it was the flimsy nature of the wing itself that

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DUET

Senior Member
Bengali
Source:
Manhattan Text completion

The library wing was first conceived merely as a stopgap to address the problem of book overstock until a more permanent solution could be found. Ironically, it was the flimsy nature of the wing itself that attracted such architectural interest and ultimately led to its canonization as a paragon of its kind. Now a statute exists to protect this originally transient structure in perpetuity.


I believe "that" refers to "flimsy nature". What is the role of "itself"?
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    You can probably find people who think "itself" applies to either "flimsy nature" or "wing". In either case, I think you can argue that "itself" doesn't add any new meaning or information to the sentence, except perhaps as a form of emphasis.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    You have found me who thinks that "itself" refers to "wing" - the "itself" carries the emphatic nuance "specifically; that particular; the very; that very; alone; by itself; taken in isolation."

    "The windows were filthy, the tyres were flat, the paint had faded, but the car itself was still in good condition."
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    My initial impression was that "itself" applied to "wing" too, but further rereading muddied the issue. It's like a silhouette of a vase that transforms into paired faces: Keep staring at it, and your perception shifts from one to the other. Normally, one's thinking congeals around the interpretation that has the most probable meaning, but as I noted either interpretation works here.

    Consider your example reworded, PaulQ: "The windows were filthy, the tyres were flat, the paint had faded, but the condition of the car itself was good."
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I too am suffering from staring at it for too long. What do you think of "The engine was wrecked but the condition itself of the car was good."?

    I ask as we could have:
    1. "... the {condition itself} of the car was good." I don't think this can be correct.
    2. "... the condition of the {car itself} was good."
    3. "... the {condition of the car} itself was good." this is too inclusive for a car that has a wrecked engine

    I still see that as "... the condition of the {car itself} was good."
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Other than that, how did you enjoy the play? Yes, at some point the damage in the example would be such that asserting that the condition is otherwise good becomes risible.

    "The condition itself" does seem nonsensical.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It applies to neither. The "itself" is just a confuser which adds no meaning. It was in no way the wing itself that attracted architectural attention, but was it's flimsy nature. The writer mistakenly avoided the preferable "it was the wing's flimsy nature" wrote "the flimsy nature of the wing" and decided it needed padding, so stuck in an "itself" without thinking about what it meant.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    If it applies to neither, we must explain why it changes: "Although the rest of the team were ill, the health of John himself remain robust." which is the equivalent of "Although the rest of the team were ill, the John's own health remain robust." The reflexive certainly heightens the contrast/emphasis in the same way that own does.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    PaulQ, in your example you are using the reflexive pronoun appropriately. We don't need to explain it any further than you already have. In the OP's sentence it is used inappropriately. That's why both you and bibliolept have choked over the sentence when repeatedly re-reading it. Putting any emphasis on the wing is nonsense; it was the flimsy nature of the construction that got the architects so excited. An appropriate use of itself would be:
    Ironically, it was not the wing itself but its flimsy nature that attracted such architectural interest ...
     
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