This is a native aluminum earring. All craftsmanship is of the highest quality. It is studded with bismuth bronze and decorated with water buffalo leather. This object is adorned with hanging rings of red zircon and dragon bone and menaces with spikes of red zircon, cow leather and clear glass. On the item is an image of two trillion cut gems in native aluminum.

Adek Arek "The Sides of Church" : native aluminium earring : 177 600 ; on display, dining room

This legendary artifact description is generated from a game1 and the construction menaces with spikes of is typical for this sort of artifact decoration description. A menacing spike also refers to something functionally different altogether and is used in the game as a trap component. Here the earring menaces with (this object is adorned... and menaces...).

The construction is not necessarily casual. The verb to menace is said to be a bit formal, and often used with be; menacing as an adjective is quite common (Merriam Learners). From the NED, the intransitive form is simply to utter menaces/be threatening. But we're talking jewelry here. There is also a transitive construction to hold out as a punishment, penalty, or danger ; to threaten to inflict. (3b trans. with inf. or object clause, i.e. Quarles Jonah C 1 b Great Ashur minaces with whip in hand, To entertaine thee (welcome) to his land.). This feels slightly different (to me) as in less like "is making threats/is dangerous" and more like "reaches outward" figuratively in some way...

  • Can "with spikes of red zircon, cow leather and clear glass" be some object clause or is this use of the verb to menace just an extension of meaning from the intransitive construction i.e. is that really a threatening/menacing earring? If not, what else?
  • Can to menace with sth. usually denote reaching outward; does the construction yield a meaning similar to the spikes "highlight" this object, or protrude?

1Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress. The object properties reflect game events and are consistent with my material experience of the game world and crafting orders. As in I mined such rocks, used a glass furnace, smelted metal, cut gems, had cattle, killed megabeasts and most likely some water buffalo in the fortress surroundings etc.


Given the description of the function of menacing spikes, they don't sound like the sort of thing that would be mounted on an earring.

When the phrase says 'menaces with' it sounds like it is just describing how the spikes affixed on the earring give it a menacing air. At best, they could be affixed in a particularly menacing manner - perhaps aimed outwards. They don't seem to be the particular special class of items within game known as Menacing Spikes. I'm not familiar with Dwarf Fortress in particular, but this is broadly how I would rule in a generic role playing game.

  • 4
    I agree. It seems like a descriptive way to say the spikes make the earring look threatening.
    – Sarah
    Jan 13 '16 at 22:02
  • Thank you! So in some ways you agree the process of the action is not fully marked with this construction i.e. the spikes are doing something here and giving the object its menacing air as you put it. Is that the same as "menaces with its spikes of" i.e. pronoun? If you were to put aside your knowledge of fantasy lore for a minute and picture a clerk saying that at the jewelry store. Would you consider this old-fashioned, figurative or striking in any way, or does the construction feel casual to you? What is the function of sth. like "with spikes" here i.e. intransitive preposition?
    – user16335
    Jan 14 '16 at 3:53
  • 1
    +1 I think you’re spot-on about menaces being used here to mean “gives/creates a menacing air/allure.” In a jewelry store setting, especially a “specialty” one (read BDSM), I would even be tempted to extend the “giving a menacing air” beyond the earring itself to its wearer, who might want to look/be menacing. Perhaps the clerk would paraphrase the text in question as follows: “This earring, with its spikes of red zircon, cow leather & clear glass, will /give you/create/ that menacing air/allure that [you &] your partner desire/s." (I know nothing about BDSM, but I do associate spikes w/it)
    – Papa Poule
    Jan 14 '16 at 15:29
  • For anyone interested in how this might be translated to French, here's a flip-side sort of question I contributed. Thanks!
    – user16335
    Jan 15 '16 at 6:06

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