red meat



Reading English and American papers is always challenging for a non-native speaker. I've come across a colourful expression that are not in the dictionaries. Actually, the idea it conveys is clear - more or less - from the context. Still, I would like to make sure if I understand it rightly, and to get some clue as to how common it is. Is it possible to use it in an academic-bordering-on-publicistic text?

The idiom is "red meat". It is from an article at

"In general elections, major parties offer red meat, like tax cuts or promises to save Medicare ..." Am I correct that "red meat" here means something like "most advantegeous because they appeal to many people"?

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  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I'm surprised you couldn't find anything on the internet about "red meat." Here's its page on wikipedia: As the article explains, "red meat" will be meat that stays red when cooked (vs. pork and chicken); normally this means "beef" to an American.

    So the idiom means "the real stuff" - the beefy, meaningful, non-peripheral stuff. In general elections, parties bring out their big guns in terms of campaign issues and promises in an effort to sway the largest possible number of voters.
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    To lucas-sp

    I was looking for the figurative meaning of "red meat," not its literal meaning. In its strict meaning, red meat is the same in Russian as in English - beef - there's no need to look it up on the Internet. I was checking out on what it means as an idiom. Thank you very much for an answer - it is exhaustive and full of other - helpful - idioms, like "bring out their big guns."
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    New Member
    English - American
    “Third rail” is commonly used in American political writings. It refers to the literal electrified third rail that is used in some light rail or subway systems. In politics, a “third rail” is a topic that is so fraught with strong, entrenched opinions that to “touch” it, or discuss it will only result in proverbially burning the politician. For many social security has long been considered the third rail topic in American politics.

    As for “read meat”, lucas-sp sums it up nicely. I will add that it used to refer to Republican or conservative platform points more often than Demorcatic or progressive ones.

    And, incidentally, the author of the article uses "to make the 15% threshold", and I was taught that the "proper" usage was "to surpass the 15% threshold." Are both correct? Which is more common?

    You are probably correct in that “surpass” would be a better word choice. That written, using “to make” doesn’t seem out of place to me,
    particularly in a USA Today article. USA Today is written to be easy to read, usually deferring to more common use over precise word use. Some “hard” news writers and readers find fault in this approach, but it is one of the most widely circulated papers in the US.
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