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I've read The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro recently, and found a phrase that is difficult to read.

If you dismiss my girls tomorrow, it will be wrong, a sin as any sin ever was one and I will not continue to work in such a house.

The situaions in which this sentence is uttered are where the speaker of this sentence is complaning that the person referred to as "you" is going to fire her two subordinates dishonetly, and is denouncing him.

If you would tell me how to interpret this phrase grammatically, I'd appreciate it.

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  • It is translated from Japanese, it means: a sin any ever was.
    – Lambie
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:27
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    @Lambie - Sir Kazuo Ishiguro OBE FRSA FRSL is Japanese by birth, and came to the UK aged five in 1960. He didn't visit Japan until 1989. He is as fluent as any native speaker ever was fluent, and he wrote all of his novels in English. He has said that he has 'little familiarity with Japanese writing'. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. Oct 9, 2022 at 19:38
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    What bothered me was the repetition. I prefer: a sin as any ever was. I see no need for the word one, there. Also, my first comment is nonsense. Sorry. I know his British but jumped at the Japanese name. My bad. My mother called that: Quick, certain and wrong. Going out now. Too much computer time.
    – Lambie
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:45
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    @Lambie - I'm sure Ishiguro would avoid that repetition in e.g. an essay, but he is putting words in the mouth of a character, a domestic servant, who seems to be angry (repetition adds emphasis) and who also seems to feel that three 'sins' in a sentence is one too many. My father used to say things like 'That man is as much a fool as any fool ever was one' Oct 9, 2022 at 20:06
  • This is a very clever book. Oct 9, 2022 at 20:11

2 Answers 2

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You should interpret it to mean 'If you dismiss my girls tomorrow, it will be wrong, a sin as bad as any sin that has ever been committed by anyone, and I will not continue to work in such a house.'

'As something ever was something' means 'something comparable to the most extreme example of something', e.g. I saw a tiger as fierce as any tiger ever was fierce'

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Another way of saying it might be:

... it will be wrong and just as sinful as any other sin ...

The implication is that (1) technically, the action is not a sin; and (2) the person being spoken to probably wouldn't recognize his action as being bad enough to be called a sin. So the speaker is emphasizing the fact that he considers it serious enough to be regarded as a sin, and equivalent to any other sin that exists.

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