to make a mess of things

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
When you "make a mess of things", does that mean you make a mess out of things (those initially were things and you made a mess out of them)?
Thank you.
 
  • Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    It would depend on the context. I would take it to mean "I messed up / I got it wrong / I made a (big) mistake" It could also be taken literally if, for example, someone had spilt something all over the table and made everything on it wet.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    It would depend on the context. I would take it to mean "I messed up / I got it wrong / I made a (big) mistake" It could also be taken literally if, for example, someone had spilt something all over the table and made everything on it wet.
    Let me rephrase my question a bit:)
    1. I made jam out of apples
    2. I picked up a basket of apples
    Is the "of" in the phrase in question like '1', or '2'?
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    Usually, if someone is said to have "made a mess of things", the "things" are likely to be NOT physical things, but things such as arrangements, procedures, etc.

    eg John tried to reserve a rental car for when we land in Australia, but he made a mess of things (OR: he messed things up) - he booked it for Austria instead.


    If the "mess" is actual physical mess, the speaker will often not actually say "things".

    eg The dog knocked the stepladder over and spilt paint all over the bedroom floor. It made a right mess.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Usually, if someone is said to have "made a mess of things", the "things" are likely to be NOT physical things, but things such as arrangements, procedures, etc.

    eg John tried to reserve a rental car for when we land in Australia, but he made a mess of things (OR: he messed things up) - he booked it for Austria instead.


    If the "mess" is actual physical mess, the speaker will often not actually say "things".

    eg The dog knocked the stepladder over and spilt paint all over the bedroom floor. It made a right mess.
    Yes, I understand "things" is not understood literally here, as a number of physical things. Let's rephrase it: He made a mess of the situation. In other words, I still don't understand what exactly the "of" means here
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    It would mean the same as "made a mess out of things" -- although we don't say it that way. He has turned things into a mess. It is not the same "of" as in "a mess of pottage" or "a mess of green beans," if that's what you were thinking.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    In other words, the "of" here means:
    made or consisting of; having
    • dresses of lace and silk
    • plates of gold and silver


    Thank you everyone.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    In "a plate of gold and silver," the phrase describes the material of which it is composed. "To make a mess of things" does not refer to a mess which is "composed of things," or a mess which "consists of things." That makes no sense. And that's why I said "it is not the same 'of' as in 'a mess of pottage' or 'a mess of green beans'." (A mess of green bean is a mess which is composed of green beans.)
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    To me, the 'ofs' in 'a plate of gold and silver' and 'a mess of pottage' are different ofs.
    'A mess of pottage' is like "a glass of wine", or "a kilogram of butter".

    By "made of" I meant that a mess was made of things (not "consists" or "composed", which means the things still exist in their former form), which means there are no things any more, only "a mess" instead.
    If I'm wrong, just show me, please, the definition of "of" in "a mess of things"...
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    To me, the 'ofs' in 'a plate of gold and silver' and 'a mess of pottage' are different ofs.
    'A mess of pottage' is like "a glass of wine", or "a kilogram of butter".

    By "made of" I meant that a mess was made of things (not "consists" or "composed", which means the things still exist in their former form), which means there are no things any more, only "a mess" instead.
    If I'm wrong, just show me, please, the definition of "of" in "a mess of things"...
    In "made a mess of beans," the mess is composed of beans. In "made a dress of silk and lace," the dress is made of silk and lace (and other things too, of course).

    But that isn't the case with "made a mess of things." I think we need to look at more than just of; I think it's really about made a ____ of (a mess of, a mockery of, a joke of, etc.). What this means is "caused" - caused things (the situation) to become a mess.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Make something into something else.
    'Make a silk purse (out) of a sow's ear' = Make a sow's ear into a silk purse.
    'They made a hero of him/ They made him into a hero/ although he had done nothing to stop the terrorist attack'
     
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