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What is the meaning of "to pack in" in the following sentence?

And so, week after week, he packed in the columns of the Liberator facts, the most damning facts, against slaveholders, their cruelty and tyranny.

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    The preposition in refers to the Liberator (presumably a newspaper). He stuffed / crammed damning facts about slavery into his newspaper column (perhaps an op-ed piece he wrote for the paper on a weekly basis). The cited example isn't very "fluent", since in many other contexts to pack in is effectively a "phrasal verb" - which makes this usage awkward to parse even for a native speaker. Oct 7, 2018 at 12:45
  • @FumbleFingers That would have been more clear if it had been written "... he packed the facts in the columns of the Liberator..." However, I can understand now.
    – Mrt
    Oct 7, 2018 at 12:53
  • I just checked, and I see now it's a C19 text. It was perfectly acceptable back when it was written, but it would be considered at the very least "stylistically weak" today. (So don't beat yourself up just because you found it difficult to parse! :) Oct 7, 2018 at 13:06
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    Please always provide a link, author and/or historical context. Otherwise, it becomes a guessing game.
    – Lambie
    Oct 7, 2018 at 15:03

2 Answers 2

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The verb is not "pack in" here, but simply "pack". in is part of a prepositional phrase.

It is not uncommon to find the verb separated from its direct object by a prepositional phrase, especially when, as here, the direct object phrase is a long or so-called "heavy" one:

And so, week after week, he packed
in the columns of the Liberator
facts, the most damning facts, against slaveholders, their cruelty and tyranny.

Some writers would consider the alternative an infelicity and a potential cause for confusion and loss of clarity:

And so, week after week, he packed
facts, the most damning facts, against slaveholders, their cruelty and tyranny
in the columns of the Liberator.

Another possibility is to simplify the object phrase and then tack a phrase onto the end of the sentence:

And so, week after week, he packed
the most damning facts against slaveholders
in the columns of the Liberator
facts showing their cruelty and tyranny.

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[[...]he packed the most damning facts into the columns of the Liberator, facts against slaveholders, their cruelty and tyranny.

That would be how it would be edited today.

to pack facts in or into the columns of a newspaper. pack here means put in a lot of facts.

The idea is that columns can only take a certain amount of text, and he put a lot of facts into the space he had to fill as a journalist.

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