arch back to

TheCrociato91

Senior Member
Italian - Northern Italy
Hi everyone.

I came across an expression that I can't wrap my head around while reading a book titled "The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective", edited by Ulrich Marzolph.
While arching back to ancient Indian tradition, the collection probably originated at some unknown period in Sassanian Iran under the title of [...] "A Thousand Tales" [...]
I understand "arch back to" to mean "date back to" in this context, but was only able to find results referring to the literal meaning of the verb "to arch (back)", i.e. to make the shape of an arch.

So, my questions are:
- am I correct in assuming the expression to mean "date back", "stretch back" or similar?
- is the expression commonly used as a set phrase with a figurative meaning? Or did the author simply extend its literal meaning to a figurative one?

Thank you beforehand.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    That passage is not written by a native English-speaker. It comes in the preface to the book, which clearly is either a translation and/or was not heavily edited (if at all).

    To “arch back” in the sense of going back in time (as opposed to being/moving in the physical shape of an arch), is not a standard phrase.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    That said, it can be understood as to arch back to carries the nuance of (i) omitting/ignoring all time and events between the stated time (usually, now) and that time, i.e. in the manner than an arch spans a distance, and/or that (ii) the transition is instant.
     
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    TheCrociato91

    Senior Member
    Italian - Northern Italy
    @PaulQ I also thought about that possibility, but eventually came to the conclusion that it would be strange to mix those two expressions up (given that both their spellings and pronunciations are quite different).
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    (given that both their spellings and pronunciations are quite different).
    Maybe their pronunciations are sufficiently different to you, however I am happy with the idea that hark and arch are sufficiently similar in pronunciation to a non-native speaker (and some native speakers) who has erroneously acquired the phrase "Hark back to" from conversation by mistaking it for "arch back to".

    This process of "mishearing" one word or phrase as another, and then using the wrong one, is so common that it has several nouns (noun phrases) associated with it: most often it is called "a mondegreen" (Mondegreen - Wikipedia), to which we can add an "eggcorn" Eggcorn - Wikipedia.
     
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