gum adhesive and old central heating turned up a little too

tesoke

Senior Member
USA
Persian
Hi, I cannot understand the meaning of the red part of the following sentence from “I’m a stranger here myself” by Bill Bryson. Would you please explain it to me? Thanks a lot.

It's in an attractive Federal-style brick building, confident but not flashy, that looks like a post office ought to. It even smells nice-a combination of gum adhesive and old central heating turned up a little too high.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't know why Bill Bryson finds this particular combination of smells "nice", but I can imagine what he's talking about.
    ... gum adhesive = the stuff commonly used to stick labels onto parcels
    ... central heating turned up a little too high = old-fashioned heating turned up higher than normal gives off an interesting smell of hot painted pipework and hot dust.
     

    tesoke

    Senior Member
    USA
    Persian
    I have two problem with this red part:

    1) I thought that adhesive is an adj for "gum". So, why the author has used adj after noun.

    2) I can understand the meaning of "old central heating turned up" word-by-word. But I cannot understand how panjandrum understand that this part means about "painted pipework and hot dust"! Those things are not in the sentence.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Adhesive is used as the noun here and the "gum" is a noun being used as an adjective to specify the kind of adhesive.

    Central heating was made using a boiler and hot water pipes sending hot water to radiators around the building. Over the years (i.e., as it became old) it was painted and repainted and slowly gathered dust after each painting. Thus, when the heat was turned up the paint was heated and gave off the characteristic aroma being described.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top