"at pains"

jeanvanier

Senior Member
Albanian - Kosovo
Hi all, the following quote from a newscast got me confused——


"ALTHOUGH THE WHITE HOUSE TODAY WAS AT PAINS TO ADMIT IT, THE U.S. IS STEPPING DEEPER INTO THE WAR IN IRAQ AND SYRIA, ..."

The coverage came as the White House had been dodging the accusation that the U.S. was elevating their investment in Iraq and Syria, when in fact it was. "Was at pains to admit it" here does not seem to agree with its general meaning of "to go to great strength to do something".
 
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  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    This seems to mean that staff members in the White House found it difficult to admit that the U.S. was becoming more involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria.
     

    jeanvanier

    Senior Member
    Albanian - Kosovo
    This seems to mean that staff members in the White House found it difficult to admit that the U.S. was becoming more involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria.
    Exactly, the thing is that the traditional definition of the phrase cannot explain it.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I found the use of "at pains" in that sentence to be strange and even misleading.

    It doesn't surprise me that you couldn't find a relevant definition for its apparent meaning in any source that covers the meaning of "at pains". It ordinarily means that somebody makes an unusual effort to do something.
     

    jeanvanier

    Senior Member
    Albanian - Kosovo
    I found the use of "at pains" in that sentence to be strange and even misleading.

    It doesn't surprise me that you couldn't find a relevant definition for its apparent meaning in any source that covers the meaning of "at pains". It ordinarily means that somebody makes an unusual effort to do something.
    OK, at least I feel better now knowing a native speaker feels the same way.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I agree. The newsman is mis-using the phrase, in order to make an accusation. "Was at pains to admit it" sounds much worse than "did not agree". So the bad-sounding phrase was used for the accusation.

    According to the newsman, "The U.S. is stepping deeper into the war in Iraq". The White House may agree (but won't admit it), or may simply disagree.
     
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    jeanvanier

    Senior Member
    Albanian - Kosovo
    I agree. The newsman is mis-using the phrase, in order to make an accusation. "Was at pains to admit it" sounds much worse than "did not agree". So the bad-sounding phrase was used for the accusation.

    According to the newsperson, "The U.S. is stepping deeper into the war in Iraq". That is an accusation. The White House does not agree. So he adds a new accusation, saying the White House "was at pains to admit" something he claims is true.

    These accusations and biased "facts" are common for newsmen (90% of whom are openly anti-Trump). This has led to widespread distrust of newsmen in the US.
    Sorry but this was during the Obama administration...
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    My mistake! I jumped to a conclusion.

    But there still is an open issue as to whether the White House agreed (and wouldn't admit it) or simply disagreed.
     

    jeanvanier

    Senior Member
    Albanian - Kosovo
    My mistake! I jumped to a conclusion.

    But there still is an open issue as to whether the White House agreed (and wouldn't admit it) or simply disagreed.
    I don't think it's a matter of whether it agreed, because apparently it was obvious to everyone that the accusation—or "claim", to sound more objective—was true, at least based on what had previously been reported by this news station(which could've been one-sided as well due to bias, so I don't know), such as that Obama had repeatedly stated he would not deploy US troops(yet later he did). The White House sure seemed like it was quibbling and knew in its head that it was rightly being accused.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "To be at pains to do something" means to be eager to do something.

    The newscast misuses the expression. Clearly, the White House was not eager to admit that the U.S. was "stepping deeper into the war in Iraq and Syria". The writer appears to think that the expression means that something was painful, difficult.
     
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