English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Mycroft Holmes: I have access to the top level of the MI5 archive.
Mary Morstan: [already looking at that archive via her phone] Yep, that's where I'm looking.
Mycroft Holmes: What do you think of MI5 security?
Mary Morstan: I think it would be a good idea.


I don't know exactly what the last line of Mary Morstan means. Also, in that sentence, what does "it" refer to?

share|improve this question
3  
Here is my guess: "I think it would be a good idea (if it existed)." (I'm not really sure about the context, though.) – Damkerng T. Jan 13 at 13:03
    
I voted to close this question as there is no context. Without any more context, the question is not answerable. This is the script on the internet MYCROFT: I have access to the top level of the MI5 archive ... MARY: Yep, that’s where I’m looking. (She smiles without looking up. Mycroft looks slightly awkward.) MYCROFT: What do you think of MI5’s security? MARY (raising her eyebrows and looking across to him partway through her next sentence): I think it would be a good idea. (She smiles at him, then looks back down to the phone.) – Rathony Jan 13 at 13:10
2  
I think CopperKettle has demonstrated that there's enough context there to answer the question. :) – ssav Jan 13 at 14:34
4  
CopperKettle has indeed answered well. One additional helpful point of context would be knowing whether or not Mary is supposed to be able to have access to the top level of the MI5 archive. If she isn't, but she does have access (as shown in the second line), that combination would demonstrate a clear basis for her opinion. – WBT Jan 13 at 15:05
up vote 18 down vote accepted

Mycroft Holmes: What do you think of MI5 security?
Mary Morstan: I think it would be a good idea.

What Mycroft means is

What do you think of the current level of security at MI5?

Mary understands the question, but she believes that materials at MI5 are not really protected very well. She may even think that the protection from espionage at MI5 is so poor that there's "no security" at all.

The meaning of her reply is:

I think that it would be a good idea for MI5 to set up a security system to protect their documents.

She is being sarcastic with this answer. She subverts the meaning of Mycroft's question in order to express her disdain regarding the abysmal level of security at MI5.

She reframes Mycroft's question as if it meant:

What do you think of the idea of setting up a security system at MI5?

It in her answer means "setting up a security system".

share|improve this answer
1  
Sorry, but can we be sure just reading the OP's question without reading more context? – Rathony Jan 13 at 12:22
4  
@Rathony - First off, by "Yep, that's where I'm looking." She might have already breached MI5's security system. Second off, I believe I heard this sentence before in similar contexts and with a similar sarcastic meaning. – CowperKettle Jan 13 at 12:25
1  
@anotherworld - it implies that it's a hypothetical situation. "If someone decided to set up a security system at MI5, it would be a good idea". – CowperKettle Jan 13 at 12:59
8  
@CopperKettle - Mary's joke is based on one commonly attributed to Ghandi: "What do you think of western civilisation?" "I think it would be a good idea." That could be where you've heard it before. – ssav Jan 13 at 14:23
7  
Mary's answer is funny because even though she (intentionally) "misunderstood" the question and answered a different question than the one intended, in doing so she has conveyed her answer to the original/intended question. – WBT Jan 13 at 15:02

It is a reference to a famous quotation often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

He was once asked "What do you think of British Civilisation?" and responded "I think it would be a good idea".

Simply implying that it doesn't currently exist.

share|improve this answer
    
the link you quote states that the source of the quotation is not well supported. – njzk2 Jan 13 at 19:16

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.