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A Wonsul body barrels into them. Another appears by Krissana and Orfea. His head has been pulverized, mouth split and one eye caved in, skull barely holding together by a thin reinforcement mesh: an occipital segment is missing. The rest of him is in no better shape, though by miracle he’s kept all his limbs. “Benzaiten,” he says. “You were never going to come forth under duress. That wouldn’t have been like you. But please—” The acoustics of his throat crack and gutter. “Do it for love. One last time, let me hear your voice.”

Within the context above what does the expression gutter mean? I couldn't get it from some English dictionaries. Could anyone explain that of a way I can get that well?

  • Perhaps the author was thinking of sputter
    – Juhasz
    Dec 1, 2022 at 18:39
  • 3
    Find a better dictionary. This use of gutter isn't "archaic" - just a bit "literary". And if we're to believe this usage chart, it's far more popular today than it was a century or two ago. Dec 1, 2022 at 19:10
  • 1
    The most common collocation used to be alliterative sputtered and guttered, but in the last couple of decades cracked and guttered has taken the top slot. Dec 1, 2022 at 19:16
  • 1
    What's the source?
    – BruceWayne
    Dec 2, 2022 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


The author is comparing the way this character's voice cuts in and out to the way a flame cuts in and out as it gutters in a breeze. The fact that his voice is also cracking supports this.

Gutter from Merriam-Webster:

verb, intransitive
2 : to incline downward in a draft
// the candle flame guttering

  • 2
    It's a little bit "literary", so I wouldn't normally expect it in conversational contexts. But I don't see anything "non-idiomatic" in something like His voice guttered (that's a link to dozens of written instances). Dec 1, 2022 at 19:07
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    @FumbleFingers You're right. Should have at least searched it before claiming it was not idiomatic. I don't remember seeing it, but the meaning is clear from your linked contexts. I've updated my answer
    – gotube
    Dec 1, 2022 at 20:07
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    I thought it might not be easy to design a corpus search to prove the point, because gutter and guttering are fairly common nouns with a completely different sense. But I figured OP's exact cited usage (gutter) might be "relatively" uncommon, and I've just found that neither sputter and gutter nor sputtering and guttering are common enough to produce NGram usage charts (which Past Tense sputtered and guttered does easily). So there's a least some justification for saying that the Present Tense form isn't common! :) Dec 1, 2022 at 20:25

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