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Taken into adultery

Posted by Baceseras on December 03, 2009 at 16:41

In Reply to: Taken into adultery posted by Brian from Shawnee on December 03, 2009 at 14:38:

: : : : : : What is the meaning of "to be taken into adultery"? Here's the whole sentence: "It was one of those rainy late afternoons when the toy department of Woolworth's on the Fifth Avenue is full of women who appear to have been taken into adultery and who are now shopping for a present to carry home to their youngest child".

: : : : : "taken into adultery" is a reference to the impure woman Jesus saved from being stoned, mostly old paintings titled "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery".
: : : : : John 8:4
: : : : : "and said to him, Master, this woman is now taken in adultery." (Wycliffe)
: : : : : or
: : : : : "They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act." (King James Version)

: : : : : I still couldn't tell you exactly what the author meant by using it. Perhaps they seem guilty or desperate while they're shopping?

: : : : There's a big difference between "taken in adultery" and "taken into adultery," assuming that he writer is careful enough to know the distinction. I can't imagine that any careful writer would say "taken into adultery," since the phrase is ambiguous. Does it connote white slavery (or any other color)? Seduced? Carried off, as I suppose the Sabine women must have been?
: : : : SS

: : : Oops, I see I typoed above - the artworks I mentioned above are indeed titled with "into" not "in", however there are a great many more titled with "in". Point being, both "into" and "in" are used in the phrase referring to the same thing so I think we can assume that at least some people in the past have "taken into" and "taken in" the same.

: : One of the oldest meanings if the verb "take" is "to lay hold on, capture, arrest". This bred a figurative sense "catch out, detect [in some fault]". In the Middle Ages you could be - literally or figuratively - "taken in" heresy, or any other crime. This is why the KJ version of the Bible speaks of the "woman taken in adultery". "Woman taken *into* adultery" is just wrong, if widespread (it gets 2240 hits against 739000 for the correct version). I can only hypothesise that people who are no longer familiar with the construction "take in [a fault]" have unconsciously altered it to one they are used to hearing (as in "taken into care/into hospital/into Abraham's bosom").

: : Whatever the construction, what the Gospel incident has to do with buying toys for one's children is a mystery.
: : (VSD)

: It's from a John Cheever story called The Geometry of Love (remove "the" from "Woolworth's on the Fifth Avenue" and do a Google search). We also find that Cheever used "in adultery".

: The next sentence reads "On this particular afternoon there were eight or ten of them--comely, fragrant, and well dressed--but with the pained air of women who have recently been undone by some cad in a midtown hotel room and who are now on their way home to the embraces of a tender child."

[Cheever probably misconstrued "taken in adultery" to mean "committed adultery" rather than "caught in the act" -- perhaps by extension of the phrase "given to (a particular vice)," meaning having a tendency or being so inclined. If she gives in to the vice she is given to, she may be "taken in." So Cheever could have reasoned, though unconsciously -- the nonce mis-use of the phrase adds a little pleasure to the text, the cynical devil of a narrator quoting scripture and all: reason enough. - B.]