the theoretical mobility of the legions

< Previous | Next >

stephent74

Senior Member
Chinese--Beijing
Hi,

The theoretical mobility of the legions, deeply dug into long occupied garrisons, was abondoned.

The above is taken from "The new penguin history of the world". I read it many times but can't get the meaning. Seems I even can't tell the sentence's structure.

How can "mobility" be dug into something?

Would someone please explain to me.

Thanks.
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    It's the legions that are deeply dug in, not the mobility.

    Theoretically, the legions are mobile. But they've maintained a static, non-mobile situation for so long (in the "long-occupied garrisons") that the idea of their being mobile was given up, abandoned.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello Stephent,

    The mobility wasn't dug in, it was abandoned.

    The legions were dug into the garrisons.

    Try it this way The theoretical mobility of the legions, which were deeply dug into long-occupied garrisons, was abandoned.
     

    stephent74

    Senior Member
    Chinese--Beijing
    Thank you. But I still don't get it.

    What does it mean by ''being dug into" here in this context? I 've looked up 'dig/dig in' in the dictionary, but can't find a satifying definition.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It means that they had excavated trenches and built walls, which meant they were protected but less mobile.

    This isn't the phrasal verb to dig into but the verb to dig with into showing where they had dug.

    The difficulty is that it's almost a gloss on to dig in, which is what soldiers do when they defend a new site.
     

    stephent74

    Senior Member
    Chinese--Beijing
    Thanks Thomas, I think I probably understand what you say.

    It means the legions has acutally become garrisons by digging trenches, building defensive buildings.

    But this is something I'm not comfortable with. I mean the passive form of the verb dig. A legion is a group of people. I would never expect me to say something like '' a group of people is dug into something'', How strange English is. :confused:
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Soldiers dig in -- they literally dig trenches and foxholes and fill sandbags to fortify those positions. It doesn't matter if it's a single man or a division -- any number of soldiers can "dig in." When you're dug in, you are stationary -- you can't take your trench with you -- so you are no longer mobile when you are in this position.

    They don't build "defensive buildings," by the way ... digging in usually requires actual digging which is why soldiers are issued entrenching tools along with their weapons and other gear: to dig holes. When bombs and mortar shells explode, they take the path of least resistance, which is through air, not dirt. So you are relatively safe from anything but a direct hit on your position if you are below ground, even by a little bit.
     

    stephent74

    Senior Member
    Chinese--Beijing
    Thank you for your patience, Copyright.

    Dig in means dig trenches. This is a phrasal verb, used without any object, a verb used alone.

    How can it have a passive voice form? How does it go from "soldiers dig in" to " soldiers are dug in"?
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    How does it go from "soldiers dig in" to " soldiers are dug in"?
    I leave aside the question whether 'dig in' is a phrasal verb here.

    Another term with a similar meaning is 'entrench'.
    We say 'The troops entrenched themselves at a new point on the line'.
    We could equally say 'The troops dug themselves in at a new point on the line'.

    Both of these terms can equally be used in the passive:
    'By nightfall, they were thoroughly entrenched.'
    'By nightfall, they were thoroughly dug in.'
     

    stephent74

    Senior Member
    Chinese--Beijing
    Both of these terms can equally be used in the passive:
    'By nightfall, they were thoroughly entrenched.'
    'By nightfall, they were thoroughly dug in.'
    Thank you. I believe that solves my question.

    I realize here "entrenched" or " dug in" is more or less like an adjective actually. And I have seen this pattern before, as in " A cat is curled in the corner".
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you. I believe that solves my question.

    I realize here "entrenched" or " dug in" is more or less like an adjective actually. And I have seen this pattern before, as in " A cat is curled in the corner".
    The problem, which I tried to face earlier in #5, is that the original has dug into not dug in. I don't think talk of soldiers digging in is really germane.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The problem, which I tried to face earlier in #5, is that the original has dug into not dug in. I don't think talk of soldiers digging in is really germane.
    Two points:

    (1) In general, as regards the syntax of the verb (not the meaning!), wherever 'in' works, so does 'into'.
    Thus the use of the passive is equally possible with either 'in' or 'into'.

    (2) In the original sentence, the meaning is more metaphorical than literal. The legions had been in permanent camps for decades, even centuries. The phrase 'deeply dug into long occupied garrisons' obviously includes the idea of the permanent fortifications they had constructed, but it means more than that. It means primarily that they had become rooted in the communities where they were settled: they had become socially and economically entrenched.

    However, in both senses, literal and metaphorical, the passive form of the verb is equally valid.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I was talking of the phrasal verb to dig in, of soldiers establishing a defensive position. I wasn't concerned with passive as opposed to active use of the verb or its parts.

    While deeply dug into long occupied garrisons may be an echo of this phrasal verb to some ears, it plainly isn't deploying the phrasal verb's sense. One can't alter the preposition and keep the sense of the phrasal verb. I suggest we are being asked to consider the legions' having dug themselves into garrisoned forts, a meaning more figurative than literal, I suspect.
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Perhaps the problem is that dug in has been extended to mean "settled".

    I think these legionary soldiers have become settled (or accustomed to being) in garrisons for so long that they can no longer be considered capable of exercising their theoretical mobility.

    Once you accept "settled in" (in place of dug in) I think that the shift to "settled into" sounds more reasonable, and leads to "dug into".
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top