Here's some context from the movie Winter's Bone (2010):

Merab: Thump knows you were in the valley, child. With Megan. And at Little Arthur's. He knows what you want to ask, and he don't want to hear it.

Ree: And that's it? He ain't gonna say nothing to me?

Merab: If you're listening, child, you got your answer.

Ree: So, I guess come the nut-cutting, blood don't really mean shit to the big man. Am I understanding that right?

Merab: Don't you dare. Don't! I want you to listen to me, child. You need to turn around, and get yourself on home. Don't you make me come out here and tell you again!

What does come the nut-cutting mean here? Is saying come the nutting the same as saying if the nut-cutting comes? I don't really understand the way the verb come is used here. Any help is much appreciated!

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    I’m voting to close this question because it's about understanding English language and not about movies. It should probably be asked on ELL.se
    – OldPadawan
    Commented May 10 at 7:03
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    @OldPadawan I don't think so. it's not about understanding the English language, it's about understanding a phrase/sentence meaning from a movie prospective. This phrase has a deep meaning in context of movie. Commented May 10 at 12:19
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    It is a mix of 'what does this mean from a movie perspective' and understanding the English meaning of a phrase starting with 'come the'. 'come the nut cutting' is a more colorful way of saying 'if and when the nut cutting comes'
    – iandotkelly
    Commented May 10 at 14:27
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    Lacking the context of this specific film, I'll observe that the construction "come <a thing/time>" is a somewhat archaic way of saying "when <the thing> comes <to pass>." I thing a nuance missing from much of the these comments and answers is that the event in question is rarely contingent. A usage might be: "Come harvest, it's all in the field." ("When it's harvest time, everyone works.") Commented May 10 at 15:55
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    @DerrellDurrett So, basically, it's like when people say come to pass meaning to happen, right? Commented May 10 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


In this movie context, the Phrase "come the nut-cutting" refers to a critical/crucial moment.

When Ree says, "Come the nut-cutting, blood doesn't really mean shit to the big man," she means to say that when the time comes to take a definitive action or when time is tough and a firm decision needs to be taken then literally nothing matters to powerful figures like Thump. He will make decisions by putting everything aside even if it is related to him.

Saying "if the nut-cutting comes" would convey a similar meaning, but the phrase "come the nutting" makes it more interesting and thoughtful. These kinds of small and shuttle variations in dialog create a big difference in captivating the audience's interest.

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    Not knowing the film, I'm curious if the phrase, "Come the nut-cutting, blood doesn't really mean shit to the big man," is meant to convey that familial relationships aren't "the big man"'s guiding motivation? Also, to my ear, the phrase "come the nut-cutting" doesn't convey contingency of the event, but rather certainty of it being in the future i.e., I would modernize it to "when the time for nut-cutting comes." Does that make more sense, potentially? Commented May 10 at 15:56
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    Is there any meaning or background to "nut-cutting" specifically? -- That is, is there an explanation why "nut-cutting" is used in this context, and it isn't some other phrase ("come the shearing of the sheep"/"come the donkey-riding"/"come St. Sebastian's call to heaven"/etc.)?
    – R.M.
    Commented May 10 at 17:05

I don’t think this is, or is supposed to be, a fixed phrase. “Come” here is being used as a preposition, meaning roughly “at the time of”.

“Nut-cutting” is castration, but is here being used to mean any difficult, unpleasant period — as castration is both for the animal and the farmer.

“Blood” means the fact of kinship.

“Don’t mean shit” is a fixed phrase, meaning “holds no [emotional or practical] significance”.

A more easily understood, if less affective, way of expressing the same thing would be “When push comes to shove, he [the ‘big man’] does not care if you are a family member.”

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    Or we can think of it as having to cut a nut off or away from a bolt because rust has immobilized it to the point where there's no other way to remove it. Commented May 10 at 18:22
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    @JConstantine — a little boy was at the zoo and saw the elephant in a state of arousal. “What that?” he asked. “Uh, it’s nothing,” his mother told him. The next day, his dad takes him to zoo and the same thing happens, only the dad answers, “That is the elephant’s penis.” The boy says “Mom said it was nothing. “Son, your mom is a very spoiled woman.” No, “nut-cutting” is not a reference to cutting a rusted nut off a bolt. Ask any mechanic. Commented May 11 at 0:13
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    +1 for explaining "nut-cutting". "Come (point in time)" is a familiar idiom template. "Nut-cutting" needed explaining for those of us who didn't know the story.
    – Rosie F
    Commented May 11 at 6:08
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    @Fattie idioms.thefreedictionary.com/nut-cutting%20time Commented May 12 at 13:52
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    @terdon — don’t forget my favorite “yarbles”. Joey calls his “my misters”. Commented May 13 at 20:17

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