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It's a sentence as an example under the entry "slam-bang" in Oxford Dictionary.

slam-bang: suddenly and forcefully or violently

I walked slam-bang into this character.

What does it mean?

Does the speaker really bump against somebody?

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    This is indeed worth throwing for a bounty. Can anyone let StoneyB know this? His comment is required. – Maulik V Mar 3 '14 at 5:56
  • @snailplane The reason is, I'm not totally convinced with the word character used here. Whilst Oxford is known to make things simple, why does it use that heavy word in the example that could be otherwise described in a way without any perplexity as here - wordwebonline.com/en/SLAMBANG. See that, it's clear in all its examples. – Maulik V Mar 3 '14 at 10:33
  • @MaulikV Oxford uses real world examples instead of invented ones. – snailplane Mar 3 '14 at 10:36
  • It sounds like "walked slap bang into" which you might get more results for. – starsplusplus Mar 3 '14 at 13:35
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+50

The speaker really bumped against somebody.

There are a few quirks to this sentence. First, "character" is used to refer to an actual human standing in the way of the speaker. "Character" has many definitions (as you can see here), but the ones that I find relevant are:

  • a person, esp. with reference to behavior or personality: a suspicious character.
  • an odd, eccentric, or unusual person.

I believe the speaker uses "character" instead of "person" to express judgement on the person. They are suspicious or shady or just plain odd. It's also a way to keep the sentence all in the same tone. "Slam-bang" is something you would expect a 1920's gangster to say, and so is referring to a person as "character". "Get a load of this character, boss!"

... but maybe that's just me.

Anyway: Now that the confusion that in this case "character" really just means "person" is cleared up, it's also clear that "slam-bang" is an adverb modifying "walked". You could translate the whole sentence as "I walked suddenly and forcefully into this person."

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    No downvote but I strongly believe that when someone walks into some character, it means that someone becomes that someone as described here - thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/… where a person walks into the character of a salesman (he stars behaving/acting/thinking like a salesman). – Maulik V Mar 1 '14 at 10:08
  • Also, from the Joker (Batman) - Whereas Ledger reinvented the Joker to suit his style of acting, Nicholson just walked into the character from the comics and it was a perfect fit. – Maulik V Mar 1 '14 at 10:11
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    @Maulik That's another use of the phrase, though I think it would be less common to use it with "slam-bang". We would need more context to know for sure. – hairboat Mar 1 '14 at 21:15
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I myself eventually found a may-be original resouce form which the sample sentence is selected. It's from a novel The Enemy:

He had a raw colonial accent. 'We don't move out of the UK much,' I said. 'Most of our work is counterespionage. This one is a bit different. If you can take me to George Ashton I'll buy you a case of Foster's.' Henty blinked. 'Good beer, that. How did you know I'm Australian? I've not been back for twenty years. Must have lost the accent by now.' I grinned. 'Yes, you've learned to speak English very well. Where's Ashton?' He went to the window and pointed at the Royal Palace. 'On the other side of that. In Gamla Stan.' Gamla Stan-the Old Town. A warren of narrow streets threading between ancient buildings and the 'in' place to live in Stockholm. Cabinet ministers live there, and film directors-if they can afford it. The Royal Palace is No. 1, Gamla Stan. I said, 'How did you find him?' 'I got a couple of crummy pictures from London, and the day I got them I walked slam-bang into this character on the Vasabron.' Henty shrugged. 'So it's a coincidence.' 'By the laws of statistics we've got to get lucky some time,' I observed. 'He has a flat just off Vasterlanggatan. He's passing himself off as a Russian called Fyodr Koslov-which is a mistake.' 'Why?' Henty frowned. 'It's a tip-off-enough to make me take the pictures and send them back. There's something funny about the way he speaks Russian-doesn't sound natural.' I thought about that. After thirty years of non-use Ashton's Russian would be rusty; it's been known for men to forget completely their native language.

From the context, I call tell the writer is saying "coincidentally met a certain person". At least in this example, it somewhat means that the writer "ran across a certain person" or more wildly speaking, "he bumped against the man in a sudden".

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  • I am not quite sure about my answer, honestly. – dennylv Mar 3 '14 at 7:12
  • It seems like you've got the right idea. – snailplane Mar 3 '14 at 9:11
  • @dennylv I got a couple of crummy pictures from London...there, walking slam-bang into that character seems okay. Again, it's getting into someone character I think. – Maulik V Mar 3 '14 at 10:37
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    @MaulikV Henty is describing how he found Ashton, a man they'd been trying to locate. Henty had been given a couple of photos of Ashton, and the same day he received them, they ran into each other by chance. – snailplane Mar 3 '14 at 11:02
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    +1 'Bumped' is exactly right - "Guess who I just bumped into" doesn't mean "Guess who I collided with" but "Guess who I just met unexpectedly". And "slam-bang" expresses not physical violence but suddenness and surprise - "I walked around the corner and Wham! there he was!". – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 3 '14 at 11:57

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