I can stand it, if he can.

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Ahmed Samir Darwish

Senior Member
Arabic
,In "In the Midst of Alarms" (1894) by Robert Barr, a blacksmith was talking to two of his clients, while another man was sitting on the bench whittling a stick aimlessly:

. And I don’t do my work, either, by sitting on a bench and whittling a stick.

“That’s so. That’s so,” said Sandy, chuckling, in the admiring tone of one who intimated that, when the boss spoke, wisdom was uttered. “That’s one on you, Sam.”

“I guess I can stand it, if he can,” said the whittler from the bench; which was considered fair repartee.

To what "it" and "he" stand here?
 
  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Could you please give us some context and explain who the speakers are? Also it would be a kindness and probably would get you more speedy answers if you gave details of the source such as chapter and paragraph.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    "It" is "doing my work" and "he" is the blacksmith.

    It is a joke, of a form that was moderately common a hundred or so years ago, but is almost incomprehensible to modern readers. and I am not sure I can explain it. It might be better if we knew who the man was and what he was doing there.

    The comment by the blacksmith was meant as a rebuke to the man. Blacksmiths quite obviously have to work hard, in hot and dirty conditions. The blacksmith was accusing the old man of being lazy, that all he did was sit on a bench and whittle a stick, but he expressed it by suggesting that this was the man's actual occupation (which it presumably wasn't).

    However, the old man responded by implying that sitting on a bench and whittling a stick really was his occupation. Furthermore, he ignored any suggestion that the blacksmith was disparaging him, but responded as if the blacksmith was simply making an ordinary comparison; the blacksmith did his work and the whittler did his (equally difficult) work. He said that if the blacksmith could stand (tolerate) doing his (the blacksmith's) work, then he (the whittler) could probably stand doing his (the whittler's) work.
     
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    Ahmed Samir Darwish

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Could you please give us some context and explain who the speakers are? Also it would be a kindness and probably would get you more speedy answers if you gave details of the source such as chapter and paragraph.
    ,They were in a blacksmith's shop, the first speaker is the boss, the second one is his major assistant, and the third is another man. That was in chapter 10
     

    Ahmed Samir Darwish

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    "It" is "doing my work" and "he" is the blacksmith.

    It is a joke, of a form that was moderately common a hundred or so years ago, but is almost incomprehensible to modern readers. and I am not sure I can explain it. It might be better if we knew who the man was and what he was doing there.

    The comment by the blacksmith was meant as a rebuke to the man. Blacksmiths quite obviously have to work hard, in hot and dirty conditions. The blacksmith was accusing the old man of being lazy, that all he did was sit on a bench and whittling a stick, but he expressed it by suggesting that this was the man's actual occupation (which it presumably wasn't).

    However, the old man responded by implying that sitting on a bench and whittling a stick really was his occupation. Furthermore, he ignored any suggestion that the blacksmith was disparaging him, but responded as if the blacksmith was simply making an ordinary comparison; the blacksmith did his work and the whittler did his (equally difficult) work. He said that if the blacksmith could stand (tolerate) doing his (the blacksmith's) work, then he (the whittler) could probably stand doing his (the whittler's) work.
    That's really helpful, thank you so much.
     
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