This is a part from The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

    There was no cast net and the boy remembered when they had sold it. But they went through this fiction every day. There was no pot of yellow rice and fish and the boy knew this too.
    “Eighty-five is a lucky number,” the old man said. “How would you like to see me bring one in that dressed out over a thousand pounds?”
    “I’ll get the cast net and go for sardines. Will you sit in the sun in the doorway?”

What does that dressed out exactly mean there?

  • 3
    When you catch a fish, shoot a deer, or obtain some other form of meat, the first step in preparation is to gut the animal and partially skin it. The particulars vary based on the common practices for that animal, but this step in preparation is known (oddly) as "dressing".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 4, 2017 at 3:40

1 Answer 1


You should understand what the term dressed weight means. According to the linked Wikipedia article,

Dressed weight (also called carcass weight) refers to the weight of an animal after being partially butchered, removing all the internal organs and oftentimes the head as well as inedible (or less desirable) portions of the tail and legs. It includes the bones, cartilage and other body structure still attached after this initial butchering. It is usually a fraction of the total weight of the animal...

Therefore, the phrase to "dress out" could be interpreted as to "weigh after removing unnecessary parts of the fish" as in

How would you like to see me bring one in / that (relative pronoun) weighed over a thousand pounds after removing unnecessary parts of (dressing) the fish?

  • Is dressed in the subjunctive mood? If not, why did not he say dresses instead? The fish they are talking about is not caught but to be caught in the future. Should not it be like "How would you like to see me bring one in that weighs over a thousand pounds?"
    – hjjg200
    Jan 4, 2017 at 7:35
  • @hʌn You should not overthink the tense. The speaker is implying that bringing in the fish would be only done after dressing it as if he were bringing it in now. I wouldn't call it the subjunctive mood, but it is close in a sense.
    – user140086
    Jan 4, 2017 at 7:45

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