William was tall and thin and shy and awkward in school. His best social tool was that he played the piano, and so was recruited for school musicals, which placed him at rehearsals and cast parties with kids he would otherwise scarcely have known. He thought he would be either a pianist or a physicist, although he didn’t know anyone in Montana who did those things professionally. His piano teacher was a banker’s widow who gave lessons in her lace-curtained house, and his physics teacher was primarily the wrestling coach. But William could imagine another kind of life.

Does "social tool" mean skill?

2 Answers 2


It's a figurative tool.

Tools are something you can use to accomplish something you want to do. If I have a screwdriver, I can use it to tighten a screw.

Playing piano was something he could use (figuratively) in order to be social. He was able to meet people "he would otherwise scarcely have known" using this tool.

  • I do not see why tool is described as figurative. Tools do not have to be physical. That doesn't make them figurative.
    – user6951
    Sep 25, 2014 at 20:04
  • 1
    @CarSmack The literal meaning of tool is in reference to a physical object. Many words have both literal and figurative meanings. This is normal. Language is full of figurative meaning.
    – user230
    Sep 25, 2014 at 20:13
  • To me you are confusing literal and physical.
    – user6951
    Sep 25, 2014 at 21:00

A tool may be physical or non-physical. I am a software developer, I have quite a few tools that are absolutely literal tools, but that are not physical.

However, a tool is normally something used intentionally. If here William plays the piano in order to meet people that he otherwise would not, that might be considered a literal tool. But if he does not play for that reason, that is merely an unintended result, or at best a happy side effect, it might be called a figurative tool.

A google search for "social tool" seems dominated by tools or techniques for using social media, which is not relevant to this question.

I take "social tool" here to mean any activity or action that aided William imn making social contacts or expanding the group of people that he knows. This might or might not be a literal tool.

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