In the book “Educated” by Tara Westover, chapter 5, what does scrap mean in the following?

Tony and Shawn had left the mountain, but they’d left to do what my father had taught them to do: drive semis, weld, scrap.

2 Answers 2


It most likely refers to working with scrap metal. This could include collecting scrap metal, collecting items (like cars) to make into scrap metal, or disposing of scrap metal. The aim is usually to make money.

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    "The Westover family lived on a farm in rural Idaho, where [their father] Gene made a living salvaging scrap metal..." – sparknotes.com - The aim is to always make money. A 55gal drum of 2" copper pipe got me $600. After that I was hooked.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 2:18
  • I have never heard the word "scrap" used as a verb in this context. Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 19:03
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    scrap, verb: discard or remove from service (a retired, old, or inoperative vehicle, vessel, or machine), especially so as to convert it to scrap metal. "the decision was made to scrap the entire fleet"
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 2:03
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    @J.Hirsch from the book: "My oldest brother, Tony, drove rigs, hauling gravel or scrap, trying to scrape together enough money to marry the girl down the road. Shawn, the next oldest, had quarreled with Dad a few months before and taken off. I hadn’t seen him since, though Mother got a hurried call every few weeks telling her he was fine, that he was welding or driving rigs. If Tyler left too, Dad wouldn’t have a crew, and without a crew he couldn’t build barns or hay sheds. He would have to fall back on scrapping."
    – legatrix
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 15:52
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    Welp, there ya go @legatrix. THAT is the definitive quote that drives the definition of the aforementioned term.
    – J.Hirsch
    Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 20:54

"scrap" can also mean "fight" or "argue", usually implying a not too serious conflict. This might mean that the father had taught Tony and Shawn to drive semis, weld, and fight. This is a little more plausible because "scrap" as a verb meaning ."discard" is transitive, and should specify what is being scrapped, and if the meaning is "work with scrap metal" then "scrap" is not a normal verb to use, it is normally a noun or an adjective in that context.

However, the tone seems informal so one cannot be sure that non-standared usage will not be present. Without more context, one can only guess.

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    Out of context, that would be a plausible guess. In context, it is almost certainly something that fits in the same category as truck driving and welding. Scrapping motor vehicles fits the description.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 3:51
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    @Obie2.0 - Collecting and selling scrap metal in general, yeah, not just cars. Washers, dryers, old gates, wheelbarrows, ... Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 9:27
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    Given the added context now linked in another answer, this is almost surely incorrect, and "scrap" is being used to mean "the process of finding and selling scrap metal". That is a non-0standard verbing of a noun, but English does that. I am going to leave the answer up because it shows the way plausible reasoning without context can work, and because the alternate4 meanign of "scrap" as "fight" should be known to larners. Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 15:36
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    Wish I still had a scrapper in my neighborhood. Not so much for the fisticuffs (he was a wild drunk), but now I need to figure out what to do with this old water heater.
    – Z4-tier
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 17:52
  • @Z4-tier In my area the county runs a recycling center that accepts such things, and will schedule curbside pickups on request. If a contractor installs a new water heater, s/he is required to remove the old one and deliver it to the recycling center. This is probably not the case everywhere. Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 17:56

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