what is the true meaning of "save from" in this context?

The many discreet, serious and religious circles were for a season almost obscured by swollen-headed ranters who imagined themselves to be in touch with every high entity from the Apostles downwards, some even claiming the direct afflatus of the Holy Ghost and emitting messages which were only saved from being blasphemous by their crudity and absurdity.

from http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301051h.html

2 Answers 2


According to the Oxford Learners Dictionary

7 save - avoid something bad
to avoid doing something difficult or unpleasant; to make somebody able to avoid doing something difficult or unpleasant

The emitted messages avoided being considered blasphemous by their crudity and absurdity.

"being considered blasphemous" is the "something bad" in the quoted definition
"their crudity and absurdity" is the reason that saved them from being blasphemous.

They were not considered blapshemous because their crudity and absurdity


@RubioRic pretty much nails it for the literal meaning, but I'll add something on the figurative side.

In Christian terminology, the word "saved" can refer to a person being released from the consequences of sinning. And so although the Conan Doyle work we're discussing would not be considered Christian by many, still the section in question is using Christian terminology.

Therefore, while "saved from" does indeed have the "avoided" meaning that @RubioRic explains, there is a figurative overlay in that blasphemy -- the thing being avoided -- is considered sinful by Christians, and so could result in the person in question not being saved--i.e. being "lost", or damned.

So in this particular contex, the thing being "saved" is not just the messages, but also, in this figurative sense, the people uttering those messages. The messages were being saved from being blasphemous; the people were being saved from the eternal damnation possibly arising from them being blasphemers!

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