I'm Persian. I can't understand what does this sentence mean. Is there any idiom like "scratching elbows"? As far as I know, the writer of the book is talking about his memories of middle school dances.


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    Picture a dance party with, say 14-year-old kids. The girls are dancing with other girls, while the boys are standing around, fidgeting. – Hot Licks Mar 14 '18 at 19:01
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    Not an idiom I’ve heard. If you think of the position you’d adopt while scratching both your elbows, it probably approximates a stereotypical teenage boy. – Pam Mar 14 '18 at 19:09
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    Google Books claims over 300 written instances of scratching their elbows, but apparently 2/3rds of them are from George Eliot's Silas Marner (1861). I'm sure Eliot's usage was upfront and natural, but to be honest I'd imagine many of the more recent instances are likely to be effectively "euphemistic" (alluding to scratching one's arse). – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '18 at 19:17
  • The girls (stereotypically) are more mature, so it would make sense to show them dancing with boys. Yet, it also seems to show that the boys stand around awkwardly scratching their elbows and fidgeting. – Taryn Lambert Mar 14 '18 at 20:32
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    Scratching their elbows isn't an idiom; it's just one of many possible ways he could have described middle-school boys feeling awkward and shy at a dance. As a footnote, you might like English Language Learners. – J.R. Mar 14 '18 at 21:45

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