I came across this sentence in an article by John McPhee but I'm unable to parse it. Could you please help me parse it?

The sentence reads

By the end of 1945, I had passed the point of no return. I was in the soup now good.

Basically, I can't figure out what good is doing there.

  • 2
    If you can add the link to the article (as I've done), it can help us understand the full context.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 6:28
  • 2
    I guess, this could misleadingly be parsed as "The soup, that presently is good, was deficient at the time I was in it" :) Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 11:45
  • 3
    For what it's worth, the modern/correct English equivalent is: "I was now well in the soup", where, as has been mentioned, "in the soup" is an idiomatic phrase meaning that one is in serious trouble. Less idiomatically: "I was now in big trouble." More common, also idiomatic: "I was now in deep $#!^." Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 0:40
  • 2
    And a more idiomatic colloquial rendering would be: "I was in the soup now — but good!" (I've always treated "but good" as an interpolation similar to "X — no kidding!" or at best an intensifier like "X, by God"; but the citations on Wiktionary come down surprisingly strongly on the side of "X but good" with no comma or dash or anything.) McPhee is simply leaving off the "but." Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 16:21

2 Answers 2


This is the voice of Capt Washburn speaking about his situation in 1946. He is an old sailor, with a strong dialect. This isn't standard English.

The word "good" is an adverb in the sentence, with the meaning of "completely" or "to the utmost extent". But note that the adverbial use of "good" is considered to be a mistake in standard English.

  • 14
    note that the adverbial use of "good" is considered to be a mistake in standard English. But also not that it's not particularly uncommon, though for me, "good" unadorned feels slightly awkward, whereas "pretty good" feels more natural. If my car is in a ditch, I wouldn't think twice about saying "it's stuck pretty good". Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 14:33
  • 13
    I disagree that it is a mistake. Good used as an adverb in the sense of "He did good on the test" is general considered a mistake. But the usage in this example is perfectly idiomatic, although it's more common to see the "now" after the "good", as in "Oh, you're in it good now"
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 15:11
  • 5
    To add to Kevin's comment, "The boy did good" is a classic parody of a semi-literate football [soccer] manager describing how his star player performed.
    – alephzero
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 15:22
  • 14
    @alephzero: That sounds like the "erudite" version to me! I'm more accustomed to hearing The boy done good! :) Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 17:00
  • 3
    I think the meaning would've been clearer to native English speakers (though not to English learners) if it'd said “I was in the soup but good. The idiom “but good” is pretty well attested as meaning “to a high degree.” I feel like I see it most often in this sort of usage — as a wry pejorative to mean something like “this is a fine mess I've gotten myself into.” Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 18:45

"In the soup" is an expression meaning "in trouble or a bad situation", "good" here is an intensifier, trying to convey just how bad the situation is.

informal + old-fashioned
: in a bad situation : in trouble
That stunt landed her in the soup.

  • 2
    Upon reading the first part of your answer, I thought there was a comma missing, and "now good" meant he was no longer in trouble. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 23:46
  • perhaps a modern twist, but my first association with "in the soup now" is to the proverbial frog who doesn't notice the slowly rising temperature in a pot of cold water set to cooking over a fire. Like by the time the frog notices, it is too late, it's already part of the soup. Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 21:04

You must log in to answer this question.