Is a question about the meaning of the a phrase used in a poem off topic on ELU?

To be clear, I'm not interested in interpretation or analysis of the poem as a whole, just the limited meaning of a phrase.

Here is the question:

I recently re-read E.J. Brady's Down in Honolulu, but this line has stuck out to me:

I kissed her for her mother,
  I gev' her one, two, three;
I squoze her for her brother—
  'T was all the same to me.

I understand this is not standard English, but how I should read the phrases "for her mother" and "for her brother" in this context? It could be "in honor of her cultural heritage", but the other lines seem to contradict this; or am I missing something obvious?

The author was Australian and this poem was written at the end of the 19th century, so perhaps this is a regionalism particular to his dialect.

  • Despite my answer, now we've got details of the specific usage I don't think I would consider it Off Topic. The usage here seems essentially to be the same as "Say hello to her for me". That's to say, for here basically means on behalf of, for the sake of, but probably with overtones of in the same way as the mother/brother might kiss/squeeze their daughter/sister. Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 20:19
  • @FumbleFingers Okay thanks for your input, I just wanted to confirm before throwing this out there. Posted here
    – p.s.w.g
    Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


I think if the only context given for "a phrase" is its use in a poem, it's almost certainly Off Topic.

Even if in fact the phrase in question is commonplace, it's highly likely that in the specific context of a poem it will have "non-standard" resonances - so answerers will be tempted to wax lyrical about these resonances, resulting in what will be effectively "Off Topic answers".

So my position is: if you can't find a "non-poetry" context for a phrase, don't ask it on ELU.

  • I can find many other similar phrases, but none of them seem related, and they don't give me a clue on how to read the phrase in the poem.
    – p.s.w.g
    Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 17:49
  • @p.s.w.g: I don't really understand why you haven't told us the specific usage (and context) here in this meta question. You could just ask on main and see what happens - but if it's likely to be "contentious", surely it would be better to let us all know the details, so we can air the issue more thoroughly here? Otherwise we're reduced to making general statements that may not actually be relevant to the specific case in point. Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 20:00
  • Fair enough, see my updated question
    – p.s.w.g
    Commented Jun 30, 2013 at 20:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .