his shoulders were so crammed with workout muscle that he couldn’t square them.

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jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
His upper body was just a vague silhouette. All she could tell was that his shoulders were broad and a little slumped –not as if he was tired, but as if they were so crammed with workout muscle that he couldn’t square them. It was funny, all you could see at a moment like this.
Source: Outsider by Stephen King

How to square (make square) your muscle? Are his shoulders’ muscles lumpy instead of smooth and square in shape?

Thank you.
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    He couldn't square his shoulders (not his muscles). Merriam-Webster gives this definition:

    Definition of square one's shoulders
    : to stand with one's shoulders pulled back in a straight line in a way that shows one is ready to do or deal with something directly
     

    jacdac

    Senior Member
    Lebanese
    Thank you. to square one’s shoulders make more sense.

    However, to square something away is to arrange or deal with something in a satisfactory way as in the following passage from the same text:

    When Ralph came down, tucking his shirt into his jeans with one hand and holding his sneakers in the other, he found his wife sitting at the kitchen table. There was no morning cup of coffee in front of her, no juice, no cereal. He asked her if she was okay.
    ‘No. There was a man here last night.’ He stopped where he was, one side of his shirt squared away, the other hanging down over his belt.

    Thank you again.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    However, to square something away is to arrange or deal with something in a satisfactory way as in the following passage from the same text:

    When Ralph came down, tucking his shirt into his jeans with one hand and holding his sneakers in the other, he found his wife sitting at the kitchen table. There was no morning cup of coffee in front of her, no juice, no cereal. He asked her if she was okay.
    ‘No. There was a man here last night.’ He stopped where he was, one side of his shirt squared away, the other hanging down over his belt.
    Just to point out that “square away” is an American English expression. I’d never come across it before. And I find it hard to get my head around how it’s used — especially since that Stephen King example doesn’t seem to quite fit the above definition (from Oxford). It seems to be similar in meaning to “sort [something] out”.

    In BE we only use “square” on its own as a verb, in various slightly different senses, such as seeking approval for something (“I’d better just square this with the boss before we go ahead”) or balancing one thing with another (“How do you square your holier-than-thou attitude with your dubious private life?”).
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    However, to square something away is to arrange or deal with something in a satisfactory way
    Yes. But the text in you OP doesn't say "square away". Although to "square something away" may have started in America, I have been familiar with it, and have used it myself, for many years - with the meaning you gave. In the King quotation, one side of his shirt is tidy and neatly tucked into his trousers, the other side is not. If I go sailing, everything is squared away before we go - I don't want a pack of cereal spilling all over the cabin sole when the boat heels.
     
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