English translation: machine = any piece of machinery
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15:46 Mar 2, 2018
English to English translations [PRO] General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters / biography
English term or phrase:abandoned machines and motors (in 1922)
at first glance I interpreted “machines” in the passage below as “cars”, but this happened about 1922: were there so many abandoned cars at that time?
Could machines refer instead to other kinds of appliances?
Thanks so much and have a nice weekend!
From age four, Feynman’s parents essentially locked him out of the house, behind which was a junkyard.
The young Feynman would tinker with ** abandoned machines and motors **, and eventually began to fix clocks.
Thank you very much, Dariusz, for your help!
Many thanks also to all other contributors, especially Tony M. for his interesting hypothesis and Charles Davis for his useful reference! Your help is invaluable!! 4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer
whether Tony's hypothesis of "motors = cars" was right...
During my research on the Internet, I've also found that Feynman work is associated with "molecular machines and motors": I don't know anything about physics and chemistry, but, who knows, maybe in saying "machines and motors", the authors were also been influenced by these discoveries...
Thank you so much for your help!
Urban junkyards were very widespread by 1922 and the trade in recycling junk was an organised and institutionalised industry. By the end of the nineteenth century items abandoned in them included "the detritus of farm machinery, household tools and appliances, scrapped vehicles, and retired industrial machinery".
Cars were abandoned by this time:
"In the 1920s, the automobile graveyard became a new, specialized junkyard, where customers could purchase obsolete automobiles for scrap or purchase individual parts off junked automobiles in order to repair other automobiles." https://books.google.es/books?id=BFaB5xsGbaMC&pg=PA451
So by 1922 there certainly could have been abandoned cars in the junkyard behind Feynman's home (in Queens, NY).
That meaning is still listed in the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary. Given that this is reporting what Feynman told someone, albeit many years later, I think he could have used the word "motors" to refer to cars, though this is far from certain, of course. It could mean motors from motorised machines or appliances.
If this is a contemporary text, it's unlikely that "motors" means cars, and they mean "motors and other machines".
A junkyard is a place that buys scrap cars and sells the parts. I'm sure they had them in 1922 as well.
it is possible that the words date back to some time ago, but I don't know when exactly.
before, the authors say:
We heard a terrifically illustrative story about Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, from a friend who had met him when she was about fourteen years old. Given the chance to pick his brain, she asked him how he got so smart. He said it was simple. From age four, his parents….
So Feynman's words may not be contemporary...
My doubt, however, is: was it really possible that parents sent a little child in a place where cars were destroyed? Did such places already exist in 1922? Could "junkyard" mean a "junk dealer", instead?
"Machines and motors" is a tautology, because a motor is a machine. Either it's bad writing, which is possible, or it means cars. Of course, cars are machines too...
I agree with Tony that when it was written could be a clue. People don't usually refer to cars as motors these days.
Thanks for your very interesting contribution. Actually, the text is a contemporary one, but I don't know whether the words I mention were used by Feynman.. It's not in the form of a quote, however. By the way, I guess "junkyard" was something "smaller", maybe a sort of shop - a junk dealer - than a modern junkyard where you scrap cars...
Depending on when the text was written, compared to the period being written about, it is quite possible that 'motors' in fact meant 'motor cars' — note that in the early days, they were very often shortened to 'motors' — cf. General Motors and Ford Motor Company.
In your context, that would make a lot more sense than simply non-specific motors of some kind...
I was thinking of "washing machine", "sewing machine"..."household appliances"...
Automatic update in 00:
3 mins confidence: peer agreement (net): +7
machine = any piece of machinery
Dariusz Saczuk United States Specializes in field Native speaker of: Polish PRO pts in category: 100
Thank you very much, Dariusz, for your help!
Many thanks also to all other contributors, especially Tony M. for his interesting hypothesis and Charles Davis for his useful reference! Your help is invaluable!!
Notes to answerer
Asker: Thank you Dariusz for your help! I said "appliances" because I though of "household appliances", maybe "sewing machines"...