Most importantly, do they fit in<.><?>

OED Loves Me Not

Senior Member
Japanese - Osaka
Hello, friends. First, could you have a look at the following?
In my business, going unnoticed is half the game. People put out signals-body language, gait, clothes, facial expression, posture, attitude, speech, mannerisms-that can tell you where they're from, what they do, who they are. Most importantly, do they fit in. Because if you don't fit in, the target will spot you, and after that you won't be able to get close enough to do it right.
Source: Barry Eisler, Hard Rain (Italics in the original, bold font mine.)

What is the highlighted sentence ("Most importantly, do they fit in.") doing here? I know what it basically means. But why doesn't it end with a question mark, but with a period? How does the sentence relate (or refer) to the preceding sentence?

I have my own theory. But I'd like some confirmation from English native speakers. And, as always, this question is not only from myself alone, but possibly from many other fellow learners of English that I may be having in another forum at the other end of cyberspace.

Thank you.
 
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  • OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    Thank you, owlman5, for your prompt response. If it's a typo and should end with a question mark, then how does the sentence relate to the preceding sentence or logic? I mean, if you were allowed to paraphrase the preceding sentence and the present one a little bit to make it clear even to an absolute beginner of English, how would you do that?

    (I may not be being clear-cut in my question. I'm sorry. It's rather hard to raise a question without risking leading you to the conclusion that I have in mind. Besides, I may be asking a question that may even sound stupid to native speakers. I hope you understand that English is sometimes unfathomable to nonnatives, especially to speakers of a language diametrically different from English.)
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Hello, friends. First, could you have a look at the following?

    Source: Barry Eisler, "Hard Rain"

    What is the highlighted sentence ("Most importantly, do they fit in.") doing here? I know what it basically means. But why doesn't it end with a question mark, but with a period? How does the sentence relate (or refer) to the preceding sentence?

    I have my own theory. But I'd like some confirmation from English native speakers. And, as always, this question is not only from myself alone, but possibly from many other fellow learners of English that I may be having in another forum at the other end of cyberspace.

    Thank you.

    First, this is a sentence fragment used for narrative effect. It might be more grammatically accurate to say "" if they fit in. " But the line picks up" do" from the preceding sentence.

    The sentence would be grammatically correct if this was one sentence.

    .... who they are, and, most importantly, if they fit in. "

    What you are seeing in the original is punctuation that follows the rhythm of speech and makes a full stop plus fragment for emphasis. Very common in more casual forms of writing.

    You can see that the final item on the list is not set off with " and." The and belongs where I've put it.

    The "and" has been elided.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    If it's a typo and should end with a question mark, then how does the sentence relate to the preceding sentence or logic?
    The author was apparently trying to make the point that it is important to fit in with other people or with the environment when you communicate with others by means of gestures, facial expressions, your gait, etc. Rather than using a declarative sentence, the author apparently asked a more or less rhetorical question to make the point. The mistake in punctuation merely serves to confuse anybody who reads that question.

    Cross-posted.
     

    numerator

    Member
    Hungarian, Slovak
    I think another way to phrase this sentence would be as an indirect question: "Most importantly, whether they fit in."

    It continues the thought from previous sentence:
    People put out signals ... that can tell you [all sorts of things] and most importantly, whether they fit in.

    I see your cited example as a mix of a direct and an indirect question. I think you can more easily get away with these in speech - and so my pet theory is that the author is more used to giving talks than to carefully punctuating written sentences.

    (Doubly cross-posted...)
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would paraphrase it like this: "People send out signals etc . . .that tell you x, y, z, and tell you, most importantly, if they fit in.
    Because, if they don't fit in, the target will spot you etc" ( I'm sorry but I don't understand the bit about the target spotting you and not being able to get close enough etc).
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I would paraphrase it like this: "People send out signals etc . . .that tell you x, y, z, and tell you, most importantly, if they fit in.
    Because, if they don't fit in, the target will spot you etc" ( I'm sorry but I don't understand the bit about the target spotting you and not being able to get close enough etc).

    I'm assuming it's a pickpocket or a hired assassin.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's also a ragged mix of yous and theys that change references.

    In my business, going unnoticed is half the game. People put out signals-body language, gait, clothes, facial expression, posture, attitude, speech, mannerisms-that can tell you where they're from, what they do, who they are. Most importantly, do whether they fit in. Because if you don't fit in, the target will spot you, and after that you won't be able to get close enough to do it right.​

    The green and red yous are used in different ways.
     
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    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    Thank you very much for all your detailed answers. So, am I to understand that all the answerers agree that the original could be paraphrased as follows?

    People put out signals -- body language, gait, clothes, facial expression, posture, attitude, speech, mannerisms -- that can tell you where they're from, what they do, who they are, and, most importantly, whether they fit in.
    (Please focus on what I've written in block font.)
     

    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    In an online forum of Japanese learners of English, two people have raised two other theories.

    (1) One theory interprets the text as follows:

    In my business, going unnoticed is half the game. People put out signals. The most important thing about these signals is whether they (= signals) fit in.

    This theory interprets these signals as, for example, gait and clothes as opposed to facial expressions, or as the signals of some people as opposed to those of others.

    (2) The other theory interprets it as follows:

    In my business, going unnoticed is half the game. People put out signals. The most important thing is whether they (= the people) fit in.

    This second theory at a glance looks as if it were the same as what the answerers here say. But actually the holder of this second theory asserts that he/she doesn't agree. He/she says that it is not that the signals tell you whether the people fit in. This person says that the two statements ("People put out signals...." and "Most importantly, do they fit in.") are merely juxtaposed. That is, these two sentences have the same weight in importance.)

    ************

    What do you think of these two theories? Do you think that either or both of these theories can be ruled out? If so, could you tell me why? I'm very sorry for my clumsy wording, which may sound cluttered and not clear-cut. I'm doing my best here but this issue is a bit too complicated for me to explain.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The first one is not at all credible.

    The second is the same idea and is basically correct. The two parts are just speaking of different aspects.

    "People put out signals...that can tell you where they're from, what they do, who they are." The most important aspect of this for his particular line of work is "do those signals show that that the person being observed fits in with the group they are trying to fit in with or do they not fit in?"

    The signals are the raw material. The importance to someone in his line of work is whether they serve as a giveaway or not.

    In other jobs, it's not going to be relevant since other jobs aren't focused on being secretive. But it might still be information useful to someone in another type of job - a psychologist, for instance.
     

    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    The first one is not at all credible.
    I agree that it's not credible. But the holder of the theory will probably want a logical explanation to rule out that possibility. I can't give a logical reason for that myself. Could you?

    As for the rest of your preceding input, I quite agree. Thank you for your further confirmation.
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I agree that it's not credible. But the holder of the theory will probably want a logical explanation to rule out that possibility. I can't give a logical reason for that myself. Could you?

    As for the rest of your preceding input, I quite agree. Thank you for your further confirmation.

    If someone chooses to misunderstand a point online there is often no way to convince them.
     

    numerator

    Member
    Hungarian, Slovak
    The best argument here is that native speakers are always right :D

    But if your friends are trying to understand why, perhaps these hints might help:

    My (non-native) intuition is that "most importantly" must be following up on something already mentioned - in this case, continuing the list of things the signals tell you about. To allow your friends' interpretations (1) and (2), the sentence would have had to be worded differently to indicate a change in focus:
    "People put out signals that tell you x, y, z. The most important question is: Do they/the signals/the people fit in?"

    Interpretation (1) is additionally weird, because we commonly talk about people wanting to fit in with a group, feeling uncomfortable when they don't etc.; but we hardly ever talk about signals not fitting in and it would take some explaining what we meant by that. Therefore people is by far the more plausible subject of "fit in".
     

    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    Thank you very much, everyone, for your valuable input. And, numerator, yours is about the same analysis that I actually had in my mind. But I was not completely sure because, just as you say you are, I'm a nonnative as well. What's more, I'm a native speaker of Japanese, an agglutinating language just like yours (Hungarian), both diagonally (or even "astronomically") different from English in every possible way.

    My never-ending struggle with English continues.
     
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