Rank

English translation: dense

16:47 Sep 4, 2019
English to English translations [PRO]
General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters / General (circa 1900)
English term or phrase: Rank
From Hound of the Baskervilles.

"Rank reeds and lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay and a heavy miasmatic vapour onto our faces, while a false step plunged us more than once thigh-deep into the dark, quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft undulations around our feet."

Does 'rank' here mean thickly-grown, foul-smelling, or did Doyle very intentionally chose this word precisely because it carries both connotations? Is there any evidence that would favor one over the other?
Lincoln Hui
Hong Kong
Local time: 18:53
English translation:dense
Explanation:
As you say, it does also mean foul smelling, but I think that's less likely. The water might smell, but not the reeds themselves.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rank
Selected response from:

philgoddard
United States
Grading comment
There's clearly no consensus here, but in my translation I rewrote the sentence to take into account the "densely grown" meaning, because the information about the decay appears regardless.
3 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +8dense
philgoddard
5 +4foul-smelling
MARK ROBERTSON
4overgrown
Agneta Pallinder
3Affected by putrefaction / Rotten
D. I. Verrelli
5 -2smells like rotten, rancid
Daniel Leite
3 -2musty
Juan Arturo Blackmore Zerón
Summary of reference entries provided
Not an AE / BE issue
Tony M

Discussion entries: 6





  

Answers


5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +4
rank
foul-smelling


Explanation:
I don't think your second meaning is there. If it was, he would have written ranked, which would have excluded your first meaning.

MARK ROBERTSON
Local time: 11:53
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4
Notes to answerer
Asker: Oxford dictionary gives the following example for the definition '(of vegetation) growing too thickly and coarsely': "clumps of rank grass"


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Sheila Wilson
10 mins

neutral  philgoddard: "Ranked" would make no sense. And if your interpretation is correct, he's effectively saying "foul-smelling reeds gave off a foul smell", which is not something Conan Doyle would do.
15 mins
  ->  C-D does what you say he would not do. Perhaps he liked the alliteration.

agree  B D Finch: The other meaning wouldn't be likely given the rest of the description, unless both meanings were intended. As philgoddard notes "ranked" would make no sense.
28 mins
  -> That rankles. I meant standing in ranks.

neutral  Tony M: Densely-growing is perfectly good BE too, and I don't believe C-D would use such a pleonasm here.
32 mins

agree  Charlesp: yep - in this context
17 hrs

agree  Sarah Lewis-Morgan: This and the lush slimy water-plants both go with "sent an odour of decay", so this is the logical meaning.
18 hrs

neutral  D. I. Verrelli: I would have thought this ahead of "dense", although "dense" is also possible. Cf. https://johnwynnehopkins.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/23rd-octob...
21 hrs
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7 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +8
rank
dense


Explanation:
As you say, it does also mean foul smelling, but I think that's less likely. The water might smell, but not the reeds themselves.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rank

philgoddard
United States
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 39
Grading comment
There's clearly no consensus here, but in my translation I rewrote the sentence to take into account the "densely grown" meaning, because the information about the decay appears regardless.
Notes to answerer
Asker: Well, I assume the vegetation would be in a constant state of rot.


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Helena Chavarria: It's the only adjective that gives readers an idea how many reeds there were.
8 mins
  -> Exactly. Thank you.

neutral  B D Finch: That's EN-US https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/rank. Rotting reeds do smell.//It lists it under EN-US, but I now see that it is listed under EN-UK too: see Discussion comment.
23 mins
  -> Your reference doesn't say anything about it being US English.

agree  Tony M: According to BDF's ref. it has that same meaning in both BE and AE.
28 mins
  -> Yes, it does. Thanks.

agree  Clauwolf
1 hr

agree  Tina Vonhof: According to Merriam Webster, it can mean either foul-smelling and dense. I would choose dense in this case.
2 hrs

agree  AllegroTrans
4 hrs

agree  Rachel Fell: not rotten - just too growing densely and not especially healthy - if they were rotting they'd die.
6 hrs

agree  Yvonne Gallagher: of course
7 hrs

neutral  D. I. Verrelli: Maybe so. Although I don't think we *must* know the number: we don't know the number of water-plants. And maybe the reeds *are* dying —why not? Cf. https://www.storyberries.com/poems-for-kids-the-frog-who-wou...
21 hrs

agree  Katalin Horváth McClure
1 day 11 hrs
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11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): -2
rank
smells like rotten, rancid


Explanation:
In my opinion it was intentionally chosen to reinforce the idea of disgust.T

Daniel Leite
Brazil
Local time: 08:53
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  B D Finch: "Smells like rotten" is not correct grammar. Not "rancid", which only applies to fatty foods, e.g. butter.
15 mins

disagree  AllegroTrans: Right idea but totally wrong English construction
4 hrs
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): -2
rank
musty


Explanation:
https://www.google.com/search?q=musty meaning&rlz=1C1GCEA_en...

Juan Arturo Blackmore Zerón
Mexico
Local time: 05:53
Native speaker of: Spanish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  AllegroTrans: IF this relates to smell, then it's 500 % worse than musty
5 hrs

disagree  Yvonne Gallagher: completely wrong word here
5 hrs

neutral  D. I. Verrelli: "Musty" is usually applied to a *mildy* objectionable *indoor* odour.
1 day 9 hrs
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22 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
rank
Affected by putrefaction / Rotten


Explanation:
Definition 12 in OED at https://oed.com/view/Entry/158048?rskey=tOtDFv&result=4&isAd... :
"Affected by or resulting from putrefaction; [...], rotten; [...]."

The "rank reeds" are the/a source of the "odour of decay".

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 day 11 hrs (2019-09-06 04:37:03 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

To me it seems apropos to describe the source of the "odour of decay" the "heavy miasmatic vapour", which I take to be the putrefying reeds and slime-coated plants. (Maybe not all of the reeds are rotten, but reeds don't live forever, and eventually they will die and decay.)

Consider an alternative narration:
"Emerald-green water-plants and reeds the height of a small child sent an odour of decay and a heavy miasmatic vapour onto our faces, [...]"
It's still grammatical, descriptive and evocative. But this alternative description of the plants evokes instead images of their size and colour, and does not prefigure the images of noisome vapours evoked in the next part of the sentence. It's not a natural juxtaposition.

To me the idea of "rank"="dense" follows the same analysis: i.e. "Closely packed reeds and scattered clumps of water-plants [...]" would likewise not foreshadow the subsequent description of foul gases hanging in the air.
On the other hand, "Closely packed reeds and slimy water-plants scratched at any patch of bare skin and stained our clothes [...]." would be very logical.

D. I. Verrelli
Australia
Local time: 21:53
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
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1 day 15 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
rank
overgrown


Explanation:
To give the impression of growth that is too dense, which would also be associated with a smell of decay as plants die off from overcrowding - speaking as a small-scale farmer on boggy, reed-infested grassland.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 day 17 hrs (2019-09-06 10:28:26 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

"While there are many reasons for reed cutting, it is usually done to keep the water flowing and to stop the overgrown reeds from choking the body of water."

Quoting from Envirotec magazine on "Managing reed growth safely"

Agneta Pallinder
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:53
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in SwedishSwedish, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Tony M: Although I believe that is the right sense in this instance, 'overgrown' isn't really a term we would usually apply to thinkg like 'reeds', and it sounds a bit odd.
53 mins
  -> Have the same hesitation Tony, but see my added quote.

neutral  Yvonne Gallagher: overcrowding and overgrown are two different things and personally I don't like either of them as a collocation with reeds
9 hrs
  -> Thanks for contributing to the discussion!
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Reference comments


39 mins peer agreement (net): +2
Reference: Not an AE / BE issue

Reference information:
Sadly BDF contradicts herself with her own ref.:

rank in British

adjective
1.
showing vigorous and profuse growth
rank weeds

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/rank

Tony M
France
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 293

Peer comments on this reference comment (and responses from the reference poster)
agree  Yvonne Gallagher
17 hrs
  -> Thanks, Yvonne!
agree  B D Finch: Yes, I had only noticed it under the AE. However, I think CD is using repetition of descriptors of nasty smells for emphasis, so though vigourous growth may be meant too, I think it does mean foul-smelling.
19 hrs
  -> Thanks, B! I think we'll have to agree to differ on that particular point :-)
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