From Claire Keegan's novel Small Things Like These

Chimneys threw out smoke which fell away and drifted off in hairy, drawn-out strings before dispersing along the quays.

I cannot catch the meaning of "hairy, drawn-out strings". Maybe "drawn-out" means "long",but what is "hairy strings"?

  • Why have you not said what novel, and who wrote it? Commented Mar 24 at 22:42
  • Imagine a long string of smoke. Then imagine it has thin tendrils smoke, like hairs. Commented Mar 24 at 22:45
  • From Claire Keegan's novel "Small Things Like These".
    – blackfoot
    Commented Mar 24 at 23:48
  • I checked a dictionary, it says 'hairy' means " a hairy person or animal has a lot of hair on their body." So I confused. You said it means only hair-like, right?
    – blackfoot
    Commented Mar 24 at 23:52
  • It's just imagery, trying to describe the drifting and curling smoke. Commented Mar 25 at 0:40

1 Answer 1


This is a metaphor. The smoke is not hairy string, but it is like hairy string in some way. Probably the smoke is in a long stream of smoke (like a string) with little clouds of smoke around it (like hair).

This is not a common figure of speech, it has been invented my the author to create an image. You can surely think of similar examples in your own language, so there is nothing special about English in this use.

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