Like a spanner

timzhenyu

Senior Member
Chinese-China
Source: We are all dying
Text: It's the girl who keeps us standing at the corner of the Co-op looking like a spanner.
Co-op is a chain of supermarkets in the UK.
What I understand is that the girl keeps us waiting for her, and we stand at the corner of the Co-op waiting for her, and we look like a spanner.
I know what a spanner is, but I do not understand the metaphor here.
Thanks a million!
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    A spanner in British slang is a stupid person. "Looking like a spanner" is a little odd, as "spanner" doesn't really describe appearance, but I suppose it could be used for attitude.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    What I find odd is that we look like 'a spanner' rather than 'a pair/couple/bunch of spanners'o_O
    I agree. Just as we would look like right nanas but I would look like a right nana.:D

    That said it's ok in the OP's sentence because it's a girl who's looking like a spanner. It's the OP's own sentence which is incorrect.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The paragraph is all about why don’t we (people in general) get out there and live our lives to the full while we’ve got the chance. Hence the incongruous-sounding “we”.

    The whole of the next para reads: We wait; the right time never arrives.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The paragraph is all about why don’t we (people in general) get out there and live our lives to the full while we’ve got the chance. Hence the incongruous-sounding “we”.
    .
    But it should still be 'we look like spanners' and not 'we look like a spanner'.

    What I understand is that the girl keeps us waiting for her, and we stand at the corner of the Co-op waiting for her, and we look like a spanner.:cross:
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    :D

    It would still be 'looks like', even in the highly unlikely evantuality that one:D were to write it that way:.

    What I understand is that the girl keeps one waiting for her, and one stands at the corner of the Co-op waiting for her, and one looks like a spanner.
     
    Last edited:

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Does "us" mean "me" here? Where I grew up, "us" was frequently used to mean "me", and I sometimes still use it. The giveaway would be the subjective pronoun as "we" is never used in place of "I" (unless you're the Queen); you mentioned "we" in the description, but is it in the text?

    From the text, the spanner could be the girl (which, from the singular form, I originally took it to be), but I take that to be ruled out by the description. It is certainly more likely that the person waiting is the one who looks like a spanner.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Does "us" mean "me" here? Where I grew up, "us" was frequently used to mean "me", and I sometimes still use it. The giveaway would be the subjective pronoun as "we" is never used in place of "I" (unless you're the Queen); you mentioned "we" in the description, but is it in the text?

    From the text, the spanner could be the girl (which, from the singular form, I originally took it to be), but I take that to be ruled out by the description. It is certainly more likely that the person waiting is the one who looks like a spanner.
    Did you see this?
    I was reading it as “we” meaning much the same as “one”. As in “give us a kiss”. :D
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Thanks Loob.:)

    So it isn't the girl who's looking like 'spanner' because she isn't there! The author uses 'we' throughout this to say what we (all of us, humans) need to do in life, given we are all dying and our time on this Earth is finite.

    In any case 'we look like a spanner' is incorrect because this is the plural 'we', not 'we = me'.
     

    timzhenyu

    Senior Member
    Chinese-China
    Thank you all very much! We look like a spanner is truly grammatically wrong. I think now I get it!
    My thanks also go to Loob for your efforts!
    A lots of love here!
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Just a parting shot at this, since, joking apart, in my view that use of “us” works okay in the distinctively casual style of this book, and I’m not sure whether anyone else agrees.

    … why the Hell aren’t we doing all the things we want to do NOW? …… Why are we all waiting for the right time when we know that the right time isn’t going to show?

    That text comes first. Then the right time that won’t ever come is likened to two stereotypical situations: (a) “the cheque’s in the post” (it never arrives); and (b) the date who never turns up (but you still can’t wrench yourself away from where you arranged to meet):

    It's the girl who keeps us standing at the corner of the Co-op looking like a spanner. …… She’s stood us up.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Just a parting shot at this, since, joking apart, in my view that use of “us” works okay in the distinctively casual style of this book, and I’m not sure whether anyone else agrees.

    … why the Hell aren’t we doing all the things we want to do NOW? …… Why are we all waiting for the right time when we know that the right time isn’t going to show?

    That text comes first. Then the right time that won’t ever come is likened to two stereotypical situations: (a) “the cheque’s in the post” (it never arrives); and (b) the date who never turns up (but you still can’t wrench yourself away from where you arranged to meet):

    It's the girl who keeps us standing at the corner of the Co-op looking like a spanner. …… She’s stood us up.
    Thank you lingobingo. I agree with you.

    The writer is switching between all of the group (using "we") and examples which, certainly the one about waiting for your date, only apply to one representative member of the group. I'd probably have used "you" myself, instead of "us", but the writer presumably wanted to keep it in the first person. Since it is a date (not mentioned in the OP), I would expect only one person to be waiting, therefore "us" refers to one person, and "spanner" (singular) is correct.
     
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