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What does "making to" mean, in the following text?

And I’m left with this girl, this Siren of Mixed Signals, this Norah. She’s a fuck-good kisser, but clearly has some massive consistency issues. I ask her how the fuck she knows Tris, because that is leaving me completely confused, and at first she’s looking at me like I’m this guy she didn’t just start kissing out of nowhere, but then she’s got her hand on my arm in a way that makes me really notice I have an arm, and then she’s making to run away, and at the same time looking at me like I’m some cancer child. Then I take hold of her arm and she resists without really resisting. Finally she pulls away, only to touch my face in this way that reminds me exactly of her kiss. Then she calls me “you poor schmuck.”

The closest thing I can find in dictionary is this:

If you make to do something, you are just going to do it when something interrupts you

It doesn't seem to apply quite right in the quote. It makes more sense to me if it means "trying to." So, how many different meanings can "making to" imply?

  • I think it's sense 16 in Collins: (intransitive; followed by to, as if to, or as though to) to act with the intention or with a show of doing something ⇒ "they made to go out", "he made as if to hit her" – snailcar Nov 19 '13 at 20:48
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“Making to” does mean roughly what you found in the dictionary. “She's making to run away” is mostly synonymous to “she's about to run away”. The difference is that “about to” indicates that she will run away in the future and doesn't convey how the narrator knows this, whereas “making to” tells us that the narrator sees something that shows that she intends to run away. She may be getting into a running stance, or distancing herself from the narrator. If she's “making to” run away, she might still change her mind, or be prevented from running away. That is, she is preparing to do it, but she might be interrupted either by internal reasons (change of mind) or external reasons (prevented) — in fact here it's a combination of the two (the narrator grabs her arm, and she doesn't really attempt to escape).

  • Do you think it is kind of short for "making a move to run away"? The meaning is the same (to me), but I find "making to" to be a rather awkward phrasing of that. – Gray Nov 19 '13 at 14:33
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    @Gray I don't find the phrasing awkward, but I'm not a native English speaker. “Making a move” would be a bit different: I wouldn't count a change in stance (looking away, shifting her balance to a ready-to-move position) as “making a move”, but it could be “making to”. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Nov 19 '13 at 14:52
  • Not sure why, but it sounds a bit odd to me. The meaning is obvious with context; it's just not something I would ever say. In "The South" (Southern US), they often say "I'm fixin' to do something," and that seems to have the same meaning. That sounds OK to me, though it does have the side effect of making the speaker seem simple (for lack of a better word). Maybe it is a regional thing, and I'm used to something else. The meaning is clear, but it sounds strange to my "ear." – Gray Nov 19 '13 at 15:02
  • I don't find it awkward, but it's not something I'd be likely to say myself. (I am a native speaker, for what it's worth.) – snailcar Nov 19 '13 at 20:49
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The meaning of "making to", in this case, is that she is planning to run away. Like the dictionary entry you found, it has nothing to do with whether or not she actually does run away.

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