Denise turned towards the door as Judy McAden peeked inside. "I hope I'm not coming at a bad time. I called the hospital, and they said you both were up."

Denise sat up, trying to straighten her wrinkled hospital grown. "No, of course not. We're(Denise and her 4 year old kid) just watching T.V. C'mon in."

"Are you sure?"

"Please. I can only take so many hours of cartoons without a break."

I can't understand the last sentence - I can only take so many hours of cartoons without a break.

What is the meaning of this sentence?

  • 1
    Can you understand it literally? Or Is it that you can understand it literally but cannot understand why she said that? – Damkerng T. Jun 27 '14 at 4:34
  • Probably, Denise told this to McAden in a bantering way considering McAden nothing more than a cartoon character! She's watching TV (must be cartoons) and the coming of McAden is like just watching another cartoon channel! But that's just how I look – Maulik V Jun 27 '14 at 4:35
  • 1
    @MaulikV There's no banter here; Denise is saying she's been watching cartoons with her child for a long time, is sick of doing so, and welcomes the change. – Esoteric Screen Name Jun 27 '14 at 6:28
  • @EsotericScreenName yes I got the meaning as a whole. But frankly, did not understand the words fitted in it. Wouldn't it be better using this - Please come (I deadly needed you at this moment as...) I cannot take so many hours of cartoons without a break OR I could only take these many hours of cartoons without a break Putting could and these would be so clear to me. – Maulik V Jun 27 '14 at 6:29

The phrase

I can only take so many hours of cartoons without a break.

is interpreted more literally as:

There's a limit to the number of hours of cartoons I can tolerate watching consecutively without a break doing something else.

The word "take" means to tolerate or withstand, like in the phrase "I can't take it anymore".

And the structure "I can only [verb] so many [noun]" means something like "I can't [verb] more than a certain amount of [noun]".

In the context of this little dialogue snippet, the reason Denise says this is that she has been watching cartoons for hours on end with her four-year-old daughter, and Judy's arrival into the hospital room is a welcome change of events.

  • So... I can only do so many things = I cannot do more than one thing? – Maulik V Jun 27 '14 at 6:26
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    @MaulikV Not quite, it means there is a maximum number of things I can do. If someone very busy says this in response to a request, it means I can't do that; I am doing too much already. – Esoteric Screen Name Jun 27 '14 at 8:54

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