Highly efficient, if a bit invisible

tesoke

Senior Member
USA
Persian
Hi, during the following sentence, from Charlie Hogle’s Earring” by Paul Theroux, would you please explain the meaning of the red part? Thanks a lot.

“This fellow Hogle—very gifted, they say, if you can describe a telex operator in that way. Very personable. Highly efficient, if a bit invisible. He’s been here almost three years. No trouble, no scandal, nothing.” Horton stopped talking.
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Highly efficient = very effective in his work.

    a bit invisible = a person who is not noticed when he is at work.
     

    tesoke

    Senior Member
    USA
    Persian
    So the real sentences was this: "... He is highly efficient, if he is a bit invisible ... " and "he is" is omitted. Am I right?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    More correctly, the meaning with a verb added is "He is highly efficient, but a bit invisible". When "if" is used to introduce this sort of comparison it means "but".
     

    tesoke

    Senior Member
    USA
    Persian
    Thank you so much. Frankly my major problem is that why the author has emitted "he is" in the mentioned sentences. Previously, I had asked a similar question in this forum and others said that those are emitted because those are obvious. So, can we emit every part of sentence if it is obvious?
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Thank you so much. Frankly my major problem is that why the author has emitted "he is" in the mentioned sentences. Previously, I had asked a similar question in this forum and others said that those are emitted because those are obvious. So, can we emit every part of sentence if it is obvious?
    It is generally the style in English not to repeat things unless there is a good reason, Here we know the comments relate to Hogle, so there is no need to repeat the pronoun and verb. This is especially true in real speech or representations of speech (as you have here) which might seem rather bitty, almost like notes rather than written sentences.

    By the way,spelling: omit and omitted.
     

    tesoke

    Senior Member
    USA
    Persian
    More correctly, the meaning with a verb added is "He is highly efficient, but a bit invisible". When "if" is used to introduce this sort of comparison it means "but".
    Sorry, you has translated "if" as "but". I did not find this meaning in any dictionary. Would you please introduce any dictionary offering this meaning. Thanks.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Sorry, you has translated "if" as "but". I did not find this meaning in any dictionary. Would you please introduce any dictionary offering this meaning. Thanks.
    I'm trying to give you a way of understanding this construction, not to provide you with a dictionary meaning. If we have "He is highly efficient, if a bit invisible" that cannot be rewritten as "He is highly efficient, if he is a bit invisible". That makes the phrase beginning "if" a conditional, which it is not. The meaning can be written as "He is highly efficient, although he is a bit invisible" or "He is highly efficient, but a bit invisible". Perhaps I should have used the "although" version as being clearer.
     
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