I have found in a dictionary the meanings of the idiom "make a meal (out) of something":

P5. to make a (also †one's) meal of:
a. To consume as a meal, to devour; (in extended use) to take advantage of, exploit, ravage, etc.
b. fig. To treat with undue fuss or attention, esp. for effect; to make (a task, etc.) unduly laborious.

["make, v.1". OED Online. March 2016. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/112645?rskey=KbJCp2&result=2&isAdvanced=true (accessed March 11, 2016).]

What I would like to know is whether I understand correctly that the inserted expression "something of a" does not modify the meaning of the original substantially, i.e., it only weakens the original idiom.

I want to be certain that I correctly understand this sentence:

Indeed, one way to sum up Mackie's argument [...] is to say that Russell made something of a meal out of 2+2=4.

(Mathematics, Education and Philosophy: An International Perspective, 1994, edited by Paul Ernest, p.30.)

  • 1
    Did you either look up the idiom "make a meal of" in a dictionary, or at the least, Google it? If so, what did you find?
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 10, 2016 at 14:34
  • 2
    Gah, I forgot to ask about prior research. Deleted my answer. Mar 10, 2016 at 14:35
  • 1
    C'mon guys! No need to make a meal of it! Just close the question and move on. Mar 10, 2016 at 14:47
  • 2
    The poster is confused because two expressions are being used together, and all he gets is downvotes and a closed question? How is he supposed to research a phrase that doesn't exist? This is becoming a very hostile site... Voting to reopen because I am wiling to explain that his example is not a single phrase. Mar 10, 2016 at 15:47
  • 2
    @RoaringFish In both the title of the question and its very first paragraph, OP has clearly identified "make a meal of <something>" as the phrase which is confusing him, and has furthermore correctly labelled it an idiom. The obvious next step is to look up the meaning of that specific idiom in the general reference tool which is dedicated to recording and reporting the meanings of idioms: to wit, the dictionary. If he does that and is still confused, he can come back, edit his question to clarify what questions were not answered by the dictionary, and I will also vote to reopen.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 10, 2016 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


There are two expressions mixed together here, which may be why you are having trouble with it.

One is the something of a... expression, which means 'to some extent'. The other is make a meal of... which means 'to make something overly complicated'.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.