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Suppose there is a woman who is not simple and often wants many different things in life, which makes her life more complicated because she has to manage so many things she possesses.

Is it correct to say "She is complicated. She is long on temper but short on patience"?

Note: I don't see any example in dictionaries say "a person is complicated"

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    It's an "unusual" wordplay, to say the least, since there is no idiomatic usage long on temper in English. Without this exact context to guide interpretation, I'd be as likely to suppose it meant is slow to cease being angry rather than takes a long time to become angry. The intended meaning is only clear because pf the context, which unavoidably proclaims "wordplay" at least as much as the delivery of information. Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 17:06
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    (Also, I don't find the text "natural" because it doesn't make sense. It seems to be saying she's simultaneously slow and quick to lose her temper / patience.) Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 17:11
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    @FumbleFingers Patience is “willingness to wait”, and temper is emotional state. After staring at this for a few minutes, I'd interpret this to mean that somebody did not like waiting for things, but didn't get angry about it. I don't think that's what it's meant to mean, though; naturalness aside, neither of our interpretations match the first paragraph of this question.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 1:39
  • I don't see any example in dictionaries say "a person is complicated" - one example usage which comes to mind is the theme from Shaft.
    – kaya3
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 8:10
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    What do you mean by "long in temper" as in she has a temper that lasts for a long time or that it takes her a long time to lose her temper?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 13:30

6 Answers 6

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It's fine to say a person is complicated.
For your second sentence it might make as much sense to say

She's long on temper and short on patience.

since you'd expect someone with a temper to be impatient.

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    I guess this shows how ambiguous ‘long on temper’ is: I interpreted it as meaning that it takes a long time for her to lose her temper — which would be in opposition to the rest and justify the ‘but’. (Your interpretation — that she has a nasty temper — may make more sense when you think about it, though.)
    – gidds
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 2:18
  • Financial terminology: "long" means you own some, "short" means you don't (or that you have sold some). Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 21:01
  • Short-tempered means a person easily becomes angry, so I would assume "long on temper" would mean they don't get upset easily. But yes, phrasing it that way makes it harder to tease out a meaning. "Long-tempered" isn't a phrase but at least it would be clearly understandable by analogy. Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 0:10
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I've never heard of a long-tempered person. You could say quick-tempered, high-tempered, or simply 'she's got a temper' (insinuating the same thing) but 'long on temper' doesn't sound right to me.

As for a complicated person; that's a correct way to describe someone. The reason it's not in the dictionary is because 'complicated' has a generic meaning, and can apply to many things.

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    The question doesn't call the person long-tempered. It simply uses the opposing long and short references for effect.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 13:29
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    @Chenmunka knowing the user, I'd say they have used "long temper" because they believe it is idiomatic. To be described as being complicated suggests that the person has conflicting personality traits.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 13:33
  • @Chenmunka Tom did ask 'Is it correct to say [..]'
    – paddotk
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 21:21
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Definition 8 at Lexico provides the meaning of the idiom "long on":

informal Well supplied with.

So "long on temper" means she has a strong temper. "Short on" is the opposite, so "short on patience" means she doesn't have much matience.

The relevant definition of "complicated" is:

Involving many different and confusing aspects.

All people have many different aspects, so when we describe a person as complicated we're emphasizing that their particular combinations of personality traits are confusing. So this isn't really a very good example of being complicated, since this is hardly an unexpected combination.

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It’s a nice sentence. It’s not what you would usually hear, but it’s nice. English language isn’t fixed. This is just the right distance from standard English to be interesting.

Now what exactly “long on temper” means is tricky to say. “Short on temper” is someone who gets annoyed very easily and quickly. So “long on temper” might be someone who takes a very long time to get upset. But I read it as someone who gets angry easily and then stays angry for a long time. That’s mostly because of the contrast with “short of patience” which is someone losing their patience quickly.

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Use of 'long' and 'short' here make me think of financial trading, where to be 'long' on a commodity means to have a financial situation where you will profit if the price goes up (e.g. by owning some of it), or maybe just to believe that it's valuable and to be 'short' means to have the opposite situation, where you will profit if the price goes down, or you think it's not valuable enough to justify the price.

So someone long on temper and short on patience would like temper and dislike patience.

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I think it will be less ambiguous if you say: "She is big on temper but short on patience."

long does not clarify whether she takes long to be angry or whether she stays angry for a long time. Most people might understand the former meaning than the latter.

"Big on temper" makes more sense as being Big on something is the general usage that someone does it a lot or likes to do something a lot. Let me know what you think.

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  • See the definition I quoted in my answer, it explains why "long on" is appropriate. "Temper" isn't something someone chooses to do or enjoy.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 14:39

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