sunken grin

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Senior Member
She looked around wildly and for a moment her frightened, confused mind fully expected to see the child-beater Elmer Haney standing in the shadowy space of the big upstairs room that had been Ralph’s study, smiling his sunken, stupid grin. I told you, woman: you are nothing but a meddling cunt.
Source: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

I wonder how does sunken grin mean and how it looks like. I know the literal meaning of sunken from sink.

Thank you
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I can imagine a sunken grin if a character has a swollen or fleshy face, such that the grinning mouth appears in part buried within the face. The writer may be trying to communicate that the grin is grotesque, incongruous, or malformed, not quite matching the face, perhaps.

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I reckon your guess is as good as mine. 'Hollow' is another word often used with 'grin' meaning a grin that has nothing to do with healthy amusement. 'Sunken' makes me think of hollow cheeks like a skull or starving person.
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