Reading another story, I cannot decipher the meaning of the following phrase:

My hand and arm, reaching up to make sure that the graph was correctly adjusted on my forehead over the pineal gland, seemed to scale a gulf like that of some profound canyon. A carboy loomed like a giant monument.

The protagonist describes his feeling when enduring the effect of a drug.

I tried to look up all meanings of "scale" but none seemed to fit in there.

Original text: http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/short-stories/51/double-cosmos

2 Answers 2


It doesn't make sense to me. "Scale" means to climb something, one way or another. A gulf isn't something you climb.
The word "span", meaning "cross" would fit better:
Merriam-Webster "span"
verb (2)
a : to extend across a career that spanned four decades
b : to form an arch over a small bridge spanned the pond
c : to place or construct a span over

  • Thanks, I also thought it could be a typo, but even Google book editions of that story (which I believe are reviewed and edited) contain this weird phrase :(
    – John V
    Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 13:26
  • @Jack O'Flaherty - a good answer. Upvoted. Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 14:06
  • Well, but a gulf can be something like an abyss, chasm, so maybe he meant that it was like climbing such a chasm? Would make sense in the context, I think.
    – John V
    Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 17:43
  • 1
    @JohnV I think whether it's a gulf, an abyss, a chasm, a canyon or a gorge, you might climb out of such a pit, but not without falling or climbing down into it first. It doesn't make sense to omit that part when first introducing the idea of it. This is clearly the first introduction of the idea, since the author describes it like a new idea here ("gulf like that of a profound canyon"). I think the word "span" or "bridge" fits much better. But it was you who objected to the phrase "scale a gulf". Why are you defending it now? Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 18:58
  • Because after I have read it (several times), I would say it does make sense - the protagonist describes how everything seemed to extend into height and length (the legs of a chair were like trees), and then he goes on to describe how his arm and hand, when reaching up to his head, seem like scaling a gulf. So, as the hand is moving up and everything seems extra tall and enormous, it could be like climbing up a chasm, I now believe.
    – John V
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 7:21

It's a bad bit of writing. You either scale a cliff or cross a gulf, and the writer tried to both and failed.

Maybe he was on dugs.

  • Well, but a gulf can be something like an abyss, chasm, so could not that be the meaning? I mean, if you are in the gulf, at the bottom of an abyss, don't you climb up?
    – John V
    Commented Sep 12, 2020 at 17:43
  • I'd use ravine for that, and get out by scaling the cliff sides. A gulf to me is a stretch of sea water. Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 13:45

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