It's a swell suite

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "It's a swell suite" means in the following sentences:

The room was large and stifling, and, though it was already four o'clock, opening the windows admitted only a gust of hot shrubbery from the Park. Daisy went to the mirror and stood with her back to us, fixing her hair.
"It's a swell suite," whispered Jordan respectfully, and every one laughed.

This is an excerpt from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. On a stifling day, Daisy, Tom, Gatsby, Nick, and Jordan decided to go to town, where they ended up engaging a suite room in the Plaza Hotel. Entering the room, Jordan whispered "It's a swell suite," and everyone laughed.

In this part, I could not understand what exactly "swell" meant and why everyone laughed. I looked it up and found that it meant "very good," but still could not grasp why they laughed.
I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    A suite is a set of rooms, maybe only two, a sitting room and a bedroom perhaps. "Swell' means very fine. It's American slang and might be outdated - an American will comment, I'm sure.
    Who is Jordan? A woman I suppose. I expect they laughed because it wasn't anything special. A naive person might think it was. These aren't sophisticated women are they? It was a rather sordid drinks party if I remember rightly.
    That is wrong: Jordan and her friend Daisy are socialites so I don't know why they laughed. Perhaps they all knew it wasn't so swell and Jordan was just saying that
     
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    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Maybe it was simply the alliteration. "swell suite" sounds like "swell sweet". The repeat of the 'sw' sound is mildly amusing.
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Apparently, in an earlier draft of the book the sentence after that was: “Our secondary preoccupation was with the conviction that this was all very funny.” But there’s no clue as to why it was so funny. Perhaps Fitzgerald just wanted to build up the tension between a light-hearted atmosphere and a showdown between Tom and Gatsby.
     

    ewhite

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    I may be totally off base here, but the word "swell" for me implies that the speaker is one of those working-class-gal-with-a-heart-of-gold types often played in movies of the 30s by the likes of Joan Blondell. So the laughter might have been at Jordan (if she was a socialite) aping her social inferior
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    That was my first thought: 'swell' was out of place. Then I remembered 'What a swell party this is' from High Society, so I don't think that's it.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Another revision in the same section of the story:

    Earlier version (Trimalchio):
    There was a moment’s silence. The telephone book slipped from its nail and splashed to the floor, whereupon Jordan whispered “Excuse me,” and we all laughed again.

    ‘Standard’ version of the book:
    There was a moment of silence. The telephone book slipped from its nail and splashed to the floor, whereupon Jordan whispered, “Excuse me”— but this time no one laughed.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    From Cliff'sNotes, Jordan is
    Professional golfer of questionable integrity. Friend of Daisy's who, like Daisy, represents women of a particular class. Jordan is the young, single woman of wealth, admired by men wherever she goes. She dates Nick casually, but seems offended when he is the first man not to fall for her charms. Although she is savvy, she comes off as somewhat shallow in her approach to life.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Hermione Golightly, Chasint, lingobingo, ewhite, entangledbank,

    Thank you very much for the comments.
    So Jordan was from a high social class, so her word choice of "swell" might have been out of place, which might have excited the laughter.
    Or, it was just the alliteration of the two words—swell suite—that provoked their laughter.
    Or there was nothing to laugh at, but only the author decided that they should laugh at this moment to create a lighthearted atmosphere.

    There are three possible answers, and it is very hard to choose one definite answer.
    Probably the author might really have intended all three of them.
    I truly appreciate your help. :)
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Nobody seems to know exactly including the author!
    Could you please give us the chapter reference in future, or better still a link? It's often useful to read around the quote, sometimes essential for greater insight.

    I love this novel, which I read for the first time only recently!
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Could you please give us the chapter reference in future, or better still a link? It's often useful to read around the quote, sometimes essential for greater insight.
    Dear Hermione Golightly,

    Sure, the quote is from the Chapter 7, and here is the link.
    I am sorry I had not attached the link earlier; I would make sure to attach it when I upload questions in future.

    I love this novel too. It gives me fresh insights whenever I revisit it! :)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I would like to know what "It's a swell suite" means in the following sentences:

    The room was large and stifling, and, though it was already four o'clock, opening the windows admitted only a gust of hot shrubbery from the Park. Daisy went to the mirror and stood with her back to us, fixing her hair.
    "It's a swell suite," whispered Jordan respectfully, and every one laughed.
    swell (adj.)

    "fashionably dressed or equipped," 1810, from swell (n.) in the "stylish person" sense. As "good, excellent," by 1897; as a stand-alone expression of satisfaction it is recorded from 1930 in American English. swell | Origin and meaning of swell by Online Etymology Dictionary

    Swell is chiefly AE, and only very rarely used in BE. It is now a very dated adjective.

    It seems that the room was not "swell" at all, and that Jordan was either being ironic - hence the laughter, or showing her lack of class.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear PaulQ,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So I guess the Plaza Hotel around the Central Park was not very satisfactory back in the 1920's.
    I really appreciate your help. :)
     
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