At this, Winky howled even harder, her squashed-tomato of a nose dribbling all down her front, though she made no effort to stem the flow.

I think "her squashed-tomato of a nose" might refer to Winky's snot, that is, her snot is something like "squashed-tomato". Is my understanding correct?

From Harry Potter - the Goblet of Fire -- Chapter 21


3 Answers 3


The meaning is

Her nose, which was looking like a squashed tomato


At this, Winky howled even harder, her [nose (resembling a squashed tomato)] dribbling all down her front, though she made no effort to stem the flow.

"His/her something of a something" is a phrase commonly used to compare a face feature with some object. Examples from Google Books found using "his * of a nose/eye/ear":

His black dot of a nose rested between his paws.

If they knew that his one grave slit of an eye had seen gold in rice grains and furtive wealth in human lives, they were not prepared to abuse his memory, because Lung had stolen from them without vulgar ceremony

Mad Jack stroked his chin, began fidgeting with the ring in his gnarled lump of an ear.

  • Can we also say "a squashed-tomato nose"? If so, any difference?
    – dan
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 9:49
  • 1
    @dan - yes, we can - the difference I stylistic, I guess. The meaning would be the same. Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 10:25
  • 3
    @dan: The difference is semantic. The pattern "squashed tomato of a nose" calls the nose a squashed tomato; that is, it is a metaphor (however we interpret it) whereas in "a squashed-tomato nose" the noun "squashed tomato" is a descriptor. And you cannot generalize from this "translation" between forms; here they might be pretty much the same, but "a mountain of a man" and "a mountain man" are different things.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 12:01
  • 2
    @dan That might make me wonder if her nose was actually a squashed tomato. Consider "Frosty the Snowman" - ...with a corncob pipe and a button nose, where here the snowman's nose is actually built using a clothing button. If he had a button of a nose, however, it's clear that the expression is a metaphor.
    – J...
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 13:11
  • 1
    @dan No. That would be calling the squashed tomato a nose, not the nose a squashed tomato. The pattern is "{metaphorical thing} of a {actual thing}". Harry stared at Ron's pumpkin of a head.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 14:09

Winky is a house-elf. They have, from the human point of view, strange and rather ugly faces. In particular, Winky's nose looks something like a squashed tomato.

This is a known piece of imagery. There is a children's song

My teacher's got a bunion
A face like a pickled onion,
A nose like a squashed tomato
And legs like matchsticks.


Winky may have rhinophyma, a skin condition which causes the nose to become red and enlarged (sometimes also appearing flattened, if it enlarges more side-to-side). Historically people thought that alcoholism caused rhinophyma so the imagery of her having a large, red nose reinforces her alcoholism.

Also, her nose dripping is similar to a faucet dripping, the actual nose or faucet doesn't move but liquid comes out of it.

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