to chew the rag

Discussion in 'English Only' started by gvergara, Nov 23, 2007.

  1. gvergara

    gvergara Senior Member

    Santiago, Chile

    Is this a synonym for to chew the fat? Thanks

    I didn't have anything special to do, so I went down to the can and chewed the rag with him while he was shaving.
    From "The catcher in the rye" by J. D. Salinger

  2. Pie Crust

    Pie Crust Banned

    England English
    Yes, Gonzalo, it is. It means 'to chat'.
  3. BoTrojan Senior Member

    New Wilmington, PA
    USA, English
    I've never heard the phrase "chew the rag" in my life. The AE equivalent phrase is "chew the fat." It makes no more or less sense than "chew the rag," but there you have it ... FYI.
  4. GamblingCamel

    GamblingCamel Senior Member

    USA English CULTA + RUA
    We're back to "shoot the bull" from your previous post.

    As I said in that thread, the language Holden speaks out loud in public is often a screen, a mask. His authentic language is in the little nuances of his storytelling. Salinger/Caulfield often invent slang to articulate Holden's
    shifting, unsettled relation to social reality.

    I am unsure whether "chew the rag" is an invented idiom or a common expression of mid-century East Coast USA.
  5. susanna76 Senior Member

    So chew the rag / chew the fat means simply to talk idly. Why then does the WR dictionary give the meaning "argue over a point"? Is that meaning a possibility at all?
  6. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    I've never heard the expression "chew the rag" (I'm familiar with "chew the fat"), but the slang verb "to rag out" in AmE sometimes means "to criticize," e.g., "My mom really ragged me out when I got home late last night." I wonder if this is related?
  7. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    I've never used "chew the rag", but it's not unfamiliar to me as being equivalent to "chew the fat" (which I've never personally used either). We may be talking about regional differences within the US.
  8. icecreamsoldier

    icecreamsoldier Senior Member

    New Zealand English
    In the original context, "have a chat" is the most likely meaning intended. It is Stradlater, Holden's roommate, who initiates the conversation and asks Holden for a favour. There is no argument here, just chat.
    Holden is full of contradictions though so it is possible to say that he intended to argue with Stradlater but changed his mind on his way there; or he may just misuse the expression (just as he misunderstands the lyrics of "Comin' Through the Rye").
  9. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    According to Wikipedia, people have been chewing the rag at least since 1875 (even longer than they've been chewing the fat).
  10. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I think there's something wrong with the layout of the definition in the WR English Dictionary (= Collins Concise English Dictionary), susanna.

    The WR Dictionary has this in its entry for chew:

    1. ...
    2. ...
    3. ...
    4. chew the fat, chew the ragSLANG to argue over a point
    5. to talk idly; gossip

    whereas shows this as part of the equivalent entry in another Collins dictionary:
    slang chew the fat , chew the rag
    a. to argue over a point
    b. to talk idly; gossip

    Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

    As to whether 'argue over a point' is a possible meaning for chew the rag/chew the fat - I suppose it must be, but I don't think I've seen/heard it used that way.

    EDIT: Looking at RM1(SS)'s Wiki article, I see that the idea of grumbling/arguing was inherent in some of the early uses of the expression(s). I don't think it is now....
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
  11. susanna76 Senior Member

    Thank you JustKate, Parla, icecreamsoldier, RM1(SS), and Loob!
  12. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    I'd never heard the arguing/grumbling definition before. Whenever I've heard it, it was always about just talking.
  13. susanna76 Senior Member

    Thank you RM1(SS)!

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