with an agonizing clip

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raymondaliasapollyon

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

The following passage is from The Call of the Wild. What does "clip" mean? And why is "agonizing" but not "agonized" used to describe it?

And Buck was truly a red-eyed devil, as he drew himself together for the spring, hair bristling, mouth foaming, a mad glitter in his bloodshot eyes. Straight at the man he launched his one hundred and forty pounds of fury, surcharged with the pent passion of two days and nights. In mid air, just as his jaws were about to close on the man, he received a shock that checked his body and brought his teeth together with an agonizing clip. He whirled over, fetching the ground on his back and side. He had never been struck by a club in his life, and did not understand.
I'd appreciate your help.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Agonizing is correct — it means causing extreme pain. Clip is meant as the sound of his upper and lower teeth hitting each other as his mouth closed.
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Agonizing is correct — it means causing extreme pain. Clip is meant as the sound of his upper and lower teeth hitting each other as his mouth closed.
    Is that definition of clip listed in the dictionary? I cannot find it.

    And we say "an agonized scream / look." Isn't the intended meaning more likely to be "expressing or indicating pain" in the context?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    agonizing = causing extreme pain / agonized = being caused extreme pain

    Here, the clip of the teeth banging together ia causing extreme pain.

    The use of clip in that passage relates to the jaws closing, being clipped or snapped together by the force of the blow.
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    agonizing = causing extreme pain / agonized = being caused extreme pain

    Here, the clip of the teeth banging together ia causing extreme pain.

    The use of clip in that passage relates to the jaws closing, being clipped or snapped together by the force of the blow.
    You may well be right about the meaning of clip, but I cannot find it in the dictionary.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You won’t find that exact meaning as a separate definition of clip. It isn’t specific. It’s just an application of the word to a specific scenario. You could even read it as onomatopoeia.

    Possibly the closest definition is this one from Oxford:
    clip (noun)​
    3 British informal – A smart or glancing blow.​
    And one of Merriam-Webster’s definitions is “a sharp blow”.
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If it is an onomatopoetic word, I'd expect it to be listed in the dictionary like such words as bang, thud and click.

    I have considered the "blow' meaning from M-W and Oxford. However, it is a British usage, and The Call of the Wild is an American work.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I’m not sure what you want me to say! You can see how the word has been used. That use is unlikely to strike a native English-speaker as odd, nor would they feel the need to pigeonhole it into a dedicated dictionary definition.
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I’m not sure what you want me to say! You can see how the word has been used. That use is unlikely to strike a native English-speaker as odd, nor would they feel the need to pigeonhole it into a dedicated dictionary definition.
    Maybe dictionary writers should give it a definition in the dictionary?
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I’m not sure what you want me to say! You can see how the word has been used. That use is unlikely to strike a native English-speaker as odd, nor would they feel the need to pigeonhole it into a dedicated dictionary definition.
    While most, if not all, native speakers agree "clip" refers to a noise, not every one of them finds the word natural:
    The following comments come from Google Groups

    I'd try to find some other printing of that passage and make sure this is not a typo for "click".

    I suspect that the author meant "click", and perhaps couldn't think of the right word at the time. Or possibly the text was accidentally altered during the publishing process.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I wouldn’t disagree that in that passage click would have been a better word than clip to convey the sound of teeth hitting each other. But that’s not the word that was used, or that you were asking about!

    If you wanted suggestions for alternatives, why didn’t you say so?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    It refers to both the sound and the action that causes that sound.
    That is my take too. The jaws closed smartly like a barber's scissors, making a louder noise. So "clip" offers the sound and the action in a single word, something that "click" could not do.

    The word "snap" would work similarly and bear traps and mouse traps "snap closed". So if I objected to "clip" then "snap" would be my second choice. (Maybe even my first choice as dogs are often said to "snap" at people when they bite.)
     
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