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Senior Member
If a person claims s/he can speak very good English, but when he really speaks English, eveybody knows that his or her English is not that good.

Can you say: "His English is betraying him /her." ?
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    New question:

    I've been puzzling over a sentence in John Fowles' novel The Magus. I had never realised how ambiguous the verb "betray" can be.

    The narrator is describing his new Australian girl-friend:

    Alison was always female; she never, like so many English girls, betrayed her gender. She wasn't beautiful, she very often wasn't even pretty. But she had a fashionably thin boyish figure, she had a contemporary dress sense, she had a conscious way of walking, and her sum was extraordinarily more than her parts. I would sit in the car and watch her walking down the street towards me, pause, cross the road; and she looked wonderful.

    I think there are two possible interpretations: i) you couldn't tell by looking at her whether she was male or female. ii) she was always loyal to her gender - she dressed and acted in a feminine way.

    Fowles must have intended meaning (ii), since "Alison was always female", but am I right in saying that the verb is ambiguous here, and is it being used correctly? It seems to me that if we disregard the context, meaning (i) is more likely.



    Senior Member
    I agree that "betray" is ambiguous in this sentence. I also think that (i) is a likely conclusion for a reader to make.
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