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I've been reading When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne and stumbled upon the expression to give the huffle of something in the The Four Friends poem.

Here's some context:

Ernest started trumpeting, and cracked his manger,

Leonard started roaring, and shivered his stall,

James gave the huffle of a snail in danger

And nobody heard him at all.

What does it mean "James gave the huffle of a snail in danger"?

3 Answers 3

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Perhaps it's a made-up nonsense word, which describes the (non-existent) noise of a snail

  • An elephant "trumpets"
  • A lion "roars"
  • A snail "huffles"

The word "giving" is sometimes used in the context of creating an audible alarm, e.g. "he gave a cry of alarm" (although it is a bit literary or old-fashioned), or any other communication e.g. "he gave a signal to advance".

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It means "James gave the kind of huffle that a snail does when it's in danger" (whatever a 'huffle' may be).

A more common use of this construction is in phrases like "the groan of a man in pain".

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huffle can mean

to blow in gusts

Snail not having any cry, Milne is describe James as making a sound by breathing outward like a gust of wind -- with little noise, as shown by the failure to be heard.

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