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Wu Ting
How would you interpret this phrase “opened his mouth” in the context? How would you interpret this phrase “opened his mouth” in the fourth sentence? Does it mean they were not allowed to say anything? Or does it mean they were not allowed to tell someone else the bad condition at the orphanage? Thank you. PS: the excerpt is taken from “Good Intentions” written by an Israeli author, Etgar Keret. And I’m reading an English translation. the context: I’d met Patrick Grace only once. It was at the orphanage in Atlanta. Like animals they treated us there. All year long, we wallowed in filth, they hardly fed us, and if anyone so much as opened his mouth, they let us have it with a belt. Lots of times they’d give you the belt without bothering to open the buckle. When Grace arrived, they made sure to get us cleaned up—us and that shit hole they called an orphanage. Before he came in, the director gave us a briefing: Anyone who blabbered would be in for it later. We’d all had our share of his medicine, enough to know he meant business. When Grace entered our rooms, we were silent as mice. He tried talking with us, but we didn’t really answer. Each boy got his present, said thank you, and hurried back into bed.
Aug 5, 2019 9:54 AM
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Answers · 2
Hello, here the "opened his/their mouth" part has two meanings: 1. To talk back, to criticize. So the boys were beaten if they said something to the staff of the "orphanage". 2. To say something to an outsider, to report the bad conditions to someone (a person called Grace is mentioned).
August 5, 2019
It could be interpreted either way. In the context of the fourth sentence alone, we'd assume it meant that they simply had to be quiet; in the context of the whole paragraph, you could assume it referred to disclosing information about the orphanage: 'blabbering'. A suggestion: There are plenty of Hebrew speakers here. Why don't you ask if anyone knows the original version? The Hebrew text may well be less ambiguous.
August 5, 2019
Wu Ting
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French
Learning Language
English