What is "ice orange"? I'm pretty sure it's a typo, but can't so far figure out what it really meant:

Going up the road toward home the road was smooth and slippery for a while and the ice orange from the horses until the wood-hauling track turned off

From A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

  • It may be worth saying that for me as a native English (American) speaker, it was difficult to understand / parse this sentence. (However, the question title may have played a role in nudging me down the wrong track :-) )
    – LarsH
    Aug 24, 2022 at 15:20
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    Can you explain to me why so many users who ask questions cannot be bothered to cite their sources? I'm curious. It nearly always has to be a hi-rep user who has to take care of it. Why?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 24, 2022 at 18:47
  • From meta: Attribution: the good and the bad
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 24, 2022 at 18:52
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    To cite a source does not necessarily involves quoting the page number. It means telling users the TITLE of the work and who the AUTHOR is. It's not difficult. Why should I have to google something to understand the context, to understand which period it is from, to understand which dialect it is. Why? Do you think the users who spent time answering didn't first Google the phrase? For example, I know very well the story "Of Mice and Men" I know the context, the names of the protagonists, the storyline but how many users/learners do?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 24, 2022 at 19:16
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    So, just to be absolutely clear, you can't be bothered to cite your sources, i.e. the title of the book and/or the name of the author.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 24, 2022 at 22:41

3 Answers 3


A fuller version of the quote is:

There was an inn in the trees at the Bains d’Alliez where the woodcutters stopped to drink, and we sat inside warmed by the stove and drank hot red wine with spices and lemon in it. They called it gluhwein and it was a good thing to warm you and to celebrate with.

The inn was dark and smoky inside and afterward when you went out the cold air came sharply into your lungs and numbed the edge of your nose as you inhaled. We looked back at the inn with light coming from the windows and the woodcutters" horses stamping and jerking their heads outside to keep warm. There was frost on the hairs of their muzzles and their breathing made plumes of frost in the air. Going up the road toward home the road was smooth and slippery for a while and the ice orange from the horses until the wood- hauling track turned off. Then the road was clean-packed snow and led through the woods, and twice coming home in the evening we saw foxes. [A Farewell to Arms]

The comment by Kate Bunting

"The road was smooth... and the ice [was] orange".

is correct, the repeated "was" has been omitted here. The answer by Michael Harvey correctly identifies this as an instance of ellipsis.

One should note that the text says that the ice [was] orange "until the wood-hauling track turned off." I think it is clear that the part of the trail used for hauling wood, and thus heavily traveled on by draft horses, was turned orange from horse dung trodden into the snow and ice, while after the wood-hauling track diverged "then the road was clean-packed snow".

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    Why is dung orange and why do they poop on the go? Is it what horses do? I'm a city dweller, see Aug 22, 2022 at 20:03
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    @Sergey Zolotarev Horses do indeed poop on the go. Their dung, and that of dogs, is often orange when mashed into snow or wet ground, I have seen it. I don't know why that is so. Aug 22, 2022 at 20:07
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    The colour of dung comes partly from the food and partly from the bile pigments that are added during the digestive process. Usually they all mix to give a dark brown (maybe greenish brown from a horse on fresh grass), but the main bile pigments tend to be dark red or yellow. Presumably those colours are lightened when they're diluted in the snow, and show up as orange. Urine is another possibility, but in my experience most horses are more reluctant to pee than poop on the go. Aug 23, 2022 at 7:38
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    @DavidSiegel - when UK home deliveries of coal, milk, bread etc, were often made using horses and carts, there was a notion that people had a shovel handy, and kept the delivery man talking in the hope that the horse would provide 'something for the roses'. I have read that part of training a young horse is to get the animal to not stop to defecate, but to do it while in motion. This suggests that they naturally prefer to stop. Aug 23, 2022 at 8:11
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    We walked through the woods. It was cold. The ice behind some of the trees was brown from the bears. There are times when a man has to look where he is stepping. My guide spoke. "A real hombre knows what bears do in the woods". I nodded. Aug 23, 2022 at 13:13

No typo. Omission of 'was' is an example of 'ellipsis'. We can omit repeated words in clauses connected with and, but and or (coordinated clauses). We understand what the ‘missing’ items are.

Going up the road toward home the road was smooth and slippery for a while and the ice [was] orange from the horses until the wood-hauling track.

My daughter had a work experience day at a printing company, and when she came home her hair was untidy and her blouse [was] black from the ink.

Ellipsis (Cambridge Dictionary)

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    Note that depending on dialect, this type of ellipsis may be unusual in modern vernacular. For example, I only rarely encounter this type of usage among American English speakers, and even when I do it’s often in a formal poetic or prosaic context (as compared to general conversation). Aug 24, 2022 at 14:20
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    @AustinHemmelgarn - for some value of 'vernacular'. I can perfectly easily imagine saying 'What a night! I got home to find that my house was burned down, my wife drunk, my dog dead, and my car wrecked'. Aug 25, 2022 at 13:49
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    But luckily I still had my packet of Hamlet cigars. Aug 25, 2022 at 14:59
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    Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet, the mild cigar. Really old video clip.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 25, 2022 at 15:20
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    @Mari-LouA - there was a celebrated series of ads from the mid 1960s right up to the end of tobacco advertising on UK commercial TV. I think my favourite is the guy who is trying to impress his date at a swish restaurant when the waiter, passing by, accidentally knocks his wig askew. The woman is horrified. The man gets out a Hamlet and the waiter strikes a match on his bald head and lights his cigar for him. This moment always accompanied by JS Bach's Air from Suite No 3 in D Major ('Air on a G String') performed by Jacques Loussier's trio. Aug 25, 2022 at 19:17

"orange" is an adjective modifying "ice". "smooth and slippery" is an adjectival phrase modifying "road". Having two cases of a noun modified by adjectives is an example of parallelism, and parallelism allows repeated words to be omitted. In this case, the word "was" would appear in the full version of both phrases, but it can be dropped in the second instance.

  • It's a predicate, not a modifer, though Aug 23, 2022 at 21:55
  • I'd say this is the best answer. Parallelism is the key element here.
    – Fattie
    Aug 25, 2022 at 12:19

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