Breaking all the Greenoughs with a small Swift

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kahroba

Senior Member
Persian
Dear Word-Lovers!
May I ask you all help me understand the following phrase in "Camera Eye (25)" in "The 42nd Parallel", USA, written by John Dos Passos.
"with a small Swift break all the Greenoughs in the shooting gallery"
In this respect:
1) I think "Greenough" should be the American sculptor but I don't know if his works could be found in shooting gallery!!
2) Camera Eyes are sort of flow of consciousness authobiography of Dos Passos and Camera Eye (25) is about writer's experiences in Harvard (he entered Harvard in 1912 and was there until 1916 and after that went to sapin and then joined Ambulance Group after WW1 broke out)
3) could "Swift" mean a small gun?
Here's part of the text in "Camera Eye (25):
"
hanven't got the nerve to break out the bellglass
four years under the ethercone breathe deep gently now that's the way be a good boy one two three four five six get A's in some courses but don't be a grind be interested in literature but remain a gentleman don't be seen with Jews or socialists
sit looking out into the twilight of the pleasantest four years of your life
grow cold with culture like a cup of tea forgotten between an incenseburner and a volume of Oscar Wilde cold and not strong like a claret lemonade drunk at a Pop Concert in Symphony Hall
four years I didn't know you could do what you Michaelangelo wanted say
Marx
to all
the professors with a small Swift all the Greenoughs in the shooting gallery
but tossed with eyes smarting all the spring night reading The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus and went mad listening to the streetcarwheels screech grinding in a rattle of loose trucks round Harvard Square ....
it was like the Magdebourg spheres the pressure outside sustained the vacuum within
and I hadn't the nerve
to jump up and walk out of doors and tell them all to go take a flying
Rimbaud
at the moon
 
  • liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I have a theory, but it's more of a guess than anything.
    Greenough was an artist who made portraits of important political figures. Possibly "Swift" is the author of Gulliver's Travels - a well-known political satirist, although not contemporaneous with Greenough.
    Perhaps a short passage from Swift is enough to destroy the mystique and grandeur of great political figures?
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Dear Randisi
    You're my knot-opener (that's how we say it in Farsi -what's the right term for that in English?)
    I had searched all sites but could not find what you just sent. It explains everything now. the text is all about worries of a young man who's going to leave the bellglass of Harvard and enter into the open, the outside society, the madhouse.
    I bow to your helpfullness.

    One more question:
    There's a reference to Rimbaud, the French famous poet there. Should I pose it in antoher thread?: "to jump up and walk out of doors and tell them all to go take a flying
    Rimbaud
    at the moon" (the Camera Eye (25) ends there)
    Well, I know the idiom "flying at the moon" but I can not link it with Rimbaud. You know the French much more than me. It kisses your artful hand.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I think it means "take a flying leap at the moon", but I don't know what the connection with Rimbaud is.
     

    Randisi.

    Senior Member
    American English; USA
    Restoring its full vulgarity, the phrase reads "to go and take a flying f*ck at the moon" or the euphemism of "flying leap" or "jump." Nevertheless, it is an insult telling someone to "get lost." Rimbaud was known as a scandalous poet for his bohemian life and homosexuality, so his name is being used as a literary euphemism for "f*ck."

    These days we would leave off the "at the moon" part.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    Restoring its full vulgarity, the phrase reads "to go and take a flying f*ck at the moon" or the euphemism of "flying leap" or "jump." Nevertheless, it is an insult telling someone to "get lost." Rimbaud was known as a scandalous poet for his bohemian life and homosexuality, so his name is being used as a literary euphemism for "f*ck."

    These days we would leave off the "at the moon" part.
    I had the impression that "the moon" had been replaced by "a rolling donut".:D
     

    Randisi.

    Senior Member
    American English; USA
    As far as Greenough goes, maybe shooting galleries used clay figures as targets back then, so the clay figures would resemble sculptures.

    Hi, Liliput. I'm not sure I get the joke. Do you say "take a flying f*ck at a rolling donut" in England?
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    As far as Greenough goes, maybe shooting galleries used clay figures as targets back then, so the clay figures would resemble sculptures.

    Hi, Liliput. I'm not sure I get the joke. Do you say "take a flying f*ck at a rolling donut" in England?
    Hello. Take "f*ck" literally and consider the type of doughnut which has a hole in the middle and it should become clear. Succeeding in this effort would be about as likely as succeeding with the flying leap at the moon. I was under the impression it was an American expression (hence the American spelling of doughnut (donut)) but maybe the Brits invented it, who knows?

    Is it possible that "Swift" is a play on words and refers to both the rifle and the political satirist?
     

    Randisi.

    Senior Member
    American English; USA
    Liliput, may be right. Given the other artistic substitutions such as Greenough and Rimbaud, Swift may refer more to the author - maybe a slim volume by him - than the "rifle." But as she ("Lili" makes me think female) suggests, surely a pun is intended.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    But as she ("Lili" makes me think female) suggests, surely a pun is intended.
    Liliput was the brand of stapler on my desk when I was trying to think of a username, also I'm a fan of Swift's work - I'm not a she, but sshh! don't tell anyone ;).
     
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