyone, please, from David Copperfield:

'And when you make use of your position of favouritism here, sir,' pursued Mr. Mell, with his lip trembling very much, 'to insult a gentleman—'
'A what?—where is he?' said Steerforth.
Here somebody cried out, 'Shame, J. Steerforth! Too bad!' It was Traddlesd; whom Mr. Mell instantly discomfited by bidding him hold his tongue.
—'To insult one who is not fortunate in life, sir, and who never gave you the least offence, and the many reasons for not insulting whom you are old enough and wise enough to understand,' said Mr. Mell, with his lips trembling more and more, 'you commit a mean and base action.


Mr. Mell is a professor in a boarding school that was insulted by a student called Steerforth. Mr. Mell is quite poor. That phrase and the many reasons... doesn't seem to connect properly with the previous train of thought, in my opinion. Also, shouldn't he use the word which instead of whom. Which referring to many reasons.

What do you guys think?

Thanks!
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The idea is that Steerforth is old enough and wise enough to understand the many reasons for not insulting Mr Mell.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, given that the ultimate reference is back to Mr Mell, it has to be "whom", not "which".

    Think of the construction as equivalent to: you are old enough and wise enough to understand the many reasons for not insulting him.

    To be fair, it is a complicated sentence!:cool:
     

    Gabriel Aparta

    Senior Member
    Español - Venezuela
    No, as I say in the OP, Mr. Mell has just been insulted by Steerforth. Mr. Mell is poor, his mom lives in an almshouse. Steerforth made fun of this.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Ok that makes sense. Being British he is going out of his way to not say "you insulted me" which is perhaps immodest and perhaps a challenge to a duel. It's also quite common in older British speech to say "one" instead of I or me.

    One wouldn't want to go out in this weather would one?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It's also quite common in older British speech to say "one" instead of I or me.
    That's not how "one" is being used In this extract; "one" here means "a person".
    (There's also no question of a duel - see this link to the context;).)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    who never gave you the least offence, and the many reasons for not insulting whom you are old enough and wise enough to understand …

    PARAPHRASE
    who never gave you the least offence, and for not insulting whom there are many reasons, which [even] you are old enough and wise enough to understand, …
     

    analeeh

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Just in case this wasn't clear, this is a very lengthy and complicated example of fronting parts of the sentence along with the question word in a relative clause. This is often done in formal language to avoid a so-called 'dangling preposition' (although here there would be no dangling preposition) or to move a gerund along with its object (as is the case here). Normal cases are much simpler: 'Mr Mell, to whom you spoke', 'your boss, annoying whom you want to avoid', 'this book, with respect to which you made such rude comments', 'your report, reading which was very difficult', or LingoBingo's combined preposition + gerund 'Mr Mell, for not insulting whom there are many reasons', etc. But in this case there's a very complex object phrase which has been moved as a whole before 'whom'.

    You are old enough and wise enough to understand the many reasons for not insulting Mr Mell. > Mr Mell, the many reasons for not insulting whom you are old enough and wise enough to understand...

    You could also form the relative clause like this, with a dangling preposition. This is the more natural construction in spoken language:

    'Mr Mell, who you are old enough and wise enough to understand the many reasons for not insulting...'
     
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