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Within spitting distance

 

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Old January 22, 2012, 05:29 AM
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Within spitting distance

I'd like to ask what distance may have speakers in mind when they say "within spitting distance" as I've just heard it in last episode of BBC's Escape to the Country when the would-be escapees told that they'd like to move to Saint Ives' area, Cambridgeshire, because it's "within spitting distance" of the sea (which is not closer than 20 miles).

So, isn't it a bit of a stretch to say "within spitting distance" for such a distance? or is it common use? I have a hard time imagining anything but a Dicke Bertha spitting that way.

By the way, the Spanish expressions "a tiro de piedra", "...de flecha", "...de lanza", "... de jabalina" are used with distances, at most a 20 minute walk. Sometimes other creative expressions like "a tiro de rifle" or even "a tiro de obús" are used for distances that are a bit more (or more than a bit more) than "a tiro de flecha".
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Old January 22, 2012, 07:58 AM
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To me, 'within spitting distance' (or 'within striking distance') means 'not very far away'. Your next-door neighbor is within spitting distance. (If you're not on good terms, they're withing striking distance. )

"A stone's throw" (or "a stone's cast") is farther away than spitting distance, of course.
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Old January 22, 2012, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty View Post
"A stone's throw" (or "a stone's cast") is farther away than spitting distance, of course.
Yes, used literally it is. But I think that when used hyperbolically as in Alec's example, I would take "spitting distance" and "a stone's throw" as indistiguishable, both being vague and meaning conveniently near.
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Old January 22, 2012, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
Yes, used literally it is. But I think that when used hyperbolically as in Alec's example, I would take "spitting distance" and "a stone's throw" as indistiguishable, both being vague and meaning conveniently near.
Yes, conveniently near, as compared to some reference point. Comparing anywhere in Kansas to anywhere within 20 miles of the ocean, less than 20 miles from the coast is "within spitting distance". In the beach resort town where my mother and siblings live, "within spitting distance" is less than 100 yards(meters) from the end of the pavement on the back side of the dune. And among the 5 houses within that 100 yards, only the houses whose lots front on the dune is "within spitting distance".
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Old January 22, 2012, 04:15 PM
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Love your humor, Rusty.

Don't forget "a whoop and a holler". In Nicaragua, everything is "a la vueltecita". It could be around the corner or100 km away. Under my breath I started saying "a la vueltecita de tu madre."
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Old January 22, 2012, 04:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aleCcowaN View Post
I'd like to ask what distance may have might speakers have in mind when they say "within spitting distance" as I've just heard it in the last episode of BBC's Escape to the Country when the would-be escapees told said that they'd like to move to Saint Ives' area, Cambridgeshire, because it's "within spitting distance" of the sea (which is not closer than 20 miles).
More like about 35 miles away, which is close to half the greatest distance it's possible to be from the sea in Great Britain. The only explanation which I find plausible is that the escapees are ignorant of the geography.
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Old January 23, 2012, 02:09 PM
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Thank you all.

So it was a bit of a stretch -probably, a hyperbolic use- as they were willing to move at most to that part of Norfolk close to Cambridgeshire, still many miles away from the sea shore.
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Old January 24, 2012, 02:18 PM
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As was pointed out it is all relative. In general, it is more common to hear within spitting distance to mean pretty close (measured in feet, not miles).

As wrholt pointed out, it is really just relative to how the person feels about it. My family all say I live next to the ocean. In that case "next" is 10 miles away. To them it is next to the ocean since they lives hundreds of miles away. Of course no one in Tampa would say I live "next" to the ocean.
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