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Thirty-odd years after demobilization, there are many former other ranks who enjoy a dream of avenging old insults, injustices, nuances of upper-class disdain.

  • 1985 by Anthony Burgess.

I don't know the meaning of the work "nuance" in this text. I have two versions:

1 - "Other ranks" dreamed of avenging two things - Insults and injustices. And these are nuances of upper-class disdain.

2 - "Other ranks" dreamed of avenging three things - Insults, injustices and nuances.

2 Answers 2

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This is very ambiguous.

Your second version is more probably correct. We can interpret the sentence as saying that the former other ranks are dreaming of avenging three things: old insults, injustices, and nuances of upper-class disdain.

The difficulty of parsing this sentence is due to the third indirect object—"nuances of upper-class disdain"—having been left dangling, without the conjunction "and" to bind it with the other two indirect objects.

The use of "and" would have made the sentence's meaning more clear:

Thirty-odd years after demobilization, there are many former other ranks who enjoy a dream of avenging old insults, injustices, and nuances of upper-class disdain.

It is also possible that your first version is correct, but that is putting a greater strain on the construction of the sentence. If the intended meaning is closer to your first version, then some simple punctuation would have made the meaning clear:

Thirty-odd years after demobilization, there are many former other ranks who enjoy a dream of avenging old insults, injustices—nuances of upper-class disdain.

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  • So what does "nuances" mean in that context? I don't understand this. What are the nuances? I want to translate this sentence to my language. Tha'ts why I want to understand the word.
    – Abw
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 9:20
  • If Person A disdains Person B, then Person A might insult and commit injustices against Person B. For example, if I am disdainful of you, then when I walk past you, I might not look at you, since I don't respect you enough to pay attention to you. Since I am ignoring you, if you greet me softly, I might not know, especially since I don't see your mouth as you speak. So, I don't respond to your greeting. To ignore a greeting is to insult the one who has greeted you. Thus, I have insulted you, and my insult was a nuance (that is, it was a small effect, or a secondary feature) of my disdain.
    – J. Berry
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 9:29
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    I agree that the second interpretation is more likely; (unsubtle) insults and injustices as well as more subtle signs of 'upper-class disdain'. Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 9:38
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nuances in this context means "subtle variations". The author was likely looking for a more elegant way to describe "acts" or "expressions" (of upper-class disdain).

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