What does "was but" mean?
posted by Carlito .
The eminent ammbassador was but an ___(average)___ linguist;yet he insisted in speaking to foreign dignitaries in their own tounges.
why is it average?
Doesnt was BUT mean opposite?

http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/emilydickinson/10689
In that poem, the first line means
The moon was just a arc of light, ...
was but does not mean opposite. It means was simply
So in your sentence, the lofty ambassador was not really fluent in languages, but he insisted on... 
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=10516&dict=CALD

thanks!
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