sits out a cotillion

polybolos

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi, everyone.
I have a question concerning the sentence below, please help :

"What luck!" she repeated. "How nice of you to come to my rescue!"

He responded joyfully that to do so was his mission in life, and asked what form the rescue was to take.
"Oh, almost any--even to sitting on a bench and talking to me. One sits out a cotillion--why not sit out a train?" <-----Excess quote removed by moderator (Florentia52)----->

-- quoted from Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, The House of Mirth - Book 1 Chapter 1

Question :

What does underlined phrase mean? Could you explain with plain English? I can't get the situation.
 
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  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    A cotillion is a very formal social event. It may include some dancing, but probably is mostly sitting, eating, listening. When she says "One sits out a cotillion" it means "one sits patiently for the (long) time until the (boring) event is over".

    The rest of the phrase says that the long wait here (waiting until the train arrives) is similar. It is long, boring, something to be endured (to "sit out").

    She goes on to compare the train bench to the cotillion place (the conservatory), saying both places are hot and have ugly women.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    "One sits out a cotillion -- why not sit out a train?"

    Let me confirm one thing. In this underlined phrase, why not sit out is closest in meaning to let sit out ( until their train arrive)?
    I'm sorry. I do not understand what the phrase "let sit out" means.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    A cotillon is actually a social dance, rather like a square dance, not the event in itself. If you sit out a cotillion you don't participate in the dance, you simply stay seated and wait for it to end. This conversation takes place in a station and 'sit out a train' is a small joke/play on words which refers back to what she said before, i.e. that the rescue might take any form, 'even sitting on a bench': she is saying that just as you sit out a dance and wait for it to end, you can also sit out a train (sit, in this case on a bench, and wait for it to arrive).
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    A cotillon is actually a social dance, rather like a square dance, not the event in itself. If you sit out a cotillion you don't participate in the dance, you simply stay seated and wait for it to end.
    :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

    Emily Post was part of the same late 19th Century upper-class New York society described by Edith Wharton, and she briefly describes what cotillions were like in her 1922 book Etiquette (including the idea of sitting down as others danced.) Look here, at paragraph 54.
     

    polybolos

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I'm sorry. I do not understand what the phrase "let sit out" means.
    Oh, my question is ; does she ask (or suggest) him sit and chat on a bench together until their train arrive ?
    I assumed her intension, she wanted to say " let us sit out a train (=why not sit out a train)"
    And london calling's post would be the answer to this question.
    she is saying that just as you sit out a dance and wait for it to end, you can also sit out a train (sit, in this case on a bench, and wait for it to arrive).
    Thanks to this answer, I reached to what author imply. The point of the phrase (why not sit out a train) would be her suggestion with her situation likened to that of cotillion.

    To dojibear, london calling , and GreenWhiteBlue
    I'm truly thank you all for kind and profound responding.
    P.S
    If you wouldn't mind, please give me suggestions to another question concerning Edith Wharton's novel( disputed her presence )
     
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