‘Ah, Master Cromwell!’ More rubs his hands together. ‘I relish you, I do indeed. Now I feel as a nutmeg must do when it's grated. A lesser man – a lesser lawyer – would say, “I have read Tyndale's work, and I find no fault there.” But Cromwell won't be tripped – he casts it back, he asks me, rather, have you read Tyndale? And I admit it. I have studied the man. I have picked apart his so-called translations, and I have done it letter by letter. I read him, of course, I do. By licence. From my bishop.’

— Wolf Hall by Hilary Mante

What is the meaning of "to feel as a nutmeg must do when it's grated"? Irritated?

  • More suggests that Cromwell has pressed him hard against almost invisibly small sharp points to subtly abrasive effect. Sep 10, 2015 at 0:40

1 Answer 1


When nutmeg is grated, it is broken up into little bits by the violent action of something much more powerful than itself. This results in something a little different from the original nutmeg, and arguably more useful, but not the same whole piece.

That's the metaphor being used here: More is expressing how forceful Cromwell is, and (presumably) how potentially transformative, as though he were a kitchen utensil and his opponents merely spices to be made ready for cooking.

("Must do", by the way, means the same as "must feel" in this context; it's referring back to the previous verb. This is a rather archaic construction, used for effect.)

  • +1 But the use of do here is still current in BrE, though my impression is that it's dying out there, too. Sep 10, 2015 at 0:42
  • @StoneyB: Yeah, I figured I'd hedge with "rather". On this side of the pond, there's no question: it's archaic. Elsewhere it's not quite so old-fashioned. Sep 10, 2015 at 0:43

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