Is it common to use the phrase “meat” of one’s hand in the meaning of trace of one’s hand or finger print?

There was an interesting essay on eraser written by Marry Norris, titled “Erasehead” in August 9 New Yorker magazine. I was amused in the expression of “Stick erasers permit them to erase without laying the meat of their hand on the work.” in a part of the article, which reads:

“I do not pretend to be an eraser connoisseur. While I don’t mind being known in certain circles as the Pencil Lady, I’d rather not be called Bride of Gumby. Friends who are artists are particular about erasers; the traces left by an Art Gum or a Pink Pearl can give texture to their work. Stick erasers permit them to erase without laying the meat of their hand on the work.”

I understand “meat” used here means the trace or print of one’s hand, though when logically thought, it’s weird to lay, put or leave one’s 'meat' on paper, not palm or fingers. Is it common to use the word ‘meat’ in this sense – trace or print?

  • 3
    I've never heard that one before. I would have thought that "palm", or even "fleshy part" (to denote the padding below your thumb) would be the more obvious choices. Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 9:52
  • OED: "meat, n. .. 9. The substance of one's body; flesh; fat. colloq." Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 10:36
  • This is so outlandishly and senselessly lurid I think I'm in love with it. Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 20:05

3 Answers 3


No, meat here means literally flesh.

The author couldn't easily say "... to erase without laying their hand on the work," because laying a hand on something is used idiomatically to mean affecting it even without literally touching one's hand (so poking with a stick eraser would still count). And here, the writer is specifically distinguishing an effect which does require touching one's hand to the work from one that doesn't.

So, the stick eraser allows the erasure to be achieved without resting the side, heel or any other part of one's hand on the surface.

  • 3
    +1. I'd add to literally answer the "is it common" part of the question, that no it isn't common, but only because it isn't common to need to do so.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 11:53
  • I agree, @JonHanna that "no, it is not common" is an important part of the answer to this question. I don't think your caveat is necessary either (about the uncommon need to do so). The "meat" of a body part is not standard usage for an article in The New Yorker. I am not criticizing anyone, on EL&U, in this comment. I think the writing style of Marry (Mary?) leaves something to be desired though ;o) Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 1:32
  • Ahh, okay. I see that @Chris had a similar opinion! Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 1:35
  • @FeralOink I think there was a good reason, because other more normal phrasings could be read metaphorically in the context - we often talk of artists leaving the mark of their hand on their work, and other similar metaphors.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 8:02

Oishi-san: I'll just add to @Useless's answer by saying that the distinction is between the fingers of the hand and the bulky (i.e., "meat") parts. The fingers may sometimes be used to blur a pencil line on a drawing, for example, but the bulky part of the hand has no place on the paper.


Obviously they had nothing better to write that day than idle and fanciful conjecture, most of it ill-advised. No wonder that the sentences so unskillfully un-natural. Difficult to decode. They could have said it prevents smudges or without hands contacting paper.

It is understood what is meant however it is a most unusual use of the word meat.

The writer didn't mention a single useful fact, treating the reader instead with a false pretence of a lively painting of words. Those people really should get out more often. The subject itself is not without merit. The Palomino Blackwing pencil could have been mentioned, for instance.

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