Keep it marginal

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STMC

Member
English-Chinese
Hello all members! The following sentences are from an action movie called "John Wick" in 2014. In this context, the doctor is stitching up the man's wounds.

The man: So what sort of movement am I looking at?
The doctor: Well! If you're looking to heal, then keep it marginal. However, if you still have business to attend to, uh, (gives the man some medicine and says) take two of these beforehand.

What does "keep it marginal" mean in this context?

Best wishes!
 
  • JustKate

    Senior Member
    Assuming you (or the transcript you found :)) are quoting the movie correctly, I'd say it's an error and the intended word is minimal, meaning "as little as possible." The doctor wants the man to move as little as is possible.
     

    STMC

    Member
    English-Chinese
    Hi JustKate! I'm sure I quote the transcript correctly because I read the English subtitle very carefully. The word was "marginal". Thank you for your help :)
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Just because you're reading it correctly doesn't mean it was transcibed correctly. Either the transcriptionist made an error (which is more common than you think) or the writers did. That's my theory, anyway, and the reason is that I can't think of a meaning of "marginal" that fits here.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    It appears to make sense to me. "marginal" would be in the sense of "small" or "slight": keep your movements small or slight if you want to heal
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    That's interesting, perpend. It doesn't work for me even a little bit. As far as I know, that's not what "marginal" means. That is, however, exactly what "minimal" means.
    In the dictionary here, we have:
    barely adequate:
    and
    close to a limit, esp a lower limit
    I would say these allow for interpretation as "close to minimal."
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    We're just going to have to agree to disagree. It seems like very sloppy writing to me. "Minimal" appears to be exactly the right word with exactly the right meaning. In order to make "marginal" work, you have to stretch its meaning - stretch it too much, in my opinion. So why not just use "minimal"?

    But to return to STMP's question, apparently the meaning the writers intend is "If you want to heal, don't move too much." We all agree on that. :) Whether this is a legitimate use for "marginal" is open for debate, but the intended meaning is clear.
     
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