lest Sheldon’s chest hairs mat

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Couch Tomato

Senior Member
Russian & Dutch
And of course, we cannot forget her haunting rendition of “Soft Kitty,” complete with applying menthol vapor rub (counterclockwise, lest Sheldon’s chest hairs mat), when Sheldon becomes ill in “The Pancake Batter Anomaly."
(The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Aristotle, Locke – Edited by Dean A. Kowalski)

I fail to understand the underlined part. Did she refuse to apply menthol vapor rub on the part of his body that had chest hairs? Or did she not want to apply it at all because he had chest hair?

Could you please explain what this part means?

Thank you in advance.
 
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    "To mat" here means to tangle, so the point is she is rubbing menthol gunk onto his chest and keeping her moves in one direction (counterclockwise) so as to avoid tangling his chest hairs into each other, which I assume might happen if you moved in different directions, back and forth
    :eek:
     

    Couch Tomato

    Senior Member
    Russian & Dutch
    I see, thank you Rover_KE and suzi br. I had looked up 'mat' in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, but its use as a verb was not included in this dictionary. I should have looked further.

    I also assume this is meant to be funny? It this a comedic context?
    Yes.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Don't forget the in-house dictionary CT !

    vb
    (mats, matting, matted)

    To me it's not just "to tangle". I think the important part in the above definition is the "dense mass". Anyone who has groomed a long-haired cat or dog is likely to have encountered intractable lumps of fur that are difficult to remove without scissors.


    Usually when we think about matted hair, the first thing that comes to mind is a homeless dog in desperate need of a grooming. Unfortunately, this situation isn’t limited to our canine companions.
    http://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/curly-hair-care-methods/detangling-matted-hair
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    I agree with everything said here, but I just want to add (in case this isn't obvious) that the idea of matting Sheldon's chest hair is a direct reference to a joke from that particular episode of The Big Bang Theory. (Sheldon doesn't actually have much chest hair, so the likelihood of it getting matted by anything is actually pretty remote, by the way.) Penny started, with reluctance, to apply the Vick's VapoRub, and Sheldon told her she had to rub it on counterclockwise instead of clockwise, because otherwise his chest hair would mat.
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I agree with everything said here, but I just want to add (in case this isn't obvious) that the idea of matting Sheldon's chest hair is a direct reference to a joke from that particular episode of The Big Bang Theory. (Sheldon doesn't actually have much chest hair, so the likelihood of it getting matted by anything is actually pretty remote, by the way.) Penny started, with reluctance, to apply the Vick's VapoRub, and Sheldon told her she had to rub it on counterclockwise instead of clockwise, because otherwise his chest hair would mat.
    Kate nailed the "humor" of the segment. Sheldon basically has no chest hair of which to mat; and he is extremely OCD about protocol. Heaven forbid if anyone were to proceed with something in a clockwise motion if he deemed it incorrect. :)
     
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