Scarcely ripe

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TraductoraPobleSec

Senior Member
Catalan & Spanish
In the following, I wonder whether "scarcely ripe" means that (a) they're not quite ripe yet or (b) that they've just ripened.

"He fastened himself to the tree with a rope and then rap up and gathered the fruit. The dates were scarcely ripe"

Thanks very much :)
 
  • katie_here

    Senior Member
    England/English
    Perhaps it's a regional thing? My dictionary defines "scarcely" as:

    "barely; hardly; not quite"
    My dictionary says:

    barely: by a small margin; by a small margin, ripe
    hardly: almost not - almost not ripe, which means it is only just ripe.

    Not quite means "almost" which doesn't mean "not ripe"
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    Hmm. I see.

    There seems to be a dichotomy of definitions for scarcely, so I looked it up further..

    According to Dictionary.com, HARDLY is a synonym of SCARCELY, and one of the definitions of HARDLY is "only just".

    I would say, if you want to avoid ambiguity, choose a different word.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    He fastened himself to the tree with a rope and then ran up and gathered the fruit.
    How can this person move at all if fastened... to the tree let alone run up the tree, which is impossible in any case. If it means that he secured himself by tying a rope to a high branch and the other end around hmself (which is stretching the meaning of fasten) in case he fell, then he was already up the tree and had no need to run up, fly up (miraculo!), or even clamber up.
    The mind boggles!:confused:
     

    TraductoraPobleSec

    Senior Member
    Catalan & Spanish
    He fastened himself to the tree with a rope and then ran up and gathered the fruit.
    How can this person move at all if fastened... to the tree let alone run up the tree, which is impossible in any case. If it means that he secured himself by tying a rope to a high branch and the other end around hmself (which is stretching the meaning of fasten) in case he fell, then he was already up the tree and had no need to run up, fly up (miraculo!), or even clamber up.
    The mind boggles!:confused:
    Arrius, I am translating travel journals written by Victorian lady travellers at the end of the 19th cent. They were not that great at the pen and I find myself time and again before really strange sentences.

    :)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The OED definition is useful because it covers the range of possibilities discussed.
    Originally used to express a restrictive qualification, = ‘barely’, ‘only just’; hence also, = ‘barely, or not quite’, ‘only just, if at all’. In mod. use the original sense survives only in definite statements of fact. In sentences relating to belief, expectation, or estimation, the word now (as occas. in ME.) serves as a restricted negative (= ‘not quite’). Often, however, the qualification really relates, not to the contents of the sentence in which the adv. occurs, but to the degree of the speaker's belief: thus ‘You will scarcely maintain this proposition’ is equivalent to ‘I cannot quite believe that you will maintain’, etc.
    So, the original sentence could mean any of:
    The dates were not quite ripe.
    The dates were only just ripe.
    I don't believe the dates could have been ripe.

    And none of us can tell which :)
     

    highcs

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    He fastened himself to the tree with a rope and then ran up and gathered the fruit.
    How can this person move at all if fastened... to the tree let alone run up the tree, which is impossible in any case. If it means that he secured himself by tying a rope to a high branch and the other end around hmself (which is stretching the meaning of fasten) in case he fell, then he was already up the tree and had no need to run up, fly up (miraculo!), or even clamber up.
    The mind boggles!:confused:
    I'm certainly no expert - but I believe that what is meant here is a type of aid for climbing where the rope hangs down from higher up in the tree and when you tie it around your waist and then lean back (so that you're almost at a 90degree angle to the ground) you can effectively "run up" a tree. I don't think it was bad writing - I've seen it done. They are "fastened" to the tree and they can "run up" it.
    Pretty impressive.
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Ah well, fair heart never won....etc

    I'm going to agree with nzfauna on this occasion and say that I would normally use scarcely to mean "only just". But it's a matter of degree - for me, the expression also suggests that they were so "only just" ripe that they weren't particularly pleasant to eat.
     

    El escoces

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    i.e. not suffiiciently ripe to enjoy
    Indeed. Maybe instead of "barely", as a synonym, we should be looking at "insufficiently". Although it wouldn't work in all situations: "There's no way they should be having sex - they're scarcely sixteen".
     
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