A cringe slowly unfurls

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Could someone help me with the meaning of the sentence? Here´s some context:

My face is tilted upwards, waiting for his kiss. Seconds pass... Nothing happens. I open first one eye, then the other. And somewhere deep inside me, a cringe slowly unfurls. Rob is studying me, just peacebly taking the measure of my face. His eyes have apology written all over them.

Thank you,
  • RoadFox

    Senior Member
    English - New Zealand
    "Cringe" is what happens inside you when you´re embarrassed, it´s that horrible feeling (for me in my stomach) when you realise you´ve done or said something stupid and start to feel deeply embarrassed. So in this sense the writer is talking about this process beginning, she is starting to realise that this person isn´t going to kiss her and this is creating a feeling of embarassment within her.

    I cringed when he said that he loved me.
    I saw her cringe at the sight.
    Oh, it makes me cringe when I see people kiss in public.


    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Well it does create sort of a set of opposite movements, I guess. A cringe would feel like a clenching, taking-in of your muscles and unfurls would feel like something that lets go in an outward movement. So basically it's the full tightening of the cringe inside the woman that's being described, and while the sensation is that of the muscles being taken in, the word used to describe it is unfurl or the full release of the taking in.

    Call me crazy but I like it. :D

    And the poor thing. There's nothing worse than puckering up and getting nothing in return. How mortifying.

    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English - Barbadian/British/educated in US universities blend
    It's literature. It is allowed a bit of wonkiness. Plus, I think people are thinking of it as an outward cringe or a type of facial expression. I interpret it as a feeling that she is experiencing inside given a) the situation and b) the use of the phrase "And somewhere deep inside me".

    A girl gets romantically rejected. It's simply a literary way of saying "a feeling of humiliation slowly spread through my stomach". I really don't see the problem with it.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    I rather like it too, AngelEyes (and Nymeria):)

    A cringe is a pretty physical thing: a dog may cringe if it thinks you're angry with it, a person may cringe if they've done something wrong and expect punishment. It involves, I think, hunching the shoulders and making oneself as small as possible.

    To me, "a cringe slowly unfurls" means "I slowly cringe".

    I guess the chaps - being more technically-minded - are right that the image should probably be to do with furling rather than unfurling:(
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