--the attack, and our response to it--

ironman2012

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

Sept. 11 delivered both a shock and a surprise--the attack, and our response to it--and we can argue forever over which mattered more. There has been so much talk of the goodness that erupted that day that we forget how unprepared we were for it. We did not expect much from a generation that had spent its middle age examining all the ways it failed to measure up to the one that had come before--all fat, no muscle, less a beacon to the world than a bully, drunk on blessings taken for granted.

(This comes from Times by Nancy Gibbs Person of The Year 2001: Rudy Giuliani.)

I don't know what the two dashes function/mean here, or what the relation between "the attack, and our response to it" and the rest of the sentence is.

Thanks in advance!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You can separate something off between parentheses or dashes (or sometimes just commas) to make it what’s known as a parenthetical statement; that is, one that adds information about what’s just been said, but is not essential to the sentence as a whole.

    … both a shock and a surprise — the attack, and our response to it —
    … both a shock and a surprise (the attack, and our response to it)
    =
    … both a shock and a surprise — [the shock being] the attack, [the surprise being] our response to it —
    … both a shock and a surprise (by which I mean the attack and our response to it)
     
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