the arc is down

Ali Suat Ürgüplü

New Member
Turkish
Hello,

I cannot find the meaning of the idiom "the arc is down" in any online source and need it urgently. A simple explanation, preferably with an example, would be most welcome.

Thanks in advance
 
  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    It makes no sense out of context. Please provide the context and the phrase in a sentence. A link to the source document is also always a good idea.
     

    Ali Suat Ürgüplü

    New Member
    Turkish
    Oh, sorry. I should have thought of that. Here it is (the emphasis in boldface is mine):

    "The only way for me to write this introduction is to separate the man from the ideas. Otherwise, I get pulled back into the man, who I loved and was married to from 1993 until his death in 2010, rather than forward into the ideas. As you read these essays, I hope that you, too, will focus on the ideas, because they are good ideas, and they were written in good faith. “In good faith” may have been Tony’s favorite phrase and highest standard, and he held himself to it in everything he wrote. What he meant by it, I think, was writing that is free of calculation and maneuver, intellectual or otherwise. A clean, clear, honest account.

    This is a book about our age. The arc is down: from the heights of hope and possibility, with the revolutions of 1989, into the confusion, devastation, and loss of 9/11, the Iraq war, the deepening crisis in the Middle East, and—as Tony saw it—the self-defeating decline of the American republic. As the facts changed and events unfolded, Tony found himself turned increasingly and unhappily against the current, fighting with all of his intellectual might to turn the ship of ideas, however slightly, in a different direction. The story ends abruptly, with his untimely death."

    From the Introduction: In Good Faith by Jennifer Homans to Tony Judt's When the Facts Change. Essays 1995-2010, Vintage, London, 2015.

    Thanks again.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    [...]

    This is a book about our age. The arc is down: from the heights of hope and possibility, with the revolutions of 1989, into the confusion, devastation, and loss of 9/11, the Iraq war, the deepening crisis in the Middle East, and—as Tony saw it—the self-defeating decline of the American republic. [...].
    The writer seems to be describing the trajectory of progress over time as being similar to a curve that ascends for a while but then descends as conditions deteriorate.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's not a recognised idiom. It might mean that the path of events had a downward trend - from high hopes, through war, to death. There doesn't seem to be any "up", but an arc doesn't need any to be an arc.

    PS. I find "down" inappropriate, thinking it should be "downwards", but maybe it's acceptable to American eyes.
     

    Ali Suat Ürgüplü

    New Member
    Turkish
    The writer seems to be describing the trajectory of progress over time as being similar to a curve that ascends for a while but then descends as conditions deteriorate.
    Thank you very much. That's what I had thought, in fact, but I felt I needed the "seal of approval" of a native speaker. I am surprised that an idiom nowhere to be found either in the standard dictionaries (Oxford, Merriam Webster etc.) or anywhere else on the Internet made it into a book published by Vintage, to be honest.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's not "an idiom". It's an individual author's figurative use of the word "arc". There's no reason for the publisher to edit the author's English.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I had to think about it - but partly because of the use of "down" to mean "downwards". I think she could have phrased it better.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    He is imagining a graph showing a curve like this. The green line is a arc and it is going downwards:

     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I had to think about it - but partly because of the use of "down" to mean "downwards". I think she could have phrased it better.
    Yes, "downward". "Down" is a location (as opposed to "up"). "Downward" is a direction. So I agree with your choice of words.

    From the original post with no context it could have been Noah's ark that sprung a leak (though the spelling would have been odd). The context made this a relatively easy question to answer.
     
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