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I came across a sentence from an old New Yorker article:

The New Yorker, August 7, 1978 P. 18

Illustrated talk story about gauging people's income by their shoes and how fast they walk. Writer's observations were inspired by a young millionaire whom he followed up Fifth Ave. and lost because the tycoon walked twice as fast as anybody else. In the area around Broadway and 72nd St. writer sees a girl in saddle shoes who probably gets money from home, an old man shuffling along on Social Security, a woman in gold high heels with an estimated 5-figure income. Sandals are low-income. People in sneakers are fast out of desperation, not wealth.

Does the adverb fast mean firmly here? I can't understand what the sentence means. People in sneakers are firmly out of desperation? What is not wealth?

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Fast just means quick here. Out of means because of, due to.

People in sneakers are fast because of desperation, not wealth.

The writer is trying to contrast people who wear sneakers with the young millionaire mentioned earlier who walked quickly. The millionaire's shoes weren't mentioned, just his pace. The author wants to clarify that speed does not always indicate wealth.

  • Yes, the OP asks about the "adverb fast", in fact, in the quoted text, "fast" is an adjective describing "people". – James K Apr 30 '18 at 15:17
  • @JamesK Yes, I realized that as soon as I read Max's explanation. I totally misread the sentence and neglected the context. Thanks to Max for including the lines preceding the sentence in question. – Eddie Kal Apr 30 '18 at 17:37

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