His take on the theme is clever, alarming and blackly funny, although he spins out to more than 300 pages a tale that Borges would have elegantly dispatched in three. (here)

While reading an article, I saw this sentence above and I can't understand the structure of the marked phrase, especially the position of "300 pages".

I think this version seems more natural : "spins out a tale to more than 300 pages"

1 Answer 1


Here "spins out" means "lengthens", as it does in your alternate form. (The metaphor from which this idiom is derived is spinning wool into yarn or cotton into thread.) The construction "spins out to {length}" is not uncommon, and in this case it facilitates the comparison with how Borges (often noted for concise writing) would have handled the same story. If the critic had written "spins out a tale to more than 300 pages" the comparison would have had to be made as something like "spins out a tale to more than 300 pages when Borges would have needed only three elegant pages to tell the same story". Also, the form that the critic used puts "spins out" -- meaning to lengthen -- adjacent to the resulting length, thus emphasizing the number of pages, not the tale.

  • Thank you, but why we have to change the rest of the sentence when we change "spins out to more than 300 pages a tale" to "spins out a tale to more than 300 pages"? And the first thing made me confused was the word order of the phrase, "300 pages a tale", that seems awkard to me. Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 0:07

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