in anger

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kahroba, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. kahroba Senior Member

    Dear all
    What's your interpretation for " in anger" in the follwing context from Ulysses of Joyce, Episode 12 (Cyclops):

    Last edited: Jul 19, 2012
  2. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    The "in anger" part is figurative; it means "seriously." The citizen may have placed a few small bets on horses, but never enough money to matter to him. It doesn't mean that people get angry when they bet on horses.
  3. lorelord Senior Member

    UK - english
    "in anger" means really do it, no half measures - ie a substantial bet in this case
  4. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    I think there's an echo of "never fired a shot in anger", which means never fired a shot in battle,as opposed to training and target practise. So I agree with egmont- Bloom is not a regular betting man.
  5. In this thread I both learned something and was completely taken aback, since an AE speaker and BE speaker both say in this betting situation "in anger" means seriously, or really do it, and I've never encountered such usage. I would have thought it means something different as a statement or piece of advice to never undertake anything serious or important when one is distracted by emotional upset or perhaps inebriation because you are then not performing with a clear head with all your skills at their peak:

    "So, John, I heard you and Mary had a huge fight and you both threatened divorce. Have you seen a lawyer yet?" "No, not yet, I want to calm down first. I would never do anything like that in anger."
  6. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    I can see your point, DT, but I think Velisarius explains the image clearly here.

    Joyce is making his character talk jokingly of betting as though it was warfare.
  7. kahroba Senior Member

    Thanks guys; I'm really grateful.
  8. Hope it was understood I was not challenging Joyce's usage, a writer whose images and prose have required interpretation to legions of English speakers and readers from the early last century well into the present, :)but had wanted to point out that the phrase exists outside of him with other meanings.
  9. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    Using in anger (derived from "a shot fired in anger" - in battle, as opposed to training) to mean seriously is quite common. I have heard it in the past few weeks by a politician (but can't find a source).

    I also use it regularly myself to indicate something done "for real" rather than theoretically. I might buy a new hammer and get used to the feel of it by driving a few test nails before using it to strike nails "in anger" (to actually build something useful). I wouldn't be angry, merely doing something serious or "real".

    Dale is correct; the phrase has other uses, but I'm pretty sure that Joyce was using it in the sense of "seriously" or to describe an action with significant consequences.

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