like a blind man with a bad case of the jitters

Eichie

Member
Portuguese
So this is a story on how Nero plotted to kill his mother. I get the meaning of the words here, but I honestly can't see the sense in it.

One of Nero’s first moves as he stumbled his way ahead with his cover story like a blind man with a bad case of the jitters was to pay a cash handout to the Praetorian Guard. Their flexible loyalty was always for sale, but crucially Nero was a member of the Julio-Claudian family, which was an essential asset.

To stumble his way is to face difficulties, right? But what about that "like"... I can't see the word connects the sentence, and since this prase makes no sense to me up to this point, I also don't get what a cash handout is here.
I have this feeling I am missing some crucial piece of information to connect all the dots, hahaha
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    "Stumble" in "stumbled his way ahead" is used to mean that he went through his cover story hesitantly, in fits and starts.

    The writer's deliberately comparing this to the word stumble in its literal meaning. A blind man is likely to stumble and bump into things if he's in an unfamiliar place. A blind man with a case of the jitters, meaning a fit of nervousness or apprehension, is likely to stumble around even more. So the sentence means that Nero went through his cover story very hesitantly.
     

    Eichie

    Member
    Portuguese
    Oh, now I got it! Another way to read this phrase would be:

    "One of Nero’s first moves,,, as he stumbled his way ahead with his cover story like a blind man with a bad case of the jitters,,, was to pay a cash handout to the Praetorian Guard."

    Am I right? The part between commas is a single statement, not a connection between two facts. I was reading it like:

    "Nero was stumbling his way with his cover story,,, like a blind man was to pay a cash handout..."
    I was like: "where the hell this blind came from and what is he paying for?!"

    The world needs more commas (or clearer structures), hahaha!
    Thanks! :D
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Another way to read this phrase would be:
    "One of Nero’s first moves,,, as he stumbled his way ahead with his cover story like a blind man with a bad case of the jitters,,,, was to pay a cash handout to the Praetorian Guard."
    It's not another way. It's the only way to read that sentence.

    The sentence starts with "One of Nero's first moves". If it was intended to be read the way you thought it was, that would mean the sentence doesn't say what one of Nero's first moves was.
     

    Eichie

    Member
    Portuguese
    What I mean is that the point of the phrase is "One of Nero's first move ... was to pay a cash handout", right? All the other words in between are nothing but a description of how he made the payment.
    I proposed a secondary way of writing it because long phrases (esp. with "as" + "like") makes it harder to follow its point since those words have several meanings.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I agree with you, Eichie. I think I have a different understanding of "cover story" than you do, Barque. It seems to me the author is using it as a synonym for "plan". Nero has a plan to murder his mother which includes him not taking the blame for it (the cover story portion). It's not an actual story he's telling someone in words in a stumbling manner. He is stumbling in implementing his plan/plot. He's not very good at plotting. But the first step in his plot is to bribe the Praetorian guard.

    By the way, I think the blind man with the jitters is an incredibly silly metaphor.:rolleyes:
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I was referring to the reason Eichie gave for misunderstanding the sentence at first.
    He said:
    I was reading it like:
    "Nero was stumbling his way with his cover story,,, like a blind man was to pay a cash handout..."
    I was like: "where the hell this blind came from and what is he paying for?!"
    I was saying that if you read the sentence that way, with paying a cash handout the action of a blind man, the opening words "One of Nero's first moves" would have no referent, because the actual referent (the payment of a cash handout) would have become the action of a blind man. That therefore tells the reader how it should be read.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Okay, I think I was looking at a different part and was a little distracted.
     
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