Context: A (an editor) and B (an assistant) are colleagues in a publishing house.

A: Guess who has a reading tomorrow night at the Swedish consulate?

B: Bjornberg (a writer from Sweden)? I finished the translation you gave me. You're right; he's incredible.

A: His agent wants him to sign with Knopf. But I'm gonna get him to change his mind.

B: And how are you going to do that?

A: I don't know. But I'm not above yodeling.

B: That's Swiss. Swedes are more into free childcare, herring, and depression.

I am not sure what the bolded part means. I guess A isn't good at yodelling in order to know more about Swedish culture or she won't play tricks in order to sign this writer (Bjornberg)? Also, does above in the sentence mean good at?

  • No problem :) I notice you have a few questions (on here and ELU) where you provide a fair bit of dialogue (which is great! context really helps!). In future you might want to format them as quoted text like I've done here (just use the right arrow and a space at the start of the line: > , or click "edit" on this question to see how I did it) - it just makes them a bit easier for people to read, which in turn makes it easier for people to answer :) May 19, 2015 at 15:08
  • @starsplusplus In fact, I've learned > from today as I noticed other questions are using it and it will make my question looks very clear and neat. Your editions are much much better than mine. When & how do I reach kind of fluency?
    – puputeh24
    May 19, 2015 at 15:16
  • Fluency in formatting? Or English? I'm not sure what you're asking, heh. There are some buttons above the box where you type a post (starting with B and I buttons) - those can give you some help, but you can also just pick things up from seeing what other people have done (as you are already doing!). May 19, 2015 at 15:21
  • Here is a guide from Meta Stack Exchange about how StackExchange (ELU, ELL and all the other sites) do their formatting. May 19, 2015 at 15:22
  • @starsplusplus Fluency in English! It's hard to reach mastery level...sigh
    – puputeh24
    May 19, 2015 at 15:24

2 Answers 2


This is an abstract use of the preposition above. Its opposite, beneath, works the same way.

Normally above and beneath refer to something being higher or lower than something else physically. In the abstract sense here, it means instead to be morally higher or lower than something else.

If you consider something to be of lower status, moral, or worth, then that thing is beneath you, and you are above it. If you don’t consider it to be of lower status, moral, or worth, then the thing is not beneath you, and you are not above it.

For example, if you play sports and you are a very fair player, you probably consider dirty tricks (like elbowing your opponent in the back) to be morally unworthy. Dirty tricks are beneath you; you are above dirty tricks.

On the other hand, if you just want to win at any cost and don’t care too much about the rules, then you might think elbowing your opponent in the back is fine. Then dirty tricks are not beneath you; you are not above dirty tricks.

Yodelling is part of Switzerland’s culture, but it is often considered a bit silly and strange in other countries, and therefore, most people would find it embarrassing to stand up in front of others and yodel—they would consider yodelling to be beneath them. In your example, A is saying that she is so keen to get Björnberg to sign a deal with her that she will even condescend to do something embarrassing like yodelling to get that to happen.

  • +1 for the demonstration we can give great detailed answers on ELL too! ;) (Okay, I would have +1ed anyway, it's a good answer. Nice coverage of the abstract "higher/lower" in a moral sense.) May 19, 2015 at 15:00
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet - Alternatively, can i say Yodeling are not beneath me?
    – puputeh24
    May 19, 2015 at 15:50
  • @puputeh24 No, because yodeling (as all gerunds) is singular, not plural. So you have to say “Yodelling is not beneath me”. (Whether you spell it yodeling or yodelling doesn’t matter—the former is most common in American English, the latter is most common in British English.) May 19, 2015 at 15:52
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Thanks a lot. I've learned additionally for above and beneath !!!
    – puputeh24
    May 19, 2015 at 15:59
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Excuse me. May I ask 1 more question? Swedes are more into free childcare, herring, and depression. more into means prefer ?
    – puputeh24
    May 19, 2015 at 16:06

To not be above something is to consider oneself to not be afraid of doing that thing, or to not consider it too degrading for oneself.

Here, 'A' means she's not afraid of yodeling to appeal to the Swedish crowd. The "joke" here is that yodeling is part of Switzerland's culture, not Sweden's.

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