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‘Shot for a Jerry spy’

‘Shot for a Jerry spy’


Q: In a novel I’m studying, a personality in London throughout World Conflict II says to himself, “Can’t repair something if I get shot for a Jerry spy.” I recognise this use of “for” (being British myself), but it surely  appears an old style, RAF-blokes-with-mustaches development. What are you able to inform us about it?

A: We don’t imagine that use of “for” in The Coldest Conflict, a 2012 novel by Ian Tregillis, is all that unusual now in American or British English, although it’s often seen within the phrases “taken for” and “mistaken for,” the place the preposition “for” means “as” or “as being” or “to be.”

Listed here are a number of current examples from the information media within the US and the UK:

“Two deputies will probably be suspended and a Florida sheriff has apologized after a visually impaired man was arrested final month when his strolling cane was mistaken for a gun” (NBC Information, Nov. 9, 2022).

“Why I Maintain Getting Mistaken for a Conservative” (headline of an article by the American tradition author and novelist Kat Rosenfield in Nationwide Assessment, Oct. 27, 2022).

“Nobody likes to really feel like they’ve been taken for a idiot, least of all monetary markets” (The New Statesman, Oct. 12, 2022).

“As a humanist who writes in regards to the affect of digital know-how on our lives, I’m usually mistaken for a futurist” (The Guardian, Sept. 4, 2022).

And right here’s a “shot for” instance from Fredy Neptune, a 1999 novel in verse by the Australian poet Les Murray:

“However I used to be considering extra about being shot for a spy, if I protested or defined myself.” (The novel is in regards to the adventures and misadventures of Fred Boettcher, an Australian of German parentage.)

The Oxford English Dictionary says “for” right here means “within the character of,” “within the gentle of,” or “as equal to,” and provides that “as or as being might usually be substituted.” The preposition used on this sense first appeared in Outdated English and is much like phrases in Outdated Frisian and Outdated Saxon.

The dictionary’s earliest instance, which we’ve expanded, is from the epic poem Beowulf, which can have been written as early as 725:

“Me males sægde Þæt þu ðe for sunu wolde hereri[n]c habban” (“Males say to me that you need this hero for a son”). Wealhtheow, the Danish queen, is chatting with her husband, King Hrothgar, about Beowulf, who’s sitting between the king’s two sons, Hrethric and Hrothmund, at a banquet.

And right here’s an expanded OED instance from the 18th century: “You’ll be hanged for a Pirate, and the particulars examined afterwards” (The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, 1719, by Daniel Defoe).

We’ll finish with this arboreal OED instance from The Silverado Squatters (1883), Robert Louis Stevenson’s memoir about his honeymoon with Fanny Vandegrift in Napa Valley, California:

“The oak is not any child; even the madrona, upon these spurs of Mount Saint Helena, involves a nice bulk and ranks with forest timber—however the pines look down upon the remainder for underwood.”

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