For all the airth/earth like a string of inions

Casartelli

New Member
Portuguese - Brazil
Hi all!
I've been reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville. In the book, there's one passage I don't quite understand the meaning of.

“Wall,” said the landlord, fetching a long breath, “that’s a purty long
sarmon for a chap that rips a little now and then. But be easy, be easy, this here
harpooneer I have been tellin’ you of has just arrived from the south seas, where
he bought up a lot of ’balmed New Zealand heads (great curios, you know),
and he’s sold all on ’em but one, and that one he’s trying to sell to-night, cause
tomorrow’s Sunday, and it would not do to be sellin’ human heads about the
streets when folks is goin’ to churches. He wanted to, last Sunday, but I stopped
him just as he was goin’ out of the door with four heads strung on a string, for all
the airth like a string of inions
.”

I've looked up the definition of "airth" on Wiktionary and it turns out to be just another spelling of earth.

(chiefly Scotland) Alternative spelling of earth.

And "inions" can be

(anatomy) A small protuberance on the external surface of the back of the skull near the neck; the external occipital protuberance.

But I suppose it's just the author reproducing the language variation of the landlord as in "Wall", "sarmon", etc. So I suppose that just means "onions", which makes a lot of sense in the context.

But still, it doesn't seem clear to me the meaning of "for all the earth" in that context. Could someone help me with that?
 
  • Casartelli

    New Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    This is an out-of-date phrase, but it is common in older books. So "the source" is many books that Glasguensis has read.
    The reason I asked the source is that I didn't find the expression in the dictionaries that I usually do my search on. So if he could indicate where the information came from, it would be very useful to me in the future. But if it came from his own experience in reading books, that's fine. Appreciate your help!
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The dialogue is written in such a way as to convey that the landlord is speaking in a particular dialect – which explains the strange spellings of earth and onions (as airth and inions). There is no real word spelt airth, as far as I can see. And I’ve never come across “for all the earth”. As velisarius points out, the standard version of that is “for all the world [like]”.

    Lexico’s entry for it reads:

    look for all the world like
    Look precisely like (used for emphasis)​
    ‘fossil imprints that look for all the world like motorcycle tracks’
     
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