I found this sentence in Peter Orner's The Raft:

They turned their backs to the light, so all we could see was their backsides, skin and bone fighting it out and the bone winning.

I think the meaning is “they are very thin”. But I am not sure if the expression, skin and bone fighting it out and the bone winning, is an idiom?

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    No, this is not an idiom, just a bit of creative imagery. I think you've got the meaning right. Mar 6, 2014 at 7:37
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about interpreting a creative literary "one-off" turn of phrase. Mar 6, 2014 at 14:15
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    fwiw, @Yantao, "[he's all] skin and bone" is a standard idiom meaning "he's very thin" (sometimes implying so emaciated as to be near death). The creative addition "and the bone winning" is open to interpretation. I'd say it implies either the two combatants were actually hacking flesh off each other, or that when blows were traded the relatively thin layer of flesh between two bones meeting (one from each opponent) was getting badly crushed and damaged. Mar 6, 2014 at 14:22
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    @Bradd: I'm not sure I see what you mean. There's no doubt that skin and bone itself is a "standard idiom" which would count as General Reference (and that's the only element OP has indicated he understands). Fighting it out is arguably "idiomatic", but I would say not. As to what the bone winning might mean in such a context, OP has given no indication, so it makes no sense to say he's "got the meaning right". But whatever it means, it's Off Topic POB. Mar 6, 2014 at 14:26
  • @Fumble I think you've misinterpreted the passage. There's no literal fight. Just “skin and bones, and more bone than skin.” Which fits the OP's interpretation. Mar 6, 2014 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


I don't think its an idiom. Just defining some thing in a bit different way. and i think you got the right meaning.

  • I won't bother repeating what I've commented to the question itself. It should never have been asked on ELU in the first place, but this answer has nothing to commend it. Mar 6, 2014 at 14:29

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