I just encountered this sentence as an example of 'put out to pasture' but I'm not sure how to read it.

And at 67, Judd Hirsch has hardly reached an age when credible character actors are typically put out to pasture. (USA Today, 2002)

Is this saying "…has hardly reached an age where famous old actors usually put out to pasture"? or "…has hardly reached any age while others are put out to pasture"? or …?

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    The latter is closer. If another actor who is credible enough for the role played instead, that actor would be typically put out to pasture. And Judd Hirsch has hardly reached this age. You can read more details in my answer. – Damkerng T. May 13 '14 at 22:26
  • After reading Hellion's answer and after a little discussion about the meaning of the sentence, I believe that Hellion's interpretation is correct. Sorry about my misinterpretation. I edited the incorrect part out, and keep the part that I hope it's still useful. Also, I'd be happy to see you accept his answer instead of mine. He's the one who kindly pointed out my mistake. :-) – Damkerng T. May 14 '14 at 18:59
  • Wow. I'm in confusion.. :p I guess I just need some more time to digest. – karlalou May 15 '14 at 2:38
  • By the way, I think we need a tag for "reading" or "context" or maybe there's a better name for that but something like that. It will be long till I can create one.. Could anyone consider it please? – karlalou May 15 '14 at 2:50
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    I think I got it. It's "67 was not that old for him to retire" at the time we read this sentence and "an age" is just "an age". We find out "67 was not as old as his role" in the following sentence. Oh and thanks for telling me the tag name. I've just added it. – karlalou May 15 '14 at 4:21

I agree with @Damkerng's basic facts given regarding "put out to pasture" and "hardly", but I have to take issue with his final interpretation.

And at 67, Judd Hirsch has hardly reached an age when credible character actors are typically put out to pasture.

The sentence is saying "Judd Hirsch not so old that he should have to stop working."

At the time it was written, Judd Hirsch was 67 and he was considered to be a "credible character actor"--that is, not someone who would be cast in a leading role, but who could play many different types of smaller supporting roles. (For instance, he played the father of the co-star (Jeff Goldblum) in "Independence Day".)

To break the sentence down some:

In "He has hardly reached an age", as pointed out, hardly can effectively be replaced with not: so, "he has not reached an age", or "he is not old enough".

"When credible character actors" basically refers to the job that Hirsch performs; he is a credible character actor.

And again as given by Damkerng, "are typically put out to pasture" means are normally forced to retire.

So the sentence implies that there is a point where actors such as Hirsch would find themselves unable to get a part anymore, because they're too old; but Hirsch himself, being only 67, has not reached that point yet.

Now that I've read the entire article, you could approach it like this:

  • the play is about people who are in their 80's.
  • normally, people that old must have retired.
  • Judd Hirsch is not nearly 80 yet
  • Therefore, you wouldn't expect to find him looking like he's over 80, and talking about being over 80 and all that comes with it.

But, as the next sentence explains, Hirsch does some "superb acting" and plays the part of an 80-year-old very successfully.

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  • I read your answer and it's very convincing. Actually, it was my default reading before I read the article, "67 is way too young to retire". However, I changed my interpretation after skimming through the article. I think the trickiest word in the sentence is the term "credible character actors", which to me could be read as either "credible character actors" in general or "actors who could play this specific character credibly enough". So, to be sure that I really misunderstood it, I'd like to be confirmed that it really means "credible character actors" in general. Thanks in advance. – Damkerng T. May 14 '14 at 17:38
  • @DamkerngT., you wouldn't have a link to the article handy, perchance? :-) – Hellion May 14 '14 at 18:08
  • Ah, sorry about that! It's here: usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/theater/reviews/…. – Damkerng T. May 14 '14 at 18:16
  • The article definitely says that Hirsch is not as old as the character he's playing, but it also definitely does NOT say that he's not old enough for the role; the very next sentence after the quoted one says that Judd and his co-star "are transformed, through the miracle of superb acting, into Nat and Midge, a pair of plucky octogenarians...". So Hirsch does a superb job of playing an 80-something-year-old in a very believable manner. – Hellion May 14 '14 at 18:44
  • I see. I think I will recommend the OP to accept your answer instead. I will keep mine just for the sake of the definitions from dictionaries. Thank you once again. – Damkerng T. May 14 '14 at 18:48

The phrase put someone out to pasture (humorous) means "to make someone leave their job because they are considered to be too old".

To understand this phrase (or this idiom), imagine a cow or a horse that works for us all its life. It gets older, and we think that it shouldn't have to work anymore. So we let it live in pasture, having a good time eating grass. It doesn't have to work any more, for the rest of its life. That's why we say "put someone out to pasture".

The simplest way to understand hardly is to substitute it with "not". It's usually "used for saying that something is almost not true or almost does not happen at all".

So the sentence,

And at 67, Judd Hirsch has hardly reached an age when credible character actors are typically put out to pasture.

means that at that time (2002), Judd Hirsh is still 67 years old, and he isn't old enough compared to the character he has to play. If another actor played that character instead of him, and that actor could make us believe that he was actually the character he played, he would typically be old enough to be "put out to pasture" (i.e. really, really old, and much older than Judd Hirsh is. :-).

NOTE: To make it's easier to follow, I decided to explain things in 2002 in the present tenses.

Out of context, the sentence on its own should simply mean that at 67, Hirsh was too young to retire. The term character actor also has a special meaning (see the linked page). Finally, I'd like to recommend reading @Hellion's answer for more details.

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  • Thanks you! I guess you somehow noticed that I was having problem with tense. It's much easier to understand it after I'm aware that the tense is present. – karlalou May 13 '14 at 23:20
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    You're welcome! I didn't really notice that. The reason I decided to do so was mainly because the quoted sentence, which was written in 2002, is in present tenses, and I thought that a hypothetical scenario (if another actor played ...) in present tenses might be easier to read than the one in past tenses, which would require back-shifting the whole thing (e.g. if another actor had played ...). I was a little worry that writing it in present tenses might confuse you a little. (I'm sorry for that.) I'm glad that everything turned out quite all right. – Damkerng T. May 13 '14 at 23:46
  • You erased that but I liked what you did writing everything in present tense. – karlalou May 15 '14 at 3:57
  • I'll bring it back because you liked it. :-) – Damkerng T. May 15 '14 at 4:02

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