You took your turn on point a hundred yards out (on) the perimeter as an outpost so the other guys could get some sleep...

If I replace the 'on' with 'from', does the meaning change?

  • 2
    Yes, it does change. "A hundred yards out on the perimeter" tells us you went to the perimeter, which is a hundred yards out from where we are. "A hundred yards out from the perimeter" means you went a hundred yards beyond the perimeter; in other words, further out than the perimeter. [I don't know what on point means here, but you aren't asking about that, so perhaps it's clear from the context.] – Old Brixtonian Feb 13 at 13:27
  • books.google.co.kr/… source – FrankSyrup Feb 13 at 13:33
  • @OldBrixtonian I think 'on point' in this context (sounds military) means being a lookout or scout in a more exposed position than the rest of the guys. But your comment is also how I would interpret the location too and I think should be an answer! – Smock Feb 13 at 14:22
  • So he stayed awake as the pointman somewhere inside the perimeter, right? – FrankSyrup Feb 13 at 14:41
  • 1
    @Smock Thanks for that link. Interesting. I had never heard the expression. It seems to be one of the many which are preserved in the US but obsolete here in the UK. – Old Brixtonian Feb 14 at 3:34

In this context (a US infantryman during WWII apparently defending a position) “the perimeter” is either:

  • an imaginary line (a rough circle with a radius of about 100 yards) drawn around their position at the centre, or
  • a real line formed by perhaps a wall, a fence or roads that are about 100 yards out from the central position.

Either way, the perimeter is a line/boundary that you can stand “on” or are positioned “on”. The position he takes is defined in two ways that seem to be relative to the centre - “on the perimeter” and “on a point 100 yards out”.

Notice that “on the perimeter” and “on a point a hundred yards out” are each distinct phrases (adjectival prepositional phrases) that independently add extra information about where the defensive point or “outpost” is located. They each need their own preposition (“on” a point and “on” the perimeter). If you changed “on” to “from” the meaning would change and there would be one prepositional phrase and not two: “on a point 100 yards from the perimeter”. The point is now about 200 yards out from the centre not 100 yards (but notice we no longer really no how far out the perimeter lies).

Compare the sentence with this one in which there are multiple adjectival prepositional phrases each independently defining a location but adding to the definition of it:

I hid it in the backyard, behind the vegetable garden, near the back fence, at the foot of a gumtree.

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