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I came across the following statement in a book I'm reading about remote working:

Letting people work remotely is about promoting quality of life, about getting access to the best people whenever they are, and all the other benefits we'll enumerate. That it may also end up reducing costs spent on offices and result in fewer-but-more-productive workers is the gravy, not the turkey.

I have no idea what that literally means. I searched around and found no meaning for the full expression. The only phrase I found that seems to have this meaning is "It's all gravy" :

This fun phrase stems from a traditional English saying that compared life itself to meat and potatoes, while the luxuries were gravy. If “it's all gravy” to you, you're probably enjoying life and its little luxuries.

Is the gravy, not the turkey expressing the same meaning?

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  • @EdwinAshworth Writing doesn't accept questions based on other people's writing so this wouldn't be on topic. Also we don't do reviews even if it was OP's writing. (PS I am a Writing SE mod.)
    – Laurel
    Feb 1 at 18:49
  • @Laurel Apologies; I checked Literature first, but they don't have a metaphor tag. ... Ah, this will fit: 'If your question concerns the symbolic significance of something whose surface meaning is clear, use the [symbolism] tag instead.' I suppose that covers creative metaphors. ([Nordquist]: 'A creative metaphor is an original comparison that calls attention to itself as a figure of speech. Also known as a poetic metaphor, literary metaphor, novel metaphor, and unconventional metaphor.') So a novel analogy, not a standard usage. Feb 2 at 14:37
  • I’ve voted to close this question because I think that novel metaphors are more appropriately handled on Literature.SE, where there is a 'symbolism' tag. They're not standard usage, by definition. Feb 2 at 14:38
  • I suggest that the PO and the question deserve an answer or discussion that give attention to the usage of the implicit metaphors rather than secondary discussion of the niceties of exactly which site it should be discussed on and why. Leave open.
    – Anton
    Feb 10 at 15:02

3 Answers 3

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The author doesn't say "The result is the gravy" but that two possible advantages of remote working are "the gravy". I take it to mean that they are an extra bonus, not the main advantage of the system (which is the things listed in the first sentence).

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I've never come across the phrase, but it does not appear to mean what "it's all gravy" is about.

Instead, I'd point you to another phrase "throwing the baby out with the bath-water". Here, this means you're throwing out something that you should throw out (the 'bath-water') but forgetting to keep what you should keep (the 'baby').

Likewise, saying the "result is the gravy, not the turkey" means that your result is peripheral and not the meat of the subject. Imagine that you cooked a turkey for your Christmas guests and when it came to serve your guests you only found gravy in your cooking tray and no turkey. That is not a result.

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It’s not a common idiom or metaphor.

Turkey (at least white meat) alone can be rather dry and bland, so it is usually covered with gravy to make it more edible and flavorful.

So, the author is trying to explain that employers who see remote work as a way to cut office costs are focusing on the wrong thing. Saving money may be a nice benefit that makes it easier to accept, but it shouldn’t be their reason for doing it.

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  • I like your second sentence but I feel like your explanation about turkey vs. gravy is focusing on the wrong thing. It's not that the gravy adds flavor, it's that the gravy is ONLY flavor. The turkey is the actual nutrition, the valuable part of the meal; the gravy is just there to make it taste better. Likewise, the quality of life and the access to the best people regardless of geography are part of the "meat" of remote work, the things that make it worthwhile; the reduced costs are nice, but are just a bonus that makes the effort of implementing remote working feel more worthwhile.
    – Hellion
    Feb 11 at 0:13

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