twelve days north of hopeless

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solmaz

New Member
persian
In animation "How to train your dragon" the boy is describing his village in this sentence:

"It's twelve days north of hopeless and a few degrees south of freezing to death".

could you interpret this sentence?
 
  • AliBadass

    Senior Member
    persian
    Is it a kind of expression or something? I mean, is it just fixed in this way or can we change it to something like: ''It's two days (or maybe months) east of hopeless (or any other adjectives) and a few degrees west of freezing to death''?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    You could certainly use "east" and "west" in similar sentences, Ali. I suspect that the writer chose "north" and "south" because the location in the story is in the far north where Vikings live. If you move a few degrees farther north, you'll freeze to death. The land already looks hopeless if you are a few degrees to the south of where the story takes place.
     

    AliBadass

    Senior Member
    persian
    I can't thank you enough but I guess I still need more explanation to get that completely.

    You could certainly use "east" and "west" in similar sentences, Ali.
    I would be most grateful if you could give me an example?

    If you move a few degrees farther north, you'll freeze to death
    but in the movie it's been mentioned as ''south'' to freeze to death. Does it make any difference or I'm just being too meticulous?

    The land already looks hopeless if you are a few degrees to the south of where the story takes place.
    Again it's mentioning north as being ''hopeless''.

    It's twelve days . . .
    Why twelve?

    It's twelve days . . .
    Why days? Why not months?

    And finally, I would appreciate it if you rephrased the whole sentence one more time.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, Ali.

    I would be most grateful if you could give me an example?
    Dullsville is two degrees east of the end of the world.

    but in the movie it's been mentioned as ''south'' to freeze to death. Does it make any difference or I'm just being too meticulous?
    The unmentioned place, Berk, is a few degrees south of freezing to death. If you move a few degrees to the north of Berk, you will freeze to death.

    Again it's mentioning north as being ''hopeless''.
    Look at the sentence:

    "It's twelve days north of hopeless and a few degrees south of freezing to death".
    If you travel for twelve days towards the south from Berk, the land is already "hopeless". The sentence implies that Berk is certainly no more fortunate than that unnamed spot that exists to the south of Berk. Berk sits in some god-forsaken region in the north. If you travel a few degrees farther north, then you'll be in a place where you will freeze to death.

    Why twelve?
    Remember, Ali, that this is fiction. "Berk" doesn't exist in the real world. As the writer imagined it, you could make a journey of twelve days toward the south and the land would already be "hopeless". The writer didn't use "months" because a journey of twelve months towards the south would probably take you to a warmer, friendlier place.

    And finally, I would appreciate it if you rephrased the whole sentence one more time.
    This will ruin the charm of the sentence, but here we go: Berk sits on land that you'll find if you travel for twelve days to the north of the land where everything is hopeless. Berk sits on land that is only a few degrees south of the land where you'll freeze to death.
     
    Last edited:

    solmaz

    New Member
    persian
    Thank you owlman5.
    and thank you AliBadass for asking more questions that's make me understand better.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    "It's twelve days north of hopeless and a few degrees south of freezing to death".
    but in the movie it's been mentioned as ''south'' to freeze to death. Does it make any difference or I'm just being too meticulous?


    Again it's mentioning north as being ''hopeless''.
    No, it says "south of," not "south to." And "north of hopeless."

    Let's try it with real place names. Your profile says you're in Iran, so....

    "Esfahan is twelve days north of Shiraz and a few degrees south of Tehran."

    Does that help?
     

    AliBadass

    Senior Member
    persian
    Let's try it with real place names. Your profile says you're in Iran, so....

    "Esfahan is twelve days north of Shiraz and a few degrees south of Tehran."

    Does that help?
    Sure that helps. And are you familiar with the cities your mentioning or you just wanted to make it sound more real? Because I don't think your example makes sense geographically, unless that's just an example.

    Thanks for your response.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In animation "How to train your dragon" the boy is describing his village in this sentence:

    "It's twelve days north of hopeless and a few degrees south of freezing to death".

    could you interpret this sentence?
    This is a literary way of saying that Berk is in some obscure, unpleasant part of the world.
    This is the short version and concise.
    Is it a kind of expression or something? I mean, is it just fixed in this way or can we change it to something like: ''It's two days (or maybe months) east of hopeless (or any other adjectives) and a few degrees west of freezing to death''?
    The boy is being humorous/ironic.

    It is not a fixed expression; it is a style of expression.

    If you want to describe geographically where a place is, you can say something like, “It is about 200 km north of <name of place 1> and about 50 km west of <name of place 2>.” Kilometres can be changed for any other standard reference, e.g. degrees, time taken to get there [by a particular means.]

    Less precisely, you might say, “<name of place 1> is west of <name of place 2>. Or “<name of place 1> is 75 kilometres from <name of place 2>.

    But kilometres are not the only way to describe where something is

    “The town is two day’s walk from here.”
    “London is a three-hour flight away.”
    “The river meets the ocean one degree south of where we are now.”


    If you want to describe what a place is like, you can say, “It is a boring town that is very hot and dry.” (Of course, you can use any other appropriate adjectives.)[1]

    So now we see what the boy is saying. When he says "It's twelve days north of hopeless and a few degrees south of freezing to death". He is expressing his opinion/giving a description of the place’s attributes by pretending to describe it geographically or using the well-known form of words but changing the metric, i.e. instead of saying two day’s walk, three-hour flight, one degree south, about 50 km west, etc., he uses an adjective or adjectival phrase.

    Any number and any direction will work. Obviously, “It's twelve days north of hopeless[2]” means “The town is without any advantages.” whereas “It's one day north of hopeless” would mean that it is only a little bit worse than a place without any advantages.”

    [1]I am sure that all of these above expressions are available in Farsi.
    [2] In this context, hopeless has the nuance of “unlikely to change from its current condition of being without advantages and tending to be deprived of the things that people desire.” For brevity, I will shorten this to “without advantages.”


    _____________________________________________________

    I feel that you are wanting to know how to use this type of expression in conversational English:

    First and clearly, the use is informal. If done well, it is likely to make people laugh or, at least, smile.

    Next, for the purpose of added humour, there is usually an element of hyperbole about the expression.

    The expression can be combined with a standard description:

    “Shiraz is 700 Kilometres south of Tehran and 200 Kilometres west of hot.”
    This means that Shiraz is a very hot place that is 700 kilometres south of Tehran.

    “Shiraz is week’s walk from depressing and 200 kilometres west of hot.”
    This means that Shiraz is a very depressing and a very hot place.

    Do not use this type expression all the time: it loses its humour after a while.

    It is possible, but rare, to use the expression for positive attributes.

    In English, we can express the positive informally by means of comparative distance: “This ice-cream is miles better (i.e. much better, far better) than the ice-cream we had yesterday.” (Only “miles” is used.)
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Sure that helps. And are you familiar with the cities your mentioning or you just wanted to make it sound more real? Because I don't think your example makes sense geographically, unless that's just an example.
    I thought it might be easier to explain if I used real-world examples, so I looked at a map of Iran and chose three large cities that were more or less in a line from south to north. The distances and actual geography weren't important - just the directions from one city to the others.
     
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