I was reading a review on a movie where the author was presenting his views on it. He used this phrase there to contradict himself; he said:

This movie is about modern relationships and how seriously we take them but there is still some meat to bite on the theme as to how it portrays our solitude and distance from real life through being obsessed with social networking and stuff makes relationships non-functional for us.

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    Not enough context. Please add the rest of the sentence. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 2 '15 at 14:06
  • Voting to reopen (well, having answered myself, I suppose I would, wouldn't I? :) Seriously, I don't really see how any competent native speaker could need more context than OP's "this movie is about.....but there is still some meat to bite as to how it..." to recognise this idiomatically common usage. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '15 at 18:03
  • @FumbleFingers The phrase "still some meat to bite" sounds very odd to me. If it were "still some meat to chew on" I might not have wanted more context. A link to the review would be ideal, because it might tell me something about the reviewer's dialect, but I would at least like to see the entire thought before I assume that it is a different phrasing of a common idiom and not part of a larger analogy. – ColleenV Mar 2 '15 at 21:14
  • Fumble - Although I agree there's enough meat here to provide an answer, I'm still concurring with @TRomano in that it would be nice to have the blanks filled in. For example, if the reviewer was reviewing a vampire movie, there may have been some intentional wordplay to go along with the more idiomatic meaning. – J.R. Mar 2 '15 at 22:04
  • @J.R.: The current text tells us far more context than any question I can recall here in the recent past (short of those that give us an actual link to the complete context). Not only do we know it's a movie review, and that the figurative "meat" refers to how [the movie does something]. We're also told the reviewer used this phrase to contradict himself, making it fairly obvious that the missing _______ (whatever the movie's ostensibly about) must by contrast be something trivial. In which case for our purposes here the precise details omitted are effectively irrelevant. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '15 at 22:40

It's a figurative extension from meat = the best part (normally, muscle tissue) of an animal's body when seen as food. Definition #5 at dictionary.com

meat solid or substantial content; pith

It may seem slightly odd that the alternative pith in that definition has as its primary definition...

pith Botany. the soft, spongy central cylinder of parenchymatous tissue in the stems of dicotyledonous plants.

...since in many "food" contexts the pith would be the least desirable part of, say, an edible fruit. But that's idiomatic usage for you.

Personally I find the inclusion of to bite [on] in OP's citation at the very least "unnecessary", and arguably "undesirable". It's perfectly normal to refer to "the meat of the argument" - but nobody ever talks about "the meat to bite on of the argument".

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  • It's not botany, but it's the other definition of pith that coincides with meat: pith (n.) the essential or important part, point, etc. (Collins; also note how pithy overlaps in meaning with meaty). I don't know this for sure, but I've always surmised that, because the pith is in the center of plant, it came to mean the center (or crux) of some issue. – J.R. Mar 2 '15 at 21:57
  • @J.R.: Well, I don't really want to start arguing the toss with dictionaries, but I probably use (botanical) pith more often to mean the soft fibrous tissue lining the rind, or peel, than the "spongy" stuff inside reeds & such. Etymologically, pith helmets and pithy remarks share common ancestry though. Perhaps the strength, importance sense came via pith and marrow (pith is/was also "the white stuff in the spinal cord"). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '15 at 22:30

I'm not sure, but it's possible that you're reading an English translation of the original review, or the reviewer is not a native speaker. I believe that the phrase intended was "there is still (meat/something) to chew on", which would have the meaning of "but there is room for argument on the subject".

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  • I think it's an unjustified assumption that the writer is talking about figurative "meat" as potential material to be argued about. My default reading was it just meant stuff to be thought about (quite possibly in wonder, rather than contentiously). You may be getting skewed by association with still plenty of bones to be picked [over]. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '15 at 16:30
  • @FumbleFingers - quite possible, but since I suspect the saying has been garbled, I couldn't rule out either possibility. – WhatRoughBeast Mar 2 '15 at 17:44
  • You might well be right about "translated, garbled". I found it (very) slightly "iffy" myself, and said so in my own answer, but I never actually thought "maybe it's a translation". Probably not though - more likely just a learner introducing a slightly non-standard twist to a standard idiomatic usage. But note that although meat to chew on/over is more common, it's just as compatible with things to think about/be interested in as it is with things to argue over. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '15 at 18:00

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