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In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I read:

Nose still stinging where it had hit the hearth, Harry made his way swiftly and silently toward the door, but [...]
(page 49)

I think the sentence is grammatically wrong because I guess it is the nose, so the sentence above should be "Nose still stinging which had hit the hearth [...]."

"Big deal," said Ron rubbing his foot where the photographer had stepped on it.
(p59)

I think it means "his foot," and the sentence above should be "[...] his foot which the photographer had stepped on."

I will appreciate if you tell me whether I am right or wrong and, more importantly, 'why'.

  • 3
    A non-native speaker is very unlikely to discover a typo in such popular and exhaustively proof-read books as the Harry Potter series. They would have been gone over with a fine tooth-comb before even UK publication, then again to make alterations befitting the US market where certain idiomatic usages in the UK are unfamiliar to Americans. – FumbleFingers May 26 '13 at 16:10
  • Thank you for your advice. Actually I hardly thought I was right. I wondered why. You used a where-relative clause in your comment. The 'where' refers to place and in your comment the place is 'the US market'. But I can't recognize any place mentioned in both sentences above that where refers respectively. At first I thought the place was nose in the first sentence and foot in the second sentence. After then I wondered what was the 'it' in the first one and the second one. That is how my confusion began. Can you help me out? – leoorosung May 27 '13 at 16:00
  • @ leoorosung: The where-relative clause in my comment refers to positions in the text itself, not the geographical location of the US or the readers who live there. In both your examples, where definitely refers to the specific part of the nose or foot that was affected, but in other contexts similar constructions might simply be identifying an entire organ as "that part of the body which was affected". For example, "His ear was still ringing where she had slapped him." – FumbleFingers May 27 '13 at 16:24
  • @FumbleFingers: A non-native speaker did find a place where the American editors had changed a very minor typo in the British edition (technically, it was missing a comma) to an ungrammatical phrase in the American. – Peter Shor May 28 '13 at 0:19
  • @Peter Shor: An "error" by the standards of what I consider to be outmoded American pedantry, concerning restrictive clauses, commas, and a nitpicking that/which distinction. If I'd been JKR's style adviser with an eye to worldwide sales, I'd have told her not to use either word (Hagrid might just as well have "scribbled a note Harry could read upside down"). Whatever - my point is it wasn't originally an "unnoticed error". – FumbleFingers May 28 '13 at 1:52
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Both of them are correct. Consider that Harry didn't hit the entirety of his nose on the hearth, and the photographer only stepped on, say, the top of Ron's foot or merely the toes.

  • Thank you for your kind answer. I feel sorry that I don't get it still. Let me describe again what I exactly don't make out. Where in relative clause refers to place. In this example sentence, 'Do you know a shop where I can find sandals?', 'where' refers to 'a shop'. But I don't see any place in above both sentences out of the Harry Potter book that either 'where' refers to. At first I thought the 'where' refered to nose in the first one and foot in the second one. Then I didn't get what the 'it' in each sentence meant. Why the part of nose or foot is not written? What is 'it'? Thank you. – leoorosung May 27 '13 at 16:19
  • @leoorosung it still refers to Harry's nose and Ron's foot. Have you ever head the expression "show me where it hurts?" I suppose this isn't making it clearer. Harry's nose made contact with the hearth at a particular place on both his nose and the hearth. So, while you can refer to the whole of the nose or hearth or Ron's foot, the sentences each refer to the specific point of collision. – cornbread ninja May 27 '13 at 16:37
  • I have been thinking about your answer by now. But I failed to grasp it. Sorry. I will be back when I finally catch on your explaination. Thank you. – leoorosung May 31 '13 at 14:51
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In both the cases where is correct because the sentence is referring to, respectively, part of the nose, and part of the foot.

You can rephrase "The nose is still stinging where it had hit the hearth." as "The part of the nose that had hit the hearth is still stinging." and "said Ron rubbing his foot where the photographer had stepped on it" as "said Ron rubbing the part of his foot the photographer had stepped on."

In the first case, if the sentence would refer to the full nose, it would be probably similar to "Nose still stinging after it had hit the hearth […]." In the second example, if the sentence would refer to the full foot, it would be probably similar to "[…] said Ron rubbing his foot after the photographer had stepped on it."

  • +1 for mentioning that even if you wanted to refer to the entire nose/foot, you probably wouldn't use "which" in these cases. – Martha May 26 '13 at 20:04
  • Thanks a lot for your kind answer. I feel sorry that I don't get it still. Let me describe again what I exactly don't make out. Where in relative clause refers to place. In this example sentence, 'Do you know a shop where I can find sandals?', 'where' refers to 'a shop'. But I don't see any place in above both sentences out of the Harry Potter book that either 'where' refers to. At first I thought the 'where' refered to nose in the first one and foot in the second one. Then I didn't get what the 'it' in each sentence meant. Why the part of nose or foot is not written? What is 'it'? Thank you. – leoorosung May 27 '13 at 16:17
  • In the first sentence, it is referring to nose, and in the second sentence is referring to foot. Where doesn't necessarily refers to a place. See for example, "Where [= at what point] did I go wrong in my calculations?" "Where [= in what book, newspaper, etc] did you read that?" or "Just where [= to what situation] is all this leading us?" – kiamlaluno May 27 '13 at 16:53
  • As for why "the part of the" is not written, that is because the sentence is shorter when "the part of" is replaced by where. It is just a matter of style. – kiamlaluno May 27 '13 at 16:57
  • Thank you so much for what you did for understanding me. But still I didn't get it. Sorry. This is where I am. It will take time. As soon as I get to know, I will let you know that. Thanks again. – leoorosung May 31 '13 at 14:47

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