dig

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Tenos

Senior Member
Arabic
Would someone please help me understand the meaning of dig in this excerpt from the book Life and letters of Charles Darwin, by Francis Darwin.

In the Gardeners Chronicle, 1855, p. 758, appeared a notice (half a column in length) by my father on the "Vitality of Seeds" The facts related refer to the " Sand-walk "; the wood was planted in 1846 on a piece of pasture land laid down as grass in 1840. In 1855, on the soil being dug in several places, Charlock {Brassica sinapistrum) sprang up freely. The subject continued to interest him, and I find a note dated July 2nd, 1874, in which my father recorded that forty-six plants of Charlock sprang up in that year over a space (14 x 7 feet) which had been dug to a considerable depth.

I know that dig can mean "remove" as well as "plough"; so which meaning is intended here?
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It means break up or turn over with a spade or shovel. The standard meaning. We don't dig with a plough. We plough with a plough (BE spelling).
     

    Tenos

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    What I wish to ascertain is whether the soil was removed or turned over in order to be cultivated with trees.
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    We don't know if the soil was removed or just turned over. The text says "dug to a considerable depth". There's no need to remove soil to plant trees, it just has to be loosened. The trees were planted in 1846, the soil was dug in 1855.
     
    Last edited:

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I imagine it was merely turned over ~ if they'd removed it, the result would have been a very small piece of ground riddled with deep holes full of charlock (wild mustard) o_O
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    What I wish to ascertain is whether the soil was removed or turned over in order to be cultivated with trees.
    Dig as it is used here does not normally mean remove. When we soil has been dug to plant a tree we have taken soil from the ground to make a hole, and we have formed a pile of that soil. We then put the tree in the hole, and then we put the soil from the pile back into the hole. The soil has not been removed, it has been moved.

    When dig means remove we do not talk of "the soil being dug". The word dig includes the soil or sand in its meaning. For example, in "they dug a ditch", the word "dug" of itself means "removed soil with a spade, shovel or mechanical digger".
     
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