The expression: I’m going out now and may be some time

“Adesso esco e magari ci sto un po’”. “I’m going out now and may be some time” è uno degli eufemismi inglesi più belli ed eloquenti. Chi ha detto questa frase, passata poi alla storia tanto da diventare proverbiale, stava andando a suicidarsi… LANGUAGE LEVEL C1 (ADVANCED)

Mark Worden (Standard British accent):
I’m going out now and may be some time.”(1) This is an expression which the British use jokingly (2) when they have to deal with a rather complicated situation (3); for example, if they have to leave a building, like an office, in order go to a difficult meeting.
The origin of the expression is in fact tragic. According to legend, “I’m going out now and may be some time” were the last words of one Captain Lawrence Oates, who was a member of Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1912, the same year of another tragedy, that of the Titanic.
The story goes (4) that the five-man expedition team successfully reached the South Pole, only to discover that their Norwegian rival Amundsen had got there more than a month before them. And so they planted the British flag and began their sad journey back towards the coast, but things didn’t go terribly well. One of the members of the team died and Oates himself developed both frostbite and gangrene (5) . He realised that he was slowing up (6) the rest of the team and, in order to encourage their chances of survival, he suggested that they might like to leave him behind (7), so that he could die with dignity. The others, of course, refused and so one evening, when they were sitting in their tent in the middle of a blizzard (8), Oates calmly announced, “I’m going out now and may be some time.” He then walked out into the blizzard, never to return. It was a suicide, but also a heroic act of self-sacrifice. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a terribly useful one because the other three members of the team themselves died only a few days later.

1. I’m going out now and may be some time: adesso esco e magari ci sto un po’.
2.  jokingly: scherzando
3. they have to deal with a rather complicated situation: hanno a che fare con una situazione piuttosto complicata
4. the story goes: si narra che…
5. developed both frostbite and gangrene:
contrasse sia il congelamento sia la cancrena
6. he was slowing up:
stava rallentando
7. to leave him behind:
lasciarlo lì (andarsene senza di lui)
8. blizzard: bufera di neve


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