This passage is from the TOEFL test. Could you please help me understand it?? ?

"The railroad was not the first institution to impose regularity on society, or to draw attention to the importance of precise timekeeping. For as long as merchants have set out their wares at daybreak and communal festivities have been celebrated, people have been in rough agreement with their neighbors as to the time of day. The value of this tradition is today more apparent than ever. Were it not of time, social life would be unbearably for public acceptance of a single yardstick chaotic: the massive daily transfers of goods, services, and information would proceed in fits and starts; the very fabric of modern society would begin to unravel."

The first sentence is understood but I cannot understand the rest of the sentences. Please explain them to me and give me as much details as possible or explain whatever you want if you don't have time.

1- I also want to know why the writer used the words "in rough agreement with their neighbors". Why specifically the neighbors?

2- Meaning of " single yardstick chaotic", "proceed in fits and starts", and "the very fabric of modern society would begin to unravel" ???

Thanks in advance.

2 Answers

Relevance
  • 9 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    The advent of railroads is often credited with the need to develop standard time zones and adhere to precise schedules. This paragraph from the test is suggesting timekeeping and schedules have been around a lot longer than railroads, at least in some form.  It suggests that they are vital to making a society work.

    Railroads enabled us to travel long distances in a relatively short time. Prior to that, travel was slow, and most people only interacted with each other on a local level. There was still a need to adhere to some sort of local timekeeping.  They had to know when the local shops would be open, or when to gather for public activities. Even if clocks were rare, people could make "rough" estimates of the time by tracking the location of the sun.  Up at sunrise, to bed at sunset, etc. (Big picture, think of Stonehenge)

    1- I also want to know why the writer used the words "in rough agreement with their neighbors". Why specifically the neighbors? 

    Simply because timekeeping was done locally, and local people are "neighbors."

    2- Meaning of " single yardstick chaotic", "proceed in fits and starts", and "the very fabric of modern society would begin to unravel" ???

    This sentence is poorly crafted and would be easier to understand if they had used parentheses.  See if this is more clear.  "Were it not of time, social life would be unbearably (for public acceptance of a single yardstick) chaotic...."

    A "single yardstick" is just agreement on a standard way of tracking time. Without agreement on how to keep time, social life would be chaotic.

    "Fits and starts" means to start and stop many times. In this context, it means that people would be doing things at different times. Coordination between people, businesses, and transportation would be chaotic.

    "The very fabric of modern society would begin to unravel"  means that modern society would start to fall apart.  Fabric is made of many threads woven together in precisely the correct way. Society is made of many lives and social interactions all intertwined.

  • 10 months ago

    It's riddled with errors.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.