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Oxford Dictionary's quote of the week. What does this quote actually mean ? I have come across a lot of opinions and views. What's yours?


  • Hello @DANISH,

    This is just a funny statement that means that Ethel isn't smiling. Sometimes you might say 'I tried not to smile' when you are really struggling not to smile, but here Ethel isn't struggling at all (she is entirely succeeding). The joke is that Ethel is a bit of a misery!

    I hope this helps.


  • edited January 2018

    I agree with joughtred. I think it's funny because the expression 'X tried not to smile' usually implies that they ARE smiling - whereas Ivy Compton-Burnett's example undercuts the reader's expectations.


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