gristly dough

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Senior Member
The bad part was the wrestler was wearing an athletic protector. <…> Even so, he had taken a heavy blow. Like a blunt cookie-cutter smashing down on tough and gristly dough. But he wasn’t disabled.
Source: Past Tense by Lee Child
Context: Jack Reacher is combating a wrestler.

tough gristly dough means tough dough like gristle, right?

gristle: cartilage, especially when found as tough inedible tissue in meat.

Thank you.
  • Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    It is a highly unusual usage - we wouldn’t usually use gristly to describe dough. I would take it to mean dough which contains pieces of something (raisins, chocolate chips, muesli etc) and therefore doesn’t cut cleanly with a cookie cutter.


    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I like it even less than Glasguensis does. I can't even imagine what gristly dough, or dough with gristle in it, would be like.

    But, of course, we don't have to imagine it literally.

    We know that gristle is something a bit yielding but nevertheless very resistant to our teeth when we try to chew it, and we know that dough is pliable but offers resistance to our fingers when we knead it, so the author has succeeded in communicating the idea of something that yields a bit but resists.

    And he's done it in two words, while it took me about fifty to explain it !


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The key idea here is he is making an analogy between a cookie cutter and an athletic protector. Also known as a cup. This goes over a man's private parts to protect them, in this case while wrestling.

    Banana-style cup

    When you push a cookie cutter into dough the edges cut through the dough to form the cookie shape. The athletic cup also has edges that form a continuous loop. In another thread, the book was quoted as saying that Reacher had kicked him hard in the cup. So the edges would have been pressed hard against him. But instead of encountering soft, cuttable cookie dough, they encountered his flesh and muscles and ligaments and whatever else. So, of course, it didn't cut through like a cookie cutter because of the gristly resistance. But it's really describing his body and not cookie dough with gristle. It's a silly metaphor.

    He is saying when
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