In the novel Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, there's the following passage:

Three a.m. When I awake my heart is racing and cool traces of sweat are abrading my neck, so that in the idiocy of sleep I am trying to loosen my collar.

My dictionary shows that 'abrading' is 'to damage'. I can't imagine how 'cool traces of sweat' could 'damage' one's neck. I couldn't find a proper translation for this situation.

  • 1
    I think your cited example is a misuse of the verb "to abrade", which means to rub or wear away especially by friction. There's no way sweat is going to cause "friction". Perhaps the writer should have used trickle or run [down my neck] to describe what his sweat was doing. Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 17:00
  • OR he could refer to traces of sweat clinging to {some part of his anatomy}. That's perfectly natural. Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 17:08
  • The writer does say that he was "trying to loosen [his] collar," so he was responding to some level of physical irritation. Still, it would have been better to say that the sweat was "tickling" his neck or something like that. Commented Aug 12, 2021 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


This novel is about someone who is accused of murder, so it is not excluded that this is a metaphor for the agony this person is undergoing even in sleep. The words that mark is agony are

  • my heart is racing
  • cool traces of sweat (Note that it says traces, not trickles. Yet the fact that they are cold might imply that they are not dry yet)
  • abraded my neck

Abraded might refer to the fact that the sweat irritated his neck and made him feel as if something was abrading his neck, for example, his collar.

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