as black a pirate as (=who?) ever raised a sail

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thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
“Euron. Crow’s Eye, they call him, as black a pirate as ever raised a sail.”

Excerpt From: George R.R. Martin. “A Storm of Swords.” Bantam. iBooks.

Hi. Does the second "as" also assumes the role of a relative noun, which is "who" in this case? He's always been black since he raised a sail?

Thank you.
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    It means he is as black as any other pirate who has ever raised a sail.
    It may offend your sense of political correctness, but I do believe this is a reference to his skin colour, which is very black indeed, more so than usual. This seems to be incorrect.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Here's a picture of him:



    The second as doesn't act as a relative pronoun; the as...as construction is an idiom for as adjective as any noun who...

    As you can see, perhaps, Euron is described as 'pale and handsome with a dark beard'. The 'black' refers to his disgraceful moral qualities; after all he captains a ship of mutes who have had their tongues ripped out.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I don't know the book. But "as black a pirate as ever raised a sail" usually means "as evil a pirate", not his skin color.

    (cross-posted with #3)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    As #3 points out, "<subject> is as <adjective> as <noun>" is a standard syntax in English.

    It means: both <subject> and <noun> are <adjective>. And of the two, <subject> is not less <adjective>.

    Judy is as pretty as Suzy. (this means Suzy is not prettier)

    Judy is as pretty as any girl in town. (no girl in town is prettier than Judy)

    He is as black a pirate as ever raised a sail.(no other pirate is blacker. The "sail" part is just colorful: all pirates raise sails)
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you all. I thought the as ... as ... construction is making comparison between his present personality and his past personality.
    But in this sentence the second as is a relative pronoun, right?
    He smokes as expensive a cigarette as (=that) he can afford.

    Or should I understand it as He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any other cigarette that he can afford.?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    We can't say He smokes as expensive a cigarette that he can afford, so, for me, it's not relative pronoun.

    I think you should understand it as He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any other cigarette that he can afford.?
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    We can't say He smokes as expensive a cigarette that he can afford, so, for me, it's not relative pronoun.

    I think you should understand it as He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any other cigarette that he can afford.?
    Thank you. So does it mean no other cigarette is more expensive than the one he smokes?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you. So does it mean no other cigarette is more expensive than the one he smokes?
    No. No other cigarette that he can afford is more expensive than the one(s) he smokes. He smokes the most expensive cigarettes he can afford, but there might be others, more expensive, that he cannot.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you both. I forgot to add "he can afford":). And I didn't know the construction as ... as ... can express the superlative. I used to think it expressed the idea that two things are on a par.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    No. It means that of all the cigarettes he can afford, he smokes the most expensive one. There may be many cigarettes he can't afford.

    Cross-posted.
    It just occurred to me: should we read the op sentence as: Of all the pirates, Euron is the blackest; or: in terms of the blackness, he is on a par with any other pirates?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It just occurred to me: should we read the op sentence as: Of all the pirates, Euron is the blackest; or: in terms of the blackness, he is on a par with any other pirates?
    He is as black as the blackest. There might be others equally as black as him, but none are blacker.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s a fairly simple “as … as” comparison. I would have thought the less common aspect of the phrase was the use of the indefinite article.

    as black a pirate as [any that] ever raised a sail
    =
    a pirate [who was] as black as any [pirate] that ever raised a sail


    (I haven’t read the whole thread, so apologies if this has already been said.)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, in effect. But more specifically equally “black” — archaic very evil or wicked (Oxford) — since that’s the point of the as … as construction.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Yes, in effect. But more specifically equally “black” — archaic very evil or wicked (Oxford) — since that’s the point of the as … as construction.
    Thank you. I see. So in the smoking example in #6, in effect the cigarette he smokes is among/one of the most expensive ones he can afford, because there might be other cigarettes he can afford which are equally as expensive as the one he smokes, right?
     
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    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Thank you both. So in a word, he is among the blackest pirates who have ever raised sails, right?
    I got the sense that there might be some misunderstanding of "black".

    Pirates raised the "Jolly Roger" flag when in attack mode. It was a black flag with a skull and crossbones. The color "black" refers back to the nature of the work, not the color of the participant.

    Jolly Roger - Wikipedia

    Jolly Roger is the traditional English name for the flags flown to identify a pirate ship about to attack, during the early 18th century (the later part of the Golden Age of Piracy).

    The flag most commonly identified as the Jolly Roger today, the skull and crossbones symbol on a black flag, was used during the 1710s by a number of pirate captains including Black Sam Bellamy, Edward England, and John Taylor, and it went on to become the most commonly used pirate flag during the 1720s.

     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford.

    You’re assuming that there may be other cigarette brands that cost the same as the one he smokes (which of course is entirely possible), but no such implication exists in that sentence. It simply states that the brand of cigarette that he smokes is the most expensive one he can afford — it’s as expensive as his budget allows.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    You’re assuming that there may be other cigarette brands that cost the same as the one he smokes (which of course is entirely possible), but no such implication exists in that sentence.
    Thank you, lingobingo. But why such similar implication (among the most xxx) exists in the pirate example but doesn't exist in the smoking example when both of them use the as ... as ... construction?
    I was told the smoking example can be read as He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any other cigarette that he can afford. , just like the pirate example in #7.
    Sorry if this question seems stupid, but I'm still confused.:confused:
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    as black a pirate as ever raised a sail
    as expensive a cigarette as he can afford


    It’s only the parts in red that are the same construction. The construction can form part of sentences expressing various different types of comparison, and what the subject+adjective combination is being compared with/to is irrelevant to the grammatical construction itself. In some examples there’s no hint of “among” anything:

    Paul was almost as foolish a child as his brother / Exercise is as important a factor as diet
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    There may have been other pirates as black as him, but there might not have been. There have been none blacker.
    There may be other cigarettes he could afford as expensive as the ones he smokes, but there might not be. There are no cigarettes more expensive that he can afford. There may be others more expensive that he cannot afford (but there might not be).
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    I'm not sure the two examples are exactly parallel.

    He was as black a pirate as ever raised a sail = There was no pirate more evil than him. He was as "black" as the blackest pirate ever.

    He smoked as expensive a cigarette as he could afford = There was no cigarette that he could afford that was more expensive than the ones he smoked (though there may have been some that cost the same).
    But there might have been more expensive cigarettes that he couldn't afford.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you all. This seems to be more a logical question than a grammatical one.
    After reading the latest replies several times, I think Uncle Jack, along wth Braque, and lingobingo say the difference things. Uncle Jack says "There may be other cigarettes (brands) he could afford as expensive as the ones he smokes, but there might not be", but lingobingo says there is no such implication.
    And UJ and Barque use the word "ones", which suggests he might smoke several different equally most expensive brands he can afford, instead of only one brand ---- that's what I mean by "among". Please let me know if I misunderstand your meanings.:)
     
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    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    Uncle Jack says "There may be other cigarettes (brands) he could afford as expensive as the ones he smokes, but there might not be",
    That's what I meant too.
    And UJ and Barque use the word "ones", which suggests he might smoke several different most expensive brands he can afford, instead of only one brand
    By "ones" I meant cigarettes of a single brand, not several different brands.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Uncle Jack says "There may be other cigarettes (brands) he could afford as expensive as the ones he smokes, but there might not be", but lingobingo says there is no such implication.
    What lingobingo actually said was:
    You’re assuming that there may be other cigarette brands that cost the same as the one he smokes (which of course is entirely possible)

    But, as you yourself have just explained, that’s to do with logic and is gleaned from the context, not the grammar as such.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you all. I suppose the idea "brands" is irrelevant in understanding the sentence.

    The original sentence "He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford." is not equivalent to "He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any (other) cigarette that he can afford".

    1. He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford.
    2. He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any (other) cigarette that he can afford.


    Both 1 and 2 mean no other cigarette that he can afford is more expensive than the one(s) he smokes.

    But 2 does imply the cigarette he smokes is among/one of the most expensive ones he can afford --- there might be other cigarettes he could afford that cost the same as the ones he smokes. This implication exists in 2 but not in 1.
    There may be other cigarettes he could afford as expensive as the ones he smokes, but there might not be.
    Yes, but the original sentence has no such implication.
    Please let know if I understand you, thank you.:)
    Sorry if this thinking disagrees with what is suggested in post #7.
     
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    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    The original sentence "He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford." is not equivalent to "He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any other cigarette that he can afford".
    I'm not sure the second sentence means what it's meant to. Cigarettes that he can afford may range in price from the cheapest one available to, for instance, a medium-priced brand. He may be able to afford any of them. The second sentence could even refer to a cheap brand that he can easily afford to buy.

    The sentence "He smokes as expensive a cigarette/as expensive cigarettes as he can afford" means "He smokes the most expensive cigarettes he can afford". There may or may not be more than one brand at that price.
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, but the original sentence has no such implication.
    Please let know if I understand you, thank you.:)
    Which original sentence are you talking about?

    As black a pirate as ever raised a sail is talking about one pirate. There may be other pirates as black as him. There may not be, we cannot tell.

    He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford could be talking about one type of cigarette or several, we cannot tell. There may be many types of cigarette as expensive as the one(s) he smokes, and he might smoke all of them, some of them or just one, or there might only be one type of cigarette that expensive. He doesn't smoke cigarettes that are cheaper, and there may be other cigarettes more expensive that he cannot afford.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    As black a pirate as ever raised a sail is talking about one pirate. There may be other pirates as black as him. There may not be, we cannot tell.

    He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford could be talking about one type of cigarette or several, we cannot tell. There may be many types of cigarette as expensive as the one(s) he smokes, and he might smoke all of them, some of them or just one, or there might only be one type of cigarette that expensive. He doesn't smoke cigarettes that are cheaper, and there may be other cigarettes more expensive that he cannot afford.
    Thank you, UJ. I know all of these, but my question doesn't seem to have any thing to do with types/brands of cigarette.
    Which original sentence are you talking about?
    He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford.

    I just think what is written in post #7 might not be right. Thomas thinks I should understand it as He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any other cigarette that he can afford.
    But now after reading your replies I think the original sentence "He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford." is not equivalent to "He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any (other) cigarette that he can afford".
    The original sentence "He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford." is not equivalent to "He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any (other) cigarette that he can afford".

    1. He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford.
    2. He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any (other) cigarette that he can afford.


    Both 1 and 2 mean no other cigarette that he can afford is more expensive than the one(s) he smokes.

    But 2 does imply the cigarette he smokes is among/one of the most expensive ones he can afford --- there might be other cigarettes he could afford that cost the same as the ones he smokes. This implication exists in 2 but not in 1.
    So what do you think of this thinking?
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    So what do you think of this thinking?
    I think that thinking is muddled.
    1. He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford.
    2. He smokes as expensive a cigarette as any (other) cigarette that he can afford.


    Both 1 and 2 mean no other cigarette that he can afford is more expensive than the one(s) he smokes.

    But 2 does imply the cigarette he smokes is among/one of the most expensive ones he can afford --- there might be other cigarettes he could afford that cost the same as the ones he smokes. This implication exists in 2 but not in 1.
    This implication exists in both versions. The difference between (1) and (2) is that (2) adds "any (other) cigarette that". This addition adds clarity, but does not change the meaning.

    The main idea, expressed in both versions, is that, whenever he smokes, he smokes the most expensive cigarettes that he can afford.

    It is always possible that the ones he chooses on that basis are either unique (because no other cigarettes cost exactly the same) or not unique (because some others do cost exactly the same). Obviously, in the latter case, he could clearly afford any of those others, and they would be no cheaper than the ones he chooses, They would therefore all meet his eligibility criterion.

    There is a maximum price he can afford. Let's call this amount P. He will not buy cigarettes than cost more than P.
    There may be one kind that costs exactly P, and then he will buy those.
    There may be several kinds that cost exactly P, and he will buy one of those.
    There may be no kinds that cost exactly P. In that case there will exist at least one kind that costs less than P (as otherwise he will be forced to stop smoking).
    If there exists only one such kind, that's the kind he will buy.
    If there exist several such kinds, they will either all cost the same, in which case he will buy one of them, or they will have different prices.
    Then there will exist a price Q, such that Q<P, and there is no kind that costs more than Q and less than P, i.e. Q is the maximum price of all the kinds that cost less than P.
    There may be only one kind that costs exactly Q, and then he will buy those.
    There may be several kinds that cost exactly Q, and then he will buy one of them.

    Easy. All it takes is a bit of logical thinking. :)
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, Edinburgher. I could figure out the logic myself. But what do you think about post #19 and #21? In #17 I asked whether in the smoking example the idea "the cigarette he smokes is among/one of the most expensive ones he can afford" is conveyed and lingobingo said no in #19 and #21, to which you say yes however. I can't help but think it is a contradiction between you and lingobingo.
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Lingobingo in post #19 is saying the same thing as Edinburgher and I have said: You cannot infer anything about cigarettes that he does not smoke from He smokes as expensive a cigarette as he can afford. Lingobingo was replying to your post #17 where you used 'among/one of', which implies there are others equally expensive, but your original sentence carries no such implication.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. But
    This implication exists in both versions.
    While,
    but no such implication exists in that sentence.
    Please correct me if I am wrong, but they did refer to the same implication I think.
    Implication: There might be other cigarettes he could afford that cost the same as the ones he smokes.
    #17 where you used 'among/one of', which implies there are others equally expensive,
    Yes, that's what I mean. The use of "among/one of" is due to that implication.
     
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    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I see what you mean. I'll revise my statement to "The implication exists in neither version". :)

    One problem is that "There might be...", is not really a solid implication. "There are..." would be. "There might be" merely speculates about a possible existence. It's equivalent to "There might or might not be". It's wishy-washy. The word "any" doesn't imply that others exist, it only refers to those that might exist.

    Although, unlike (2), (1) makes no mention of other cigarettes, the notion that others might exist does not in any way contradict (1). In that sense (1) and (2) are equivalent.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, Edinburgher. I see. But then why the implication "among/one of the most xxx" exist in the pirate example, which implies there are others equally blackest? As all of you said, there might be others equally as black as him, but that doesn't mean others do exist. The word "any" doesn't imply that others exist, it only refers to those that might exist.:confused:
    If the implication "among/one of the most xxx" doesn't exist in the smoking example, then it shouldn't exist in the pirate example either.
     
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    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    OK, it isn't very helpful to think too much about an implication in the pirate example. What implication? That there are other pirates? That isn't an implication, it's more of a prior assumption. We take it as given that many pirates exist.
    And don't pay too much attention to "who ever raised a sail", that's just a narrative embellishment. It doesn't mean that pirates specialize, some in hoisting sails, some in steering the ship, some in hurling grappling-irons, some in sword technique, etc. The author might as easily have written "who ever sailed the seven seas".
    Another given is that all pirates are black (in the sense of evil), and of course some are blacker than others. If you could measure this blackness, then on a scale from one to ten, he'd be a ten. But you can't measure blackness, it's too woolly a concept, and so it makes no sense to consider whether there are other pirates who are also tens, or whether his nearest neighbours are nines. Also, there's nothing special about a scale of one to ten. If you used a scale of one to five instead, then both the nines and tens would be fives. If you used a scale of one to twenty, then some of the tens might be 19s and some 20s.
    This is the key difference between the pirates and the cigarettes. Cost is capable of being measured and compared precisely. Blackness isn't.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you so much, Edin.
    so it makes no sense to consider whether there are other pirates who are also tens, or whether his nearest neighbours are nines.
    Does this mean it's not OK to say the implication for the pirate example is "he is among/one of the blackest pirates", which implies there are other pirates who are equally as black as him, which is merely a guess, not a fact, because this sentence carries no such implication? Because there might be no other pirate who is as black as him.
     

    andrewg927

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Thank you so much, Edin.

    Does this mean it's not OK to say the implication for the pirate example is "he is among/one of the blackest pirates", which implies there are other pirates who are equally as black as him, which is merely a guess, not a fact, because this sentence carries no such implication? Because there might be no other pirate who is as black as him.
    You should try to replace the word "black" with the word "evil". I think it makes it a lot easier to understand.

    He is among the most evil pirates who ever set sail.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    You should try to replace the word "black" with the word "evil". I think it makes it a lot easier to understand.

    He is among the most evil pirates who ever set sail.
    Thank you. But that is not necessarily the case. That sentence can mean he is the most evil pirate who ever set sail in the world --- there is no pirate on a par with him, I think, right?
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    It implies there could be other pirates as evil as him. If the writer knew for sure there had never been a pirate as evil as him, he'd have said "He's the most evil pirate who ever set sail".
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you both. But on the basis of what Edinburgher told me, I still think the pirate example says nothing about other equally evil pirates. There could/might (or could/might not) be other pirates as evil as him. "There might be...", is not really a solid implication. "There are..." would be.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This has all gone off at a tangent and I’ve stopped following it, but with regard to that last comment…

    An implication is a conclusion drawn despite something not being explicitly stated. If you say “there are” [whatever], that’s not an implication, it’s a statement.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    You should try to replace the word "black" with the word "evil".
    Well said. Evilness is even more difficult to quantify than blackness.
    I still think the pirate example says nothing about other equally evil pirates.
    Exactly. That's because equality is a concept that can't really be applied to evilness. In particular, unlike with value or cost, you can't distinguish between "greater than" and "greater than or equal". ">" vs ">=".
    I’ve stopped following it
    I'm not surprised. "Life's too short".
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you.
    Exactly. That's because equality is a concept that can't really be applied to evilness. In particular, unlike with value or cost, you can't distinguish between "greater than" and "greater than or equal". ">" vs ">=".
    If so, I'd say the pirate example doesn't mean "he is among the blackest/most evil pirates who ever set sails" but means "he is the blackest pirate". The op example just talks about one (blackest) pirate, Euron. (see #30) Right?
     

    andrewg927

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Thank you.

    If so, I'd say the pirate example doesn't mean "he is among the blackest/most evil pirates who ever set sails" but means "he is the blackest pirate". The op example just talks about one (blackest) pirate, Euron. (see #30) Right?
    Evilness is a quality. It is not easy to measure a quality but we all have some idea of what the ranking might be. The OP means he is among the most evil pirates.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you all. I'm not sure if I get Edinburgher's idea in #38. But I think if we have to find a reason why the cigarette example is not understood as "among the most xxx", that reason is we can measure the cost and compare costs precisely, so we can prove it to be the only most expensive brand (but we can't measure blackness compare blackness precisely so we can't prove he is the only blackest pirate). Does it make sense?
    If it does, then I'd say such a sentence as "He scores on the exam as high as any in his class" tends to be understood as "His score is the highest in his class" rather than "His score is one of/among the highest in his class" since scores are capable of being measured and compared precisely. Right?
     

    andrewg927

    Senior Member
    English - American
    It would be clearer to me if you used "any other student in his class". "He scores on the exam as high as any other student in his class." The sentence would be understood as "his score is among the highest in the class". Why? Because if we want to say "his score is the highest in the class" we would say just that. It makes sense and it's simple. Just remember your original sentence uses a language that we typically call flowery. It sounds awesome in a book but as you see throughout this entire thread even native English speakers sometimes can't agree on what exactly these sentences are supposed to mean.
     
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