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I stumbled upon this sentence:

どうやって彼らを誤魔化したものか──と思案するように、ヒューイは愛想笑いを浮かべた。

and I was told that I should understand it as

どうやって彼らを誤魔化せばいいだろうか──と思案するように、ヒューイは愛想笑いを浮かべた。

However I can't find in any dictionary at hand an entry which would explain this usage of ものか nor how past tense can express something that has yet to happen?

More context here:

両手で耳を塞いだまま、ダリアンが非難がましい視線をヒューイに向ける。ヒューイは無言で肩をすくめた。

二人が廊下に出たのとほぼ同時に、調理場からも料理人たちが数人、驚いた顔で駆け出してきた。銃声を聞きつけたのだろう。

どうやって彼らを誤魔化したものか──と思案するように、ヒューイは愛想笑いを浮かべた。

だが、その表情はすぐに強張った。

ヒューイに近づいてくるにつれて、料理人たちの様子が変わってきたのだ。

まるで催眠にでもかかったみたいに、彼らの表情がうつろになり、目だけがぎらぎらとした強い光を放っている。餓えた獣のような眼差しだ。

彼らが見つめているのは、ダリアンではなくヒューイのほうだった。

料理人たちの視線に敵意は感じない。

『ダリアンの書架』より

  • 2
    I think this is similar: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/28794/26484 – user26484 Feb 27 at 19:53
  • They are indeed related. But I am actually concerned by how did どう〜したものか acquiered its meaning. – 永劫回帰 Feb 27 at 19:57
  • It looks like it is a contraction of どうしたらよいものだろうか which would make sense. – 永劫回帰 Feb 27 at 20:26
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    The intent of your question is currently unclear: reading the body of your post, it sounds like you are asking what 誤魔化す means. If that is not the case, please edit your post to clarify your question. – Eiríkr Útlendi Feb 27 at 20:35
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    The bolding in the body of your post does help, thank you. I'll tweak the title in a moment -- please evaluate and revert or re-edit as you deem appropriate. – Eiríkr Útlendi Feb 27 at 23:00
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I believe what you are looking for can be found in a grammar dictionary, not a standard dictionary. According to A Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar, this ものか is "a phrase indicating that the speaker wants to do [something] or is wondering what one he/she should choose".

In the context of the sentence you gave, it would be "how one should do/accomplish something".

Relevant notes from the grammar entry about the particular formation you are interested in, ~たものか, are cited below.

Key sentence:

(B) 修士論文の題目をどのように決めたものか(と)迷っています。

(I am at a loss as to how I should choose my MA thesis topic.)

Formation:

[An interrogative word (e.g. なに、どこ)] + [Informal form of verb (past)] + ものかと + [Verb of thinking]

どこへ行ったものかと{思う/考える} (someone thinks about where he should go)

どうしたものか(と){迷う/思案する} (someone wonders what to do)

Note: The conjunction と is obligatory when the main verb is 思う or 考える, but it is optional when the verb is 迷う or 思案する. [So と must be used in example (f) (see below), but it is optional in key sentence (B).]

Some examples:

(d) 日本語を勉強したいんですが、どの大学を選んだものかと考えているところです。

(I want to study Japanese, and I'm wondering which university I should choose.)

(e) 今年の夏は海外旅行をしようと思っていますが、どの国に行ったものかと思案中です。

(We're thinking of making a trip abroad this coming summer, and we are trying to figure out which country to visit.)

(f) 子供が反抗期に入っている。その期間を問題なく乗り越えるにはどうしたものかと思っている。

(Our child has entered the rebellious stage of life. I'm wondering what we should do to get through this period without problems.)

It also mentions that ものか in this formation (like in key sentence (B)) can be replaced by たらいいか or べきか without changing the meaning.

修士論文の題目をどのように{決めたもの/決めたらいい/決めるべき}か(と)迷っています。

日本語を勉強したいんですが、どの大学を{選んだもの/選んだらいい/選ぶべき}かと考えているところです。

今年の夏は海外旅行をしようと思っていますが、どの国に{行ったもの/行ったらいい/行くべき}かと思案中です。

  • I should have indeed looked in An Advanced Dictionary of Japanese Grammar. However, regular dictionary explains grammar point as well, therefore I am pretty conviced I should be able to find this meaning in a regular monolingual dictionary as well. – 永劫回帰 Feb 28 at 1:16
3

Sounds to me like 「どうやって...たものか」would be a way of emphatically expressing rhetorical disbelief in the possibility of something, as in, "how could...", perhaps similar to saying「いったいどうやって...できるか」

Maybe in the context you mention, "how (he) could/would fool them"*

So you might translate that sentence this way:

  • どうやって彼らを誤魔化したものか──と思案するように、ヒューイは愛想笑いを浮かべた。
  • Huey smiled politely, thinking how (he) would fool them.

Here are a couple similar examples...

from Yahoo!知恵袋:

私は今日、生まれて初めて投票に行ったのですが、どうやって投票したものかよくわからず、そのまま投票しました。

  • Despite today being the first time in my life I've ever been to vote, I voted just the same without really knowing how.

from a novel:

眼に眼帯をしている以外はどこも悪くない人間が、どうやって暇をつぶしたものか、というのを考え込んでしまった。

  • I couldn't stop thinking about just how a person with nothing wrong with them other than wearing an eye-patch would spend their free time.

Also, I was thinking about the phrase, 「知るもんか!」meaning "How would I know!" as being a related expression.

From definition of「もの」at https://www.weblio.jp/content/%E3%82%82%E3%81%AE

もの(形式名詞)「…ものか」「…ものではない」などの形で:

  • 否定を強調する

「そんなことがある-か」 「誰が言う-ですか」 「何をするかわかった-ではない」

The following definitions are specific to the phrase「ものか」and explain that it is used to express 強い反語の意, or strong rhetorical doubt:

https://www.weblio.jp/content/%E3%82%82%E3%81%AE%E3%81%8B

From these definitions and examples, I take it that「もの」expresses 否定の強調 (strong negation) and「か」expresses 疑問 (doubt), so it's the combination of those two parts that results in a phrase expressing a 強い反語的疑問 (strong rhetorical doubt).

  • もの(否定強調)+か(疑問)=反語の意

When a perfect-aspect verb is affixed to this, like ~たものか(「投票したものか」、「暇をつぶしたものか」)this makes a phrase that casts strong rhetorical doubt onto a completed action.

"how could... (this action be completed)"

I think my answer provides some background to how this phrase is formed. The meaning and usage is explained really well in the answer from @Setris.

  • Thank you for your answer but I don't think that's the relevant part of the definition of もの. I will wait and see if other people concur with you but I am very skeptical. – 永劫回帰 Feb 27 at 21:42
  • My understanding is that this ものか is expressing disbelief in "how something could have happened" - I'm also interested to see what others think – sazarando Feb 27 at 21:51
  • The examples are pertinant but I miss to see how they fit the definition: "emphasize negation". – 永劫回帰 Feb 28 at 0:04
  • I think that もの expresses 否定の強調 and か puts that into a rhetorical-疑問, so it's the combination of those two parts... もの(否定強調)+か(疑問)=反語の意 – sazarando Feb 28 at 0:11
  • strong negation + doubt = strong rhetorical doubt – sazarando Feb 28 at 0:12

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