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NTC's American Idioms Dictionary

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The Most Practical Reference for
  the Everyday Expressions of
Contemporary American English

            third edition

     Richard A. Spears, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2000 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Manufactured in the United
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DOI: 10.1036/0071389881
     To the User          vii

 Terms and Symbols               ix

About This Dictionary                 xi

      Dictionary         1

Phrase-Finder Index              447

     Appendix          621

    McGraw-Hill's Terms of Use
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                     To the User
All languages have phrases or sentences that cannot be understood liter-
ally. Even if you know the meaning of all the words in a phrase and under-
stand all the grammar of the phrase completely, the meaning of the phrase
may still be confusing. Many proverbs, informal phrases, and common say-
ings offer this kind of problem. A phrase or sentence of this type is said
to be idiomatic. This dictionary is a collection of the idiomatic phrases and
sentences that occur frequently in American English. The third edition
contains more than one thousand idiomatic expressions not listed in the
second edition and a number of new features that provide additional con-
venience and simplicity.

                    Using the Dictionary
1. Start by looking up the complete phrase that you are seeking in the dic-
   tionary. Each expression is alphabetized under the first word of the
   phrase, except the words a, an, and the. After the first word, entry heads
   are alphabetized letter by letter. For example, in so many words will
   be found in the section dealing with the letter i. Entry phrases are never
   inverted or reordered like so many words, in ; words, in so many ;
   or many words, in so. Initial articles—a, an, and the—are not alpha-
   betized and appear in a different typeface in the entry. In the entry
   heads, the words someone or one stand for persons, and something
   stands for things. These and other generic expressions appear in a dif-
   ferent typeface.
2. If you do not find the phrase you want, or if you cannot decide exactly
   what the phrase is, look up any major word in the phrase in the Phrase-
   Finder Index, which begins on page 447. There you will find all the
   phrases that contain the key word you have looked up. Pick out the
   phrase you want and look it up in the dictionary.
3. An entry head may have one or more alternate forms. The entry head
   and its alternates are printed in boldface type, and the alternate forms
   are preceded by “and.” Two or more alternate forms are separated by
   a semicolon (;).
4. Many of the entry phrases have more than one major sense. These
   senses are numbered with boldface numerals.

NTC’s American Idioms Dictionary

05. Individual numbered senses may have additional forms that appear
    in boldface type, in which case the and and the additional form(s)
    follow the numeral.
06. The boldface entry head (together with any alternate forms) is usu-
    ally followed by a definition or explanation. Explanations are enclosed
    in angle brackets (< and >), and explain or describe the entry head
    rather than define it. Definitions take the form of words, phrases, or
    sentences that are semantic equivalents of the entry head. Alternate
    definitions and restatements of the definitions are separated by a
    semicolon (;). These additional definitions are usually given to show
    slight differences in meaning or interpretation. Sometimes an alter-
    nate definition is given when the vocabulary of the first definition is
07. Some entries include instructions to look up some other phrase. For
       scarcer than hen’s teeth Go to (as) scarce as hen’s teeth.
08. A definition or explanation may be followed by comments in paren-
    theses. These comments tell about some of the variations of the
    phrase, explain what it refers to, give other useful information, or indi-
    cate cross-referencing.
09. Some definitions are preceded by additional information in square
    brackets. This information makes the definition clearer by supplying
    information about the typical grammatical context in which the
    phrase is found.
10. Sometimes the numbered senses refer only to people or things, but
    not both, even though the entry head indicates both someone or some-
    thing. In such cases, the numeral is followed by “[with someone]” or
    “[with something].”
11. Examples are introduced by a or a T and are in italic type. The T
    introduces an example containing two elements that have been trans-
    posed, such as a particle and the object of a verb. This is typically
    found with phrasal verbs.
12. Some entry heads stand for two or more idiomatic expressions. Paren-
    theses are used to show which parts of the phrase may or may not be
    present. For example: (all) set to do something stands for all set
    to do something and set to do something.

         Terms and Symbols
[....] enclose a partial entry that is followed by an instruction about where
    to find the whole entry or a comment. For instance, [heart stands still]
    Go to one’s heart stands still.
<....> enclose a description of or explanation about an entry head rather
   than a definition. For instance, Finders keepers(, losers weepers). <a
   phrase said when something is found.>
   (a box) marks the beginning of an example.
T (a box containing a “T”) marks the beginning of an example in which
  two elements of the phrase, usually a particle and an object, are trans-
and indicates that an entry head has variant forms that are the same or
  similar in meaning as the entry head. One or more variant forms are
  preceded by and.
entry block is the body of an entry starting with a boldface word or
  phrase type and running to the next boldface word or phrase.
entry head is the first phrase or word, in boldface type, of an entry block;
  the phrase or word that the definition explains.
go to means to turn to the entry head indicated.
see also means to consult the entry head indicated for additional infor-
  mation or to find expressions similar in form or meaning to the entry
  head containing the see also instruction.

                               Type Styles
Entry heads are printed in boldface type, e.g., Join the club!
Variable parts of an entry are printed in condensed type, e.g., just the same
  (to someone).
Entry heads being referred to as cross-references are printed in sans serif
  type, e.g., get the short end of the stick.
Variable parts of cross-references are printed in light condensed type , e.g., ease
  off (on someone or something ).

NTC’s American Idioms Dictionary

Words or phrases that are mentioned but are not entries are printed in italic
 type, e.g., (Preceded by be or seem).
Examples are printed in italic type, e.g., The cashier was not allowed to
  leave the bank until the manager balanced the books.
Definitions, descriptions, and comments are printed in roman type, e.g.,
  a very active and energetic person who always succeeds.
Words or phrases being emphasized in examples are printed in roman type,
 e.g., And stop hiding your head in the sand. All of us will die some-
 how, whether we smoke or not.
The articles a, an, and the appear in roman type at the beginning of an
  entry head, and these words are ignored in the process of alphabetizing,
  e.g., a babe in the woods, which is found under B, not under T.

   About This Dictionary
NTC’s American Idioms Dictionary is designed for easy use by lifelong
speakers of English, as well as the new-to-English speaker or learner. The
dictionary uses 14,000 examples to illustrate the meanings of approximately
8,500 idiomatic forms in 7,500 entry blocks. An appendix includes 500
irreversible binomial and trinomial phrases. The dictionary contains a
unique Phrase-Finder Index that allows the user to identify and look up
any expression in the dictionary from a single key word.
      This is a dictionary of form and meaning. It focuses on the user’s
need to know the meaning, usage, and appropriate contexts for each
idiomatic phrase. Specialized knowledge of English lexical and senten-
tial semantics and English grammar is not used in indexing, defining,
or explaining the idiomatic expressions.
      English is a highly variable language. American English has dif-
ferences that correlate with geographical location, the level and regis-
ter of use, and other differences that relate to characteristics of the
speaker. To include examples that would represent all kinds of Amer-
ican English as spoken by all kinds of speakers is not possible. The kind
of American English used in the dictionary is generally what one would
expect to hear used by educated, polite individuals representative of the
traditional American home, family, and community. It is widely used
in the United States and understood by English speakers throughout the
      Idioms or idiomatic expressions are often defined as “set phrases”
or “fixed phrases.” The number of idiomatic expressions that are totally
invariant is really quite small, however, even when the English proverbs
are included in this category. Most such phrases can vary the choice of
noun or pronoun and most select from a wide variety of verb tense and
aspect patterns. Adjectives and some adverbs can be added at will to
idiomatic phrases. Furthermore, the new-to-English user is faced with
the difficulty of isolating an idiomatic expression from the rest of the
sentence and determining where to find it in a dictionary of idioms. If
the user fails to extract the essential idiomatic expression, the likelihood
of finding it in any dictionary is reduced considerably.

NTC’s American Idioms Dictionary

      In dictionaries that list each idiomatic expression under a “key
word,” there may be some difficulty in deciding what the “key word”
is. In phrases such as on the button or in the cards, the key word,
the only noun in the phrase, is easy to determine if one has correctly
isolated the phrase from the sentence in which it was found. In phrases
that have more than one noun, such as all hours of the day and night
or A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, deciding on a “key
word” may be more difficult. It is even more difficult when the only
noun in the phrase is one of the variable words, such as with go around
with her old friends, go around with Jim, and go around with no
one at all, which are examples of go around with someone.
      This dictionary uses the Phrase-Finder Index to get around the
problems users face with trying to isolate the complete idiom and try-
ing to predict its location in the dictionary. Simply look up any major
word—noun, verb, adjective, or adverb—in the Phrase-Finder index,
and you will find the form of the entry head that contains the defini-
tion you seek.
      Another important feature for the learner is the use of object
placeholders indicating human and nonhuman. Typical dictionary
entries for idiomatic phrases—especially for phrasal verbs, preposi-
tional verbs, and phrasal prepositional verbs—omit direct objects, as
in put on hold , bail out, or see through. This dictionary uses the
stand-in forms such as someone, something, some amount, or somewhere for
variable objects and other variable forms. These stand-in forms are in
condensed type.
      All of that information is vital to learners of English, although it
seems to come perfectly naturally to lifelong English speakers. For
example, there is a big difference between put someone on hold and
put something on hold, or between bail someone out and bail
something out. There is also a great difference between see some-
thing through and see through something. These differences may
never be revealed if the entry heads are just put on hold, bail out, and
see through, with no object indicated.
      Many idioms have optional parts. In fact, a phrase may seem
opaque simply because it is really just an ellipsis of a longer, less opaque
phrase. This dictionary shows as full a form of an idiom as possible with
the frequently omitted parts in parentheses. For example: back down

                                                             About This Dictionary

(from someone or something), be all eyes (and ears), and (every) once
in a while.
      The dictionary includes numerous irreversible binomials and tri-
nomials—sequences of two or three words that are in a fixed order,
such as fast and furious, but not furious and fast. These sequences are
listed in the Appendix, beginning on page 621, and those that require
explanation are cross-referenced to entries in the dictionary.

The compiler has included idiomatic phrases drawn from or suggested by Anne
Bertram in NTC’s Dictionary of Proverbs and Clichés, NTC’s Dictionary of
Euphemisms, and NTC’s Dictionary of Folksy, Regional, and Rural Sayings and Eliza-
beth Kirkpatrick in NTC’s English Idioms Dictionary.

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[a] <Entries beginning with a, an, or the are
  alphabetized under the second word in
                                                      test blindfolded. Mary is very good with
                                                      computers. She can program blindfolded.
  the entry. That means that a bed of                    Dr. Jones is a great surgeon. He can take
  roses will appear in the Bs.>                       out an appendix standing on his head.
an A for effort recognition for having tried        able to do something standing on one’s head
  to do something even if it was not suc-             Go to able to do something blindfolded.
  cessful. The plan didn’t work, but I’ll
  give you an A for effort for trying so hard.      able to do something with one’s eyes closed
     Bobby played his violin in the concert           able to do something very easily, even
  and got an A for effort. It sounded terrible.       without having to think about it or look
                                                      at it. (Also literal. Also with can. Always
(a little) new to (all) this an apologetic            affirmative.) It’s easy. I can do it with
  way of saying that one is experiencing              my eyes closed.       I can clean the house
  something new or participating in some-             with my eyes closed! It’s easy!
  thing new and is therefore ineffective or
  inept. I’m sorry I’m slow. I’m a little           able to fog a mirror alive, even if just
  new to all this. She’s new to this. She             barely. (Usually jocular. Refers to the use
  needs practice.                                     of a small mirror placed under one’s nose
                                                      to tell if one is breathing or not.) Look,
abide by something to follow the rules of
                                                      I don’t need an athlete to do this job. Any-
  something; to obey someone’s orders.
                                                      body able to fog a mirror will do fine!
  John felt that he had to abide by his father’s
                                                      I’m so tired this morning, I feel like I’m
  wishes. All drivers are expected to abide
                                                      hardly able to fog a mirror.
  by the rules of the road.
able to breathe (easily) again and able             able to make something able to attend an
  to breathe (freely) again able to relax             event. (Also literal. Informal. Able to can
  and recover from a busy or stressful time;          be replaced with can.) I don’t think I’ll
  able to catch one’s breath. (Also literal.          be able to make your party, but thanks for
  Able to can be replaced with can.) Now              asking me. We are having another one
  that the lion has been caught, we’ll be able        next month. We hope you can make it
  to breathe freely again. Now that the an-           then.
  nual sale is over, the sales staff will be able   able to take a joke to be able to accept
  to breathe again. Final exams are over,             ridicule good-naturedly; to be the object
  so I can breathe easily again.                      or butt of a joke willingly. (Able to can
able to breathe (freely) again Go to able             be replaced with can.) Let’s play a trick
  to breathe (easily) again.                          on Bill and see if he’s able to take a joke.
                                                         Better not tease Ann. She can’t take a
able to do something blindfolded and able             joke.
  to do something standing on one’s head
  able to do something easily and quickly,          able to take just so much able to endure
  possibly without even looking. (Infor-              only a limited amount of discomfort.
  mal. Able to can be replaced with can.)             (Able to can be replaced with can.)
  Bill boasted that he could pass his driver’s        Please stop hurting my feelings. I’m able to

                                 McGraw-Hill's Terms of Use
able to take

  take just so much before I get angry. I             spector had to make sure that everything
  can take just so much.                              was open and aboveboard.
able to take something able to endure some-         absent without leave and AWOL absent
  thing; able to endure abuse. (Often in the          from a military unit without permission;
  negative. Able to can be replaced with              absent from anything without permis-
  can. See also the previous entry.) Stop             sion. (AWOL is an abbreviation. This is
  yelling like that. I’m not able to take it any-     a serious offense in the military.) The
  more.      Go ahead, hit me again. I can            soldier was taken away by the military po-
  take it.                                            lice because he was absent without leave.
above and beyond (something ) more than                   John was AWOL from school and got
  is required. Her efforts were above and             into a lot of trouble with his parents.
  beyond. We appreciate her time. All this
  extra time is above and beyond her regu-          according to all accounts and by all
  lar hours.                                          accounts from all the reports; everyone
                                                      is saying.    According to all accounts,
(above and) beyond the call of duty in                the police were on the scene immediately.
  addition to what is required; more than                According to all accounts, the meet-
  is required in one’s job. We didn’t ex-             ing broke up over a very minor matter.
  pect the police officer to drive us home.              By all accounts, it was a very poor
  That was above and beyond the call of               performance.
  duty. The English teacher helped stu-
  dents after school every day, even though         according to Hoyle according to the rules;
  it was beyond the call of duty.                     in keeping with the way it is normally
                                                      done. (Refers to the rules for playing
above average higher or better than the
                                                      games. Edmond Hoyle wrote a book
  average. Max’s grades are always above
                                                      about games. This expression is usually
  average. His intelligence is clearly above
                                                      used for something other than games.)
                                                      That’s wrong. According to Hoyle, this is
above par better than average or normal.              the way to do it.     The carpenter said,
      His work is above par, so he should get         “This is the way to drive a nail, according
  paid better. Your chances of winning the            to Hoyle.”
  game are a little above par.
                                                    according to one’s own lights according to
above reproach not deserving of blame or              the way one believes; according to the
  criticism.      Some politicians behave as          way one’s conscience or inclinations lead
  though they are above reproach.             You     one. (Rarely used informally.) People
  must accept your punishment. You are not            must act on this matter according to their
  above reproach.                                     own lights. John may have been wrong,
above suspicion honest enough that no                 but he did what he did according to his
  one would suspect you; to be in a posi-             own lights.
  tion where you could not be suspected.
  The general is a fine old man, completely         according to someone or something as said or
  above suspicion. Mary was at work at                indicated by someone or something.
  the time of the accident, so she’s above            According to the weather forecast, this
  suspicion.                                          should be a beautiful day. According to
                                                      my father, this is a very good car to buy.
aboveboard and honest and above-                         It’s too cold to go for a walk, according
  board; open and aboveboard in the                   to the thermometer.
  open; visible to the public; honest. (Es-
  pecially with keep, as in the examples be-        according to something in proportion to
  low.) Don’t keep it a secret. Let’s make            something. You will get paid according
  sure that everything is aboveboard. You             to the number of hours that you work.
  can do whatever you wish, as long as you            The doctor charges patients according to
  keep it honest and aboveboard. The in-              their ability to pay.

                                                                                         act up

accustomed to someone or something used to         money for each department 10 percent
  or comfortable with someone or some-             across the board.
  thing; accepting of someone or some-           act as someone to perform in the capacity of
  thing as common and usual. We were               someone, temporarily or permanently.
  accustomed to wearing shoes.         They        I’ll act as your supervisor until Mrs. Brown
  aren’t accustomed to paying a visit with-        returns from vacation.           This is Mr.
  out bringing a gift. I’ll never become ac-       Smith. He’ll act as manager from now on.
  customed to you.
                                                 act high-and-mighty to act proud and
[ace in the hole] Go to someone’s ace in the       powerful. (Informal.)         Why does the
  hole.                                            doctor always have to act so high-and-
an aching heart the feeling of distress be-        mighty? If Sally wouldn’t act so high-
  cause of love that is lost or has faded          and-mighty, she’d have more friends.
  away, described as being in the heart,         an act of faith an act or deed demonstrat-
  where love is said to reside. I try to tell      ing religious faith; an act or deed show-
  my aching heart that I don’t love him.           ing trust in someone or something. He
  There is no medicine for an aching heart.        lit candles in church as an act of faith.
acid test a test whose findings are beyond         For him to trust you with his safety was a
  doubt or dispute. (Refers to a chemical          real act of faith.
  test that shows whether a metal is gold.)      an act of God an occurrence (usually an
     Her new husband seems generous, but           accident) for which no human is respon-
  the acid test will be if he lets her mother      sible; a dramatic act of nature such as a
  stay with them. The senator isn’t very           storm, an earthquake, or a windstorm.
  popular just now, but the acid test will be      My insurance company wouldn’t pay for
  if he gets reelected.                            the damage because it was an act of God.
acknowledge receipt (of something ) to in-             The thief tried to convince the judge that
  form the sender that what was sent was           the diamonds were in his pocket due to an
  received. (Commonly used in business             act of God.
  correspondence.) In a letter to a shoe         an act of war an international act of vio-
  company, Mary wrote, “I’m happy to ac-           lence for which war is considered a suit-
  knowledge receipt of four dozen pairs of         able response; any hostile act between
  shoes.” John acknowledged receipt of the         two people. To bomb a ship is an act
  bill. The package hasn’t arrived, so I’m         of war. Can spying be considered an act
  unable to acknowledge receipt.                   of war?        “You just broke my stereo,”
acknowledge someone to be right to admit           yelled John. “That’s an act of war!”
  or state that someone is correct about         act one’s age to behave more maturely; to
  something. Mary acknowledged Bill to             act as grown-up as one really is. (This is
  be right about the name of the store. Bill       frequently said to a child.) Come on,
  said that the car was useless, and the me-       John, act your age. Stop throwing rocks.
  chanic acknowledged him to be right.             Mary! Stop picking on your little brother.
acquire a taste for something to develop a         Act your age!
  liking for food, drink, or something else;     act something out to perform an imaginary
  to learn to like something.       One ac-        event as if one were in a play. Bill al-
  quires a taste for fine wines.       Many        ways acted his anger out by shouting and
  people are never able to acquire a taste for     pounding his fists. T The psychiatrist
  foreign food. Mary acquired a taste for          asked Bill to act out the way he felt about
  art when she was very young.                     getting fired.
across the board equally for everyone or         act up to misbehave; to run or act badly.
  everything. The school board raised the            John, why do you always have to act up
  pay of all the teachers across the board.        when your father and I take you out to eat?
  Congress cut the budget by reducing the            My arthritis is acting up. It really hurts.

Actions speak louder than words.

        My car is acting up. I could hardly get      advise against something to suggest that
    it started this morning.                           something not be done.         I advised
                                                       against quitting work early. Lisa always
Actions speak louder than words. It is
                                                       advises against hasty actions.
    better to do something about a problem
    than just talk about it. (Proverb.) Mary         advise someone against doing something to
    kept promising to get a job. John finally          supply someone with a suggestion of not
    looked her in the eye and said, “Actions           doing something. I advised Bill against
    speak louder than words!” After listen-            quitting his job.      Lisa advised Tom
    ing to the senator promising to cut federal        against doing it.
    spending, Ann wrote a simple note saying,        an affinity for someone or something a strong
    “Actions speak louder than words.”                 preference for something; a strong liking
add fuel to the fire and add fuel to the               for something. Cats have an affinity for
  flame to make a problem worse; to say                seafood.    Mary’s affinity for classical
    or do something that makes a bad situa-            music accounts for her large collection of
    tion worse; to make an angry person even           recordings.
    more angry. (Also literal.) To spank a           afraid of one’s own shadow easily fright-
    crying child just adds fuel to the fire. Bill      ened; always frightened, timid, or suspi-
    was shouting angrily, and Bob tried to get         cious.    After Tom was robbed, he was
    him to stop by laughing at him. Of course,         even afraid of his own shadow. Jane has
    that was just adding fuel to the flame.            always been a shy child. She has been
add fuel to the flame Go to add fuel to                afraid of her own shadow since she was
    the fire.                                          three.
add insult to injury to make a bad situa-            after a fashion in a manner that is just
    tion worse; to hurt the feelings of a per-         barely adequate; poorly.       He thanked
    son who has already been hurt. First,              me—after a fashion—for my help. Oh,
    the basement flooded, and then, to add in-         yes, I can swim, after a fashion.
    sult to injury, a pipe burst in the kitchen.     after all 1. anyway; in spite of what had
       My car barely started this morning, and         been decided. (Often refers to a change
    to add insult to injury, I got a f lat tire in     in plans or a reversal of plans.) Mary
    the driveway.                                      had planned to go to the bank first, but she
add up (to something) 1. to total up to a par-         came here after all. It looks like Tom will
    ticular amount. The bill added up to               go to law school after all. 2. remember;
    $200. These groceries will add up to al-           consider the fact that.        Don’t punish
    most sixty dollars. These numbers just             Tommy! After all, he’s only three years old!
    won’t add up. 2. to mean something; to                 After all, we really didn’t hurt anyone!
    signify or represent something; to result        after all is said and done when every-
    in something. All this adds up to trou-            thing is settled or concluded; finally. (See
    ble! I don’t understand. What does all             also when all is said and done.) After
    this add up to?       If you think about it        all was said and done, it was a lovely party.
    carefully, these facts add up perfectly.               After all is said and done, it will turn
address someone as something 1. to talk to or          out just as I said.
    write to a person, using a particular ti-        after hours after the regular closing time;
    tle. They addressed Abraham Lincoln as             after any normal or regular time, such as
    “Mr. President.” A physician is usually            one’s bedtime. John was arrested in a
    addressed as “Doctor.” 2. to treat a person        bar after hours. The soldier was caught
    you are talking with in a particular               sneaking into the barracks after hours.
    manner.      You should address him as             John got a job sweeping f loors in the bank
    your equal. Do not address me as your              after hours.
                                                     after the fact after something has hap-
advanced in years Go to up in years.                   pened; after something, especially a

                                                                             air something out

  crime, has taken place. (Primarily a le-          of the game. Bob does extra work so he’s
  gal phrase.) John is always making ex-            always ahead of the game.
  cuses after the fact. Remember to lock
                                                  ahead of time beforehand; before the an-
  your car whenever you leave it. If it’s
                                                    nounced time. If you show up ahead of
  stolen, there is nothing you can do after the
                                                    time, you will have to wait.   Be there
                                                    ahead of time if you want to get a good
after the fashion of someone or something in        seat.
  the manner or style of someone or some-
                                                  aid and abet someone to help someone; to
  thing. (See also after a fashion.) She
                                                    incite someone to do something that is
  walks down the street after the fashion of
                                                    wrong. He was scolded for aiding and
  a grand lady. The church was built af-
                                                    abetting the boys who were fighting. It’s
  ter the fashion of an English cathedral.
                                                    illegal to aid and abet a thief.
again and again repeatedly; again and
                                                  aim to do something to mean to do some-
  even more. I like going to the beach, and
                                                    thing; to intend to do something in the
  I will go back again and again.        He
                                                    future. (Folksy.)     I aim to paint the
  knocked on the door again and again un-
                                                    house as soon as I can find a brush. He
  til I finally answered.
                                                    aims to take a few days off and go fishing.
against someone’s will without a person’s
                                                  Ain’t it the truth? Isn’t that just the way it
  consent or agreement. You cannot force
                                                    is?; I agree with you completely. (Infor-
  me to come with you against my will!
                                                    mal.) A: Things aren’t the way they used
  Against their will, the men were made to
                                                    to be in the good old days. B: Ain’t it the
  stand up against the wall and be searched.
                                                    truth? A: You just can’t buy good shoes
against the clock in a race with time; in           anymore. B: Ain’t it the truth?
  a great hurry to get something done be-
                                                  air one’s dirty linen in public and wash
  fore a particular time. (See also race
                                                    one’s dirty linen in public to discuss pri-
  against time.)      Bill set a new track
                                                    vate or embarrassing matters in public,
  record, running against the clock. He lost
                                                    especially when quarreling. (This linen
  the actual race, however.       In a race
                                                    refers to sheets and tablecloths or other
  against the clock, they rushed the special
                                                    soiled cloth.) John’s mother had asked
  medicine to the hospital.
                                                    him repeatedly not to air the family’s dirty
ahead of one’s time having ideas or atti-           linen in public. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson
  tudes that are too advanced to be ac-             are arguing again. Why must they always
  ceptable to or appreciated by the society         air their dirty linen in public? Jean will
  in which one is living. People buy that           talk to anyone about her financial prob-
  artist’s work now, but his paintings were         lems. Why does she wash her dirty linen in
  laughed at when he was alive. He was              public?
  ahead of his time. Mary’s grandmother
                                                  air one’s grievances to complain; to make
  was ahead of her time in wanting to study
                                                    a public complaint.         I know how you
                                                    feel, John, but it isn’t necessary to air your
ahead of schedule having done some-                 grievances over and over. I know you’re
  thing before the time listed on the sched-        busy, sir, but I must air my grievances. This
  ule. I want to be able to finish the job          matter is very serious.
  ahead of schedule. We don’t have to rush
                                                  air something out to freshen up something
  because we are ahead of schedule.
                                                    by placing it in the open air; to freshen
ahead of the game being early; having an            a room by letting air move through it.
  advantage over a situation; having done           It’s so stale in here. Mary, please open a
  more than necessary. (Informal or slang.)         window and air this place out. Please
    Whenever we go to a movie, we show up           take this pillow outside and air it out.
  ahead of the game and have to wait. Bill          T I’ll have to air out the car. Someone has
  has to study math very hard to keep ahead         been smoking in it.

alive and kicking

alive and kicking and alive and well well           all better now improved; cured. (Folksy or
    and healthy. (Informal.) JANE: How is             juvenile.) My leg was sore, but it’s all
    Bill? MARY: Oh, he’s alive and kicking.           better now.       I fell off my tricycle and
    The last time I saw Tom, he was alive and         bumped my knee. Mommy kissed it, and
    well.                                             it’s all better now.
alive and well Go to alive and kicking.             all day long throughout the day; during
                                                      the entire day. We waited for you at the
alive with someone or something covered with,         station all day long. I can’t keep smil-
    filled with, or active with people or             ing all day long.
    things.       Look! Ants everywhere. The
    f loor is alive with ants! When we got to       all dressed up dressed in one’s best
    the ballroom, the place was alive with            clothes; dressed formally.        We’re all
    dancing.        The campground was alive          dressed up to go out to dinner. I really
    with campers from all over the country.           hate to get all dressed up just to go some-
                                                      where to eat.
all and sundry everyone; one and all.
    (Folksy.) Cold drinks were served to all        all for something very much in favor of
    and sundry. All and sundry came to the            something. (For is usually emphasized.)
    village fair.                                        Bill is all for stopping off to get ice
                                                      cream.     Mary suggested that they sell
all around Robin Hood’s barn going                    their house. They weren’t all for it, but they
    somewhere not by a direct route; going            did it anyway.
    way out of the way [to get somewhere];
                                                    (all) for the best good in spite of the way
    by a long and circuitous route. We had
                                                      it seems now; better than you think. (Of-
    to go all around Robin Hood’s barn to get
                                                      ten said when someone dies after a seri-
    to the little town. She walked all around
                                                      ous illness.) I’m very sorry to hear of the
    Robin Hood’s barn looking for a shop that
                                                      death of your aunt. Perhaps it’s for the best.
    sold Finnish glassware.
                                                          I didn’t get into the college I wanted, but
all at once 1. suddenly.         All at once the      I couldn’t afford it anyway. It’s probably all
    chair broke, and Bob fell to the floor. All       for the best.
    at once she tripped on a stone. 2. all at the   all gone used up; finished; over with.
    same time. The entire group spoke all             Oh, the strawberry jelly is all gone. We
    at once. They were trying to cook din-            used to have wonderful parties, but those
    ner, clean house, and paint the closet all        days are all gone.
    at once.
                                                    all in tired; exhausted; all tuckered out.
(all) at sea (about something) confused; lost         I just walked all the way from town. I’m
    and bewildered. Mary is all at sea about          all in. “What a day!” said Sally. “I’m all
    getting married.      When it comes to            in.”
    higher math, John is totally at sea.
                                                    all in a day ’s work part of what is ex-
(all) balled up troubled; confused; in a              pected; typical or normal. (Also literal.)
    mess. (Slang.) Look at you! You’re really              I don’t particularly like to cook, but
    all balled up! John is all balled up be-          it’s all in a day’s work. Putting up with
    cause his car was stolen. Of course this          rude customers isn’t pleasant, but it’s all
    typewriter won’t work. It’s all balled up.        in a day’s work. Cleaning up after other
                                                      people is all in a day’s work for a chamber-
(all) beer and skittles all fun and plea-
    sure; easy and pleasant. (Skittles is the
    game of ninepins, a game similar to             all in all considering everything that has
    bowling.) Life isn’t all beer and skittles,       happened; in summary and in spite of
    you know!      For Sam, college was beer          any unpleasantness. All in all, it was a
    and skittles. He wasted a lot of time and         very good party. All in all, I’m glad that
    money.                                            I visited New York City.

                                                                    all over but the shouting

all in good time at some future time; in          all night long throughout the whole night.
  good time; soon. (This phrase is used to            I couldn’t sleep all night long.      John
  encourage people to be patient and wait           was sick all night long.
  quietly.) When will the baby be born?
                                                  all of a sudden suddenly.       All of a sud-
  All in good time. MARY: I’m starved!
                                                    den, lightning struck the tree we were sit-
  When will Bill get here with the pizza?
                                                    ting under. I felt a sharp pain in my side
  TOM: All in good time, Mary, all in good
                                                    all of a sudden.
                                                  all or nothing 1. everything or nothing at
(all) in one breath spoken rapidly, usu-            all. Sally would not accept only part of
  ally while one is very excited. (Also lit-        the money. She wanted all or nothing.
  eral.)    Ann said all in one breath,             I can’t bargain over trif les. I will have to
  “Hurry, quick! The parade is coming!”             have all or nothing. 2. time to choose to
  Jane was in a play, and she was so excited        do something or not to do it. It was
  that she said her whole speech in one             all or nothing. Tim had to jump off the
  breath. Tom can say the alphabet all in           truck or risk drowning when the truck
  one breath.                                       went into the water. Jane stood at the
                                                    door of the airplane and checked her para-
all in one piece safely; without damage.            chute. It was all or nothing now. She had
  (Informal.) Her son come home from                to jump or be looked upon as a coward.
  school all in one piece, even though he had
  been in a fight. The package was han-           an all-out effort a very good and thorough
  dled carelessly, but the vase inside arrived      effort. (See also make an all-out effort.)
  all in one piece.                                    We need an all-out effort to get this job
                                                    done on time. The government began an
(all) in the family restricted to one’s own         all-out effort to reduce the federal budget.
  family, as with private or embarrassing
  information. (Especially with keep.)            all-out war total war, as opposed to small,
  Don’t tell anyone else. Please keep it all in     warlike acts or threats of war. We are
  the family. He only told his brother be-          now concerned about all-out war in the
  cause he wanted it to remain in the family.       Middle East.      Threats of all-out war
                                                    caused many tourists to leave the country
(all) joking aside and (all) kidding aside          immediately.
  being serious for a moment; in all seri-        all over 1. finished; dead. (Compare this
  ousness. I know I laugh at him but, jok-          with (all) over with.) Dinner is all over.
  ing aside, he’s a very clever scientist. I        I’m sorry you didn’t get any. It’s all over.
  know I threatened to leave and go round           He’s dead now. 2. everywhere. (See also
  the world, but, joking aside, I need a            all over the earth.)     Oh, I just itch all
  vacation.                                         over. She’s spreading the rumor all over.
(all) kidding aside Go to (all) joking aside.     (all) over again starting over completely
                                                    again; going through something com-
all kinds of someone or something a great           pletely yet another time. Do I have to
  number of people or things; a great               go through this all over again? Please
  amount of something, especially money.            start over again for those who came in late.
  (Informal. Also literal, meaning “all
  types.”) There were all kinds of people         all over but the shouting essentially de-
  there, probably thousands. The Smith              cided and concluded. (An elaboration of
  family has all kinds of money.                    all over, which means “finished.”) The
                                                    last goal was made just as the final whis-
all manner of someone or something all types        tle sounded. Tom said, “Well, it’s all over
  of people or things. We saw all manner            but the shouting.” Tom worked hard in
  of people there. They came from every             college and graduated last month. When
  country in the world. They were selling           he got his diploma, he said, “It’s all over
  all manner of things in the country store.        but the shouting.”

all over the earth

all over the earth and all over the world            (all) set to do something prepared or ready
    everywhere.    Grass grows all over the            to do something. (See also all set.) Are
    earth.  It’s the same way all over the             you set to cook the steaks? Yes, the fire
    world.                                             is ready, and I’m all set to start.
all over the place everywhere; in all parts          (all) shot to hell totally ruined. (Informal.
    of a particular location. Tom, stop leav-          Use caution with hell.)        My car is all
    ing your dirty clothes all over the place.         shot to hell and can’t be depended on.
    We keep finding this kind of problem all           This knife is shot to hell. I need a sharper
    over the place.                                    one.
all over the world Go to all over the earth.         (all) skin and bones Go to nothing but
                                                       skin and bones.
all over town 1. everywhere in town.
    Our dog got loose and ran all over town.         all sweetness and light very sweet, inno-
       Jane looked all over town for a dress to        cent, and helpful. (Perhaps insincerely
    wear to the party. 2. known to everyone.           so.) She was mad at first, but after a
        Now keep this a secret. I don’t want it        while, she was all sweetness and light.
    all over town. In a short time the secret          At the reception, the whole family was all
    was known all over town.                           sweetness and light, but they argued and
                                                       fought after the guests left.
(all) over with finished. (See also all over.)
       His problems are all over with now.           all systems (are) go everything is ready.
    After dinner is all over with, we can play         (Informal. Originally said when prepar-
    cards.                                             ing to launch a rocket.) The rocket is
                                                       ready to blast off—all systems are go.
all right 1. well, good, or okay, but not ex-          TOM: Are you guys ready to start play-
    cellent. (Informal. This phrase has all the        ing? BILL: Sure, Tom, all systems go.
    uses that okay has.) I was a little sick,
    but now I’m all right. His work is all           all talk (and no action) talking about do-
    right, but nothing to brag about.          All     ing something, but never actually doing
    right, it’s time to go. 2. beyond a doubt;         it. The car needs washing, but Bill is all
    as the evidence shows. The dog’s dead              talk and no action on this matter. Bill
    all right. It hasn’t moved at all.        The      keeps saying he’ll get a job soon, but he’s
    train’s late all right. It hasn’t been late in     all talk and no action. Bill won’t do it.
    months. 3. hooray. (An exclamation of              He’s just all talk.
    joy or encouragement.) The Bears won!            All that glitters is not gold. Many attrac-
    All right! All right! That’s the way to do         tive and alluring things have no value.
    it!                                                (Proverb.) The used car looked fine but
All right for you! That’s it for you!; That’s          didn’t run well at all. “Ah, yes,” thought
    the last chance for you! (Juvenile and in-         Bill, “all that glitters is not gold.” When
    formal. Usually said by a child who is an-         Mary was disappointed about losing Tom,
    gry with a playmate.) All right for you,           Jane reminded her, “All that glitters is not
    John. See if I ever play with you again.           gold.”
    All right for you! I’m telling your mother       all the livelong day throughout the whole
    what you did.                                      day. (Folksy.) They kept at their work
all right with someone agreeable to some-              all the livelong day. Bob just sat by the
    one. If you want to ruin your life and             creek fishing, all the livelong day.
    marry Tom, it’s all right with me. I’ll see      all the rage in current fashion.     A new
    if it’s all right with my father.                  dance called the “f loppy disc” is all the
                                                       rage. Wearing a rope instead of a belt
all set ready to begin; okay. (See also (all)
                                                       is all the rage these days.
   set to do something .) TOM: Is everything
    all right? JANE: Yes, we are all set. We         all the same and just the same never-
    are ready to leave now. Are you all set?           theless; anyhow.     They were told not to

                                                                                      allow for

  bring presents, but they brought them all        was afraid you’d be late again. It’s all
  the same. His parents said no, but John          well and good that you’re passing English,
  went out just the same.                          but what about math and science?
all the same (to someone ) and just the          all wet mistaken; wrongheaded; on the
  same (to someone ) of no consequence to          wrong track. (Also literal.) It’s not that
  someone; immaterial to someone. It’s             way, John. You’re all wet. If you think
  all the same to me whether we win or lose.       that prices will come down, you’re all wet.
      If it’s just the same to you, I’d rather
                                                 all wool and a yard wide genuine; gen-
  walk than ride. If it’s all the same, I’d
                                                   uinely warmhearted and friendly. (Infor-
  rather you didn’t smoke.
                                                   mal and folksy. Refers to cloth that is 100
all the time 1. throughout a specific pe-          percent wool and exactly one yard wide.)
  riod of time. Bill was stealing money for           Old Bob is a true gentleman—all wool
  the last two years, and Tom knew it all the      and a yard wide. The banker, hardly all
  time. Throughout December and Janu-              wool and a yard wide, wouldn’t give us a
  ary, Jane had two jobs all the time. 2. at       loan.
  all times; continuously.       Your blood
                                                 All work and no play makes Jack a dull
  keeps f lowing all the time. That electric
                                                   boy. One should have recreation as well
  motor runs all the time. 3. repeatedly; ha-
                                                   as work. (Proverb. Jack does not refer to
  bitually. She keeps a handkerchief in her
                                                   anyone in particular. The phrase can be
  hand all the time. She hums softly all
                                                   used for persons of either sex.) Stop
  the time.
                                                   reading that book and go out and play! All
all the way from the beginning to the end;         work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
  the entire distance, from start to finish.       The doctor told Mr. Jones to stop working
  (See also go all the way (with someone ).)       on weekends and start playing golf, be-
     The ladder reaches all the way to the top     cause all work and no play makes Jack a
  of the house. I walked all the way home.         dull boy.
all thumbs awkward and clumsy, especially        (all) worked up (about something ) Go to
  with one’s hands. Poor Bob can’t play            (all) worked up (over something ).
  the piano at all. He’s all thumbs. Mary
                                                 (all) worked up (over something ) and (all)
  is all thumbs when it comes to gardening.
                                                   worked up (about something) excited and
all told totaled up; including all parts.          agitated about something. (See also get
  All told, he earned about $700 last week.        worked up (over something ).)    Tom is all
  All told, he has many fine characteristics.      worked up over the threat of a new war.
                                                      Don’t get all worked up about something
all to the good for the best; for one’s ben-
                                                   that you can’t do anything about. Bill
  efit. He missed the train, but it was all
                                                   is all worked up again. It’s bad for his
  to the good because the train had a wreck.
     It was all to the good that he died with-
  out suffering.                                 (all) year round throughout all the seasons
                                                   of the year; during the entire year. The
(all) tuckered out tired out; worn out.
                                                   public swimming pool is enclosed so that
  (Folksy.) Poor John worked so hard that
                                                   it can be used all year round.      In the
  he’s all tuckered out. Look at that little
                                                   South they can grow f lowers all year
  baby sleeping. She’s really tuckered out.
all walks of life all social, economic, and
                                                 allow for someone or something 1. to plan on
  ethnic groups.      We saw people there
                                                   having enough of something (such as
  from all walks of life. The people who
                                                   food, space, etc.) for someone. Mary is
  came to the art exhibit represented all
                                                   bringing Bill on the picnic, so be sure to al-
  walks of life.
                                                   low for him when buying the food. Al-
(all) well and good good; desirable.   It’s        low for an extra person when setting the
  well and good that you’re here on time. I        table tonight. 2. to plan on the possibil-

All’s well that ends well.

  ity of something. Allow for a few rainy          successful. Most parents hope that their
  days on your vacation. Be sure to allow          children will amount to something. I put
  for future growth when you plant the             $200 in the bank, and I hope it will
  rosebushes.                                      amount to something in twenty years.
All’s well that ends well. An event that         amount to the same thing and come to
  has a good ending is considered good,            the same thing to be the same as some-
  even if some things went wrong along the         thing; to have the same effect as some-
  way. (Proverb. This is the name of a play        thing.      Borrowing can be the same as
  by Shakespeare.) I’m glad you finally            stealing. If the owner does not know what
  got here, even though your car had a f lat       you have borrowed, it amounts to the same
  tire on the way. Oh, well. All’s well that       thing.      Beer, wine. They come to the
  ends well. The groom was late for the            same thing if you drink and drive.
  wedding, but everything worked out all
  right. All’s well that ends well.              [an] <Entries beginning with a, an, or the
                                                   are alphabetized under the second word
the almighty dollar the U.S. dollar, wor-          in the entry. That means that a bed of
  shiped as a god; money, viewed as more           roses will appear in the Bs.>
  important and powerful than anything
  else. Bill was a slave to the almighty dol-    and change [some number of dollars] plus
  lar. It’s the almighty dollar that drives        between 1 and 99 cents more. The book
  the whole country.                               cost $12.49. That’s twelve dollars and
                                                   change. Subway fare is now one dollar
almost lost it having been so angry or dis-        and change.
  traught as to nearly lose one’s temper,
  composure, or control. (Also literal. In-      and so forth continuing talking in the
  formal.) I was so mad, I almost lost it.         same way; and so on.         She told me
     When he saw the dent in his fender, he        everything about her kids and so on and so
  almost lost it.                                  forth. I heard about problems at work
                                                   and so forth.
along in years Go to up in years.
along with someone or something in addition      and something to spare and with something
  to someone or something; together with           to spare with extra left over; with more
  someone or something. Jane went to               than is needed. (With something, time,
  the mall along with David. I ate some            room, money, plenty, etc.)      I had as
  chocolates along with some fruit.                much f lour as I needed with something to
                                                   spare. Fred said he should have enough
alongside (of ) someone or something as com-       cash to last the week—with money to
  pared to a person or a thing. (Also literal.     spare.
  Informal. The things being compared
  need not be beside one another.) Our           and so on continuing on in the same way
  car looks quite small alongside of theirs.       [without saying all the details]; continu-
  My power of concentration is quite limited       ing to talk, saying more and more. He
  alongside of yours.                              told me about all his health problems, in-
                                                   cluding his arthritis and so on. I need
alpha and omega both the beginning and             some help getting ready for dinner, setting
  the end; the essentials, from the begin-         the table, and so on.
  ning to the end; everything, from the be-
  ginning to the end. (Refers to the first       and the like and similar things or people.
  and last letters of the Greek alphabet.)            I eat hamburgers, hot dogs, and the like.
  He was forced to learn the alpha and                I bought shirts, pants, socks, and the
  omega of corporate law in order to even          like.
  talk to the lawyers. He loved her deeply;      and then some and even more; more than
  she was his alpha and omega.                     has been mentioned. (Folksy.) John is
amount to something [for someone or some-          going to have to run like a deer and then
  thing] to be or to become valuable or            some to win this race. The cook put the

                                                                                  arm in arm

  amount of salt called for into the soup and      portant.)      Any number of people can
  then some.                                       vouch for my honesty. I can give you any
and what have you and so on; and other
                                                   number of reasons why I should join the
  similar things. Their garage is full of          army. I ate there any number of times
  bikes, sleds, old boots, and what have you.      and never became ill.
     The merchant sells writing paper, pens,     Any port in a storm. When one is in dif-
  string, and what have you.                       ficulties one must accept any way out,
                                                   whether one likes the solution or not.
angry enough to chew nails Go to mad
                                                   (Proverb.) I don’t want to live with my
  enough to chew nails.
                                                   parents, but it’s a case of any port in a
another country heard from <a catch                storm. I can’t find an apartment.         He
  phrase said when someone makes a com-            hates his job, but he can’t get another. Any
  ment or interrupts.> Jane and Bill were          port in a storm, you know.
  discussing business when Bob interrupted       appear as something to act a certain part in
  to offer an opinion. “Another country            a play, opera, etc.       Madame Smith-
  heard from,” said Jane. In the middle            Franklin appeared as Carmen at the City
  of the discussion, the baby started crying.      Opera last season. The actor refused to
  “Another country heard from,” said Tom.          appear as a villain in the play.
(another) nail in someone’s or something’s       appear out of nowhere to appear sud-
  coffin something that will harm or de-           denly, without warning. (Almost the
  stroy someone or something.           Every      same as come out of nowhere.) A huge
  word of criticism that Bob said about the        bear appeared out of nowhere and roared
  boss was a nail in his coffin. Losing the        and threatened us. A butler appeared
  export order was the final nail in the com-      out of nowhere and took our coats.
  pany’s coffin.
                                                 the apple of someone’s eye someone’s fa-
answer for someone or something [with some-        vorite person or thing; a boyfriend or a
  thing] to assume responsibility for some-        girlfriend. Tom is the apple of Mary’s
  thing. (Also literal.) John had to answer        eye. She thinks he’s great.       John’s new
  for the theft of the bicycle since it was        stereo is the apple of his eye.
  found at his house. Someday we’ll all
  have to answer for our wrongdoings.            apples and oranges a pair of people or
                                                   things representing two entities that are
answer someone’s purpose and serve some-           not similar. You can’t talk about Fred
  one’s purpose to fit or suit someone’s           and Ted in the same breath! They’re apples
  purpose. This piece of wood will answer          and oranges. Talking about her current
  my purpose quite nicely. The new car             book and her previous best-seller is like
  serves our purpose perfectly.                    comparing apples and oranges.
answer the door [after hearing the door-         arguing for the sake of arguing and
  bell or a knock] to go to the door to see        arguing for the sake of argument sim-
  who is there. Would you please answer            ply arguing to be difficult or contrary.
  the door? I am busy.      I wish someone         You are just arguing for the sake of argu-
  would answer the door. I can’t wait all day.     ing. You don’t even know what the issue
answer to someone to explain to someone;           is. He is annoying, because he is always
  to justify one’s actions to someone. (Usu-       arguing for the sake of argument.
  ally with have to.) If John cannot be-         arguing for the sake of argument Go to
  have properly, he’ll have to answer to me.       arguing for the sake of arguing.
     The car thief will have to answer to the
                                                 arm in arm linked or hooked together by
                                                   the arms. The two lovers walked arm in
any number of someone or something a large         arm down the street. Arm in arm, the
  number; a sufficiently large number.             line of dancers kicked high, and the audi-
  (Used when the exact number is not im-           ence roared its approval.

armed and dangerous

armed and dangerous said of an armed            as a last resort as the last choice; if every-
  person who is suspected of a crime and          thing else fails. Call the doctor at home
  has not been captured and who is likely         only as a last resort. As a last resort, she
  to resist arrest. (This is a warning to po-     will perform surgery.
  lice officers.) Max is at large, presumed
                                                as alike as (two) peas in a pod very sim-
  to be armed and dangerous. The suspect
  has killed once and is armed and                ilar. (Compare this with like (two) peas
                                                  in a pod.)    The twins are as alike as two
                                                  peas in a pod. These two books are as
armed to the teeth heavily armed with             alike as peas in a pod.
  deadly weapons. The bank robber was
                                                as a matter of course normally; as a nor-
  armed to the teeth when he was caught.
                                                  mal procedure. The nurse takes your
     There are too many guns around. The
                                                  temperature as a matter of course. You
  entire country is armed to the teeth.
                                                  are expected to make your own bed as a
(a)round the clock continuously for               matter of course.
  twenty-four hours at a time; all day and      as a matter of fact actually; in addition to
  all night.    The priceless jewels were         what has been said; in reference to what
  guarded around the clock. Grandfather           has been said. (See also matter-of-fact.)
  was so sick that he had to have nurses          As a matter of fact, John came into the
  round the clock.                                room while you were talking about him.
(a)round-the-clock constant; day and              I’m not a poor worker. As a matter of fact,
  night. (Adjective.)     Grandfather re-         I’m very efficient.
  quired around-the-clock care. I tuned         as an aside as a comment; as a comment
  into the around-the-clock news station.         that is not supposed to be heard by every-
arrange something with someone 1. and             one.     At the wedding, Tom said as an
  arrange to do something with someone to         aside, “The bride doesn’t look well.” At
  plan an event so as to include another          the ballet, Billy said as an aside to his
  person or persons.       Jane arranged a        mother, “I hope the dancers fall off the
  meeting with Ann. Bill arranged to go           stage!”
  to the station with Tom and Mary. 2. to       as a result of something because of some-
  get someone’s consent for something.            thing that has happened. As a result of
  Mary arranged the entire affair with her        the accident, Tom couldn’t walk for six
  employer. The new mother arranged the           months. We couldn’t afford to borrow
  christening with the pastor.                    money for a house as a result of the rise
arrange to do something with someone Go to        in interest rates.
  arrange something with someone .              as a token (of something) symbolic of some-
arrive in a body Go to come in a body.            thing, especially of gratitude; as a me-
                                                  mento of something. He gave me a rose
arrive on the scene Go to come on the             as a token of the time we spent together.
  scene.                                          Here, take this $100 as a token of my ap-
                                                  preciation.     I can’t thank you enough.
as a duck takes to water easily and nat-
                                                  Please accept this money as a token.
  urally. (Informal.) She took to singing
  just as a duck takes to water. The baby       (as) awkward as a cow on a crutch and
  adapted to bottle-feeding as a duck takes       (as) awkward as a cow on roller
  to water.                                       skates very awkward. When Lulu was
                                                  pregnant, she was awkward as a cow on a
as a (general) rule usually; almost always.
                                                  crutch. Tom will never be a gymnast.
     He can be found in his office as a gen-      He’s as awkward as a cow on roller skates!
  eral rule. As a general rule, Jane plays
  golf on Wednesdays. As a rule, things         (as) awkward as a cow on roller skates
  tend to get less busy after supper time.        Go to (as) awkward as a cow on a crutch.

                                                                      (as) broad as a barn door

(as) bad as all that as bad as reported; as            came in from working on her car, Alan told
  bad as it seems. (Usually expressed in the           her, “Wash before you come to the dinner
  negative.) Come on! Nothing could be                 table. You’re black as a sweep!”
  as bad as all that. Stop crying. It can’t
                                                     (as) black as coal completely black.
  be as bad as all that.
                                                       Mark’s eyes were as black as coal. The
(as) bald as a baby’s backside Go to (as)              stranger’s clothes were all black as coal.
  bald as a coot.
                                                     (as) black as night very dark and black.
(as) bald as a coot and (as) bald as a                    The ink in this pen is black as night.
  baby ’s backside completely bald.  If                During the eclipse, my room was as black
  Tom’s hair keeps receding like that, he’ll           as night.
  be bald as a coot by the time he’s thirty.
     FRED: Now, I’ll admit my hair is thin-          (as) black as one is painted as evil as de-
  ning a little on the top, but— JANE: Thin-           scribed. (Usually negative.) The land-
  ning? You’re not thinning, you’re as bald as         lord is not as black as he is painted. He
  a baby’s backside!                                   seems quite generous. Young people are
                                                       rarely black as they are painted in the
(as) baleful as death promising evil; very             media.
  threatening. The wind’s moan was as
  baleful as death. His voice sounded bale-          (as) black as pitch very black; very dark.
  ful as death.                                           The night was as black as pitch. The
                                                       rocks seemed black as pitch against the sil-
(as) big as all outdoors very big, usually             ver sand.
  referring to a space of some kind.
  (Folksy.)      You should see Bob’s living         (as) black as the ace of spades very
  room. It’s as big as all outdoors. The new           black. (Refers to playing cards.) The
  movie theater is as big as all outdoors.             car was long and shiny and black as the ace
                                                       of spades. Jill’s shoes are black as the ace
(as) big as life and (as) big as life and              of spades.
  twice as ugly an exaggerated way of say-
  ing that a person or a thing appeared in           (as) blind as a bat with imperfect sight;
  a particular place. (Folksy. The second              blind. My grandmother is as blind as a
  phrase is slang.)      The little child just         bat.    I’m getting blind as a bat. I can
  stood there as big as life and laughed very          hardly read this page.
  hard. I opened the door, and there was             (as) bold as brass very bold; bold to the
  Tom as big as life.       I came home and            point of rudeness. Lisa marched into
  found this cat in my chair, as big as life and       the manager’s office, bold as brass, and
  twice as ugly.                                       demanded her money back.          The tiny
(as) big as life and twice as ugly Go to               kitten, as bold as brass, began eating the
  (as) big as life.                                    dog’s food right in front of the dog’s nose.
(as) black as a skillet black.         I don’t       (as) bright as a button intelligent; quick-
  want to go down to the cellar. It’s as black         minded. (Usually used to describe chil-
  as a skillet down there.       The bruise            dren.) Why, Mrs. Green, your little girl
  turned black as a skillet.                           is as bright as a button. You can’t fool
                                                       Mandy. She may be only six years old, but
(as) black as a stack of black cats very               she’s bright as a button.
  black. I’m scared to go into that closet.
  It’s as black as a stack of black cats in there.   (as) bright as a new pin bright and clean;
      Her hair was black as a stack of black           shiny. After Nora cleaned the house, it
  cats.                                                was as bright as a new pin. My kitchen
                                                       f loor is bright as a new pin since I started
(as) black as a sweep extremely dirty.
                                                       using this new f loor wax.
  (The sweep is a chimney sweep.) After
  playing in the mud all morning, the chil-          (as) broad as a barn door very broad.
  dren were as black as sweeps. When Jane              Jim’s backside is as broad as a barn door.

(as) busy as a beaver

     The weight-lifter’s chest was broad as        since getting out of prison.     After his
  a barn door.                                     mother scrubbed him thoroughly, James
                                                   was as clean as a hound’s tooth.
(as) busy as a beaver and (as) busy as
  a bee very busy.  I don’t have time to         (as) clean as a whistle very clean.      The
  talk to you. I’m as busy as a beaver. You        wound isn’t infected. It’s clean as a whis-
  don’t look busy as a beaver to me.               tle. I thought the car would be filthy, but
  Whenever there is a holiday, we are all as       it was as clean as a whistle.
  busy as bees getting things ready.             (as) clear as a bell very clear and easy to
(as) busy as a bee Go to (as) busy as a            hear. I fixed the radio, so now all the
  beaver.                                          stations come in clear as a bell. Through
                                                   the wall, I could hear the neighbors talk-
(as) busy as a cat on a hot tin roof full          ing, just as clear as a bell.
  of lively activity; very busy. I’m afraid
  I can’t go to lunch with you on Saturday;      (as) clear as crystal 1. very clear; trans-
  I’ll be busy as a cat on a hot tin roof, be-     parent. The stream was as clear as crys-
  tween working overtime and the two par-          tal. She cleaned the windowpane until
  ties I have to go to. Jerry’s three part-        it was clear as crystal. 2. very clear; easy
  time jobs kept him as busy as a cat on a hot     to understand. The explanation was as
  tin roof.                                        clear as crystal. Her lecture was not clear
                                                   as crystal, but at least it was not dull.
(as) busy as a hibernating bear not busy
  at all. TOM: I can’t go with you. I’m          (as) clear as mud not understandable. (In-
  busy. JANE: Yeah. You’re as busy as a            formal.) Your explanation is as clear as
  hibernating bear. He lounged on the sofa         mud. This doesn’t make sense. It’s clear
  all day, busy as a hibernating bear.             as mud.
(as) busy as a one-armed paperhanger             (as) clear as vodka 1. very clear.       The
  very busy. My boss keeps me as busy as           weather is as clear as vodka. The river
  a one-armed paperhanger.        I’ve got         wasn’t exactly as clear as vodka because it
  plenty of work. I’m busy as a one-armed          had just rained. 2. very understandable.
  paperhanger.                                        Everything he said is as clear as vodka.
                                                      I understand what John said, but every-
(as) busy as Grand Central Station very            thing you say is clear as vodka.
  busy; crowded with customers or other
  people. (Refers to Grand Central Station       (as) close as two coats of paint close and
  in New York City.) This house is as busy         intimate.     When Tom and Mary were
  as Grand Central Station.         When the       kids, they were as close as two coats of
  tourist season starts, this store is busy as     paint. All their lives, the cousins were
  Grand Central Station.                           close as two coats of paint.
(as) busy as popcorn on a skillet very           (as) cocky as the king of spades boast-
  active. She rushed around, as busy as            ful; overly proud. (Refers to playing
  popcorn on a skillet. Prying into other          cards.) He’d challenge anyone to a fight.
  folks’ business kept him busy as popcorn on      He’s as cocky as the king of spades. She
  a skillet.                                       strutted in, cocky as the king of spades.
(as) calm as a toad in the sun very calm         (as) cold as a witch’s caress and (as)
  and content. She smiled, as calm as a            cold as a witch’s tit very cold; chilling.
  toad in the sun. Nothing ruff les him.           (Use caution with tit.) The wind was as
  He’s calm as a toad in the sun.                  cold as a witch’s caress. She gave me a
                                                   look as cold as a witch’s caress.
(as) clean as a hound’s tooth very clean.
  (Clean can mean “innocent,” as in the          (as) cold as a witch’s tit Go to (as) cold
                                                   as a witch’s caress.
  first example.) John had faith that he
  would not be convicted for the robbery,        (as) cold as marble Very cold indeed.
  since he had been clean as a hound’s tooth       (Used to describe a person who is either

                                                                               (as) dry as dust

  physically or emotionally cold.) Ray-           (as) crooked as a barrel of fishhooks
  mond took Joanna’s hand. It was cold as           and (as) crooked as a fishhook dis-
  marble. No one ever got a smile out of            honest. Don’t play cards with him. He’s
  Caroline, who was as cold as marble.              as crooked as a barrel of fishhooks. Af-
                                                    ter Jane cheated a few folks, word got
(as) comfortable as an old shoe very                around that she was crooked as a fishhook.
  comfortable; very comforting and famil-
  iar. This old house is fine. It’s as com-       (as) crooked as a dog’s hind leg dishon-
  fortable as an old shoe. That’s a great           est. Don’t trust John. He’s as crooked as
  tradition—comfortable as an old shoe.             a dog’s hind leg. Mary says all politi-
                                                    cians are crooked as a dog’s hind leg.
(as) common as an old shoe low class;
  uncouth. That trashy girl is just as com-       (as) crooked as a fishhook Go to (as)
  mon as an old shoe.     Jim may have              crooked as a barrel of fishhooks.
  money, but he’s common as an old shoe.
                                                  (as) dead as a dodo dead; no longer in ex-
(as) common as dirt vulgar; ill-mannered.           istence. (Informal.) Yes, Adolf Hitler is
     FRED: Did you notice Mr. Jones blow-           really dead—as dead as a dodo. That
  ing his nose into the linen napkin at din-        silly old idea is dead as a dodo.
  ner? ELLEN: I’m not surprised. Everyone
  knows that the Joneses are as common as         (as) dead as a doornail dead. (Informal.)
  dirt. Despite Jane’s efforts to imitate the          This fish is as dead as a doornail.
  manners of the upper class, the town’s            John kept twisting the chicken’s neck even
  leading families still considered her com-        though it was dead as a doornail.
  mon as dirt.
                                                  (as) deaf as a post very deaf; profoundly
(as) conceited as a barber ’s cat very              deaf. He can’t hear a thing you say. He’s
  conceited; vain. Ever since he won that           as deaf as a post. Our old dog is deaf as
  award, he’s been as conceited as a barber’s       a post and he can’t see much either.
  cat. She’s stuck up all right—conceited
  as a barber’s cat.                              (as) different as night and day com-
                                                    pletely different. Although Bobby and
(as) cool as a cucumber calm and not ag-            Billy are twins, they are as different as
  itated; with one’s wits about one. (Infor-        night and day. Birds and bats appear
  mal.) The captain remained as cool as             to be similar, but they are different as night
  a cucumber as the passengers boarded the          and day.
  lifeboats.    During the fire the home-
  owner was cool as a cucumber.                   (as) drunk as a lord and (as) drunk as
                                                    a skunk very drunk.    He came home
(as) crazy as a betsy bug loony.         TOM:       drunk as a lord again. She was as drunk
  Susan says she’s really the Queen of En-          as a lord by the time they left here.
  gland. BILL: She’s crazy as a betsy bug.
  Ever since his wife left him, Joe’s been act-   (as) drunk as a skunk Go to (as) drunk
  ing as crazy as a betsy bug.                      as a lord.

(as) crazy as a loon very silly; completely       (as) dry as a bone completely dry.    Dur-
  insane. (Folksy.) If you think you can            ing the drought, the soil was as dry as a
  get away with that, you’re as crazy as a          bone. The dog’s water dish was dry as
  loon. Poor old John is crazy as a loon.           a bone.
(as) crazy as a peach-orchard boar                (as) dry as dust 1. very dry.     The bread
  loony. What’s wrong with Jim? He’s act-           is as dry as dust. When the leaves are
  ing as crazy as a peach-orchard boar.             dry as dust, they break into powder easily.
  Mary’s been standing out on the street cor-       2. very dull; very boring.    This book is
  ner telling everybody the world’s about to        as dry as dust. I am going to stop reading
  end. Poor thing—she’s crazy as a peach-           it. Her lecture was dry as dust—just like
  orchard boar.                                     her subject.

(as) dull as dishwater

(as) dull as dishwater and (as) dull as             as far as possible and so far as possi-
  ditchwater very uninteresting. I’m not              ble as much as possible; to whatever de-
  surprised that he can’t find a partner. He’s        gree is possible. We must try, as far as
  as dull as dishwater. Mr. Black’s speech            possible, to get people to stop smoking in
  was as dull as dishwater.                           buses. As far as possible, the police will
                                                      issue tickets to all speeding drivers. I’ll
(as) dull as ditchwater Go to (as) dull as            follow your instructions so far as possible.
                                                    (as) far as someone or something is con-
(as) easy as ABC very easy.        Making ap-         cerned and so far as someone or something
  ple pie is as easy as ABC.       Calculus is        is concerned 1. [with someone] for all
  easy as ABC.                                        that someone cares; if someone is to
(as) easy as (apple) pie very easy. (Infor-           make the decision. You can take your
  mal.) Mountain climbing is as easy as               old dog and leave as far as I’m concerned.
  pie. Making a simple dress out of cot-                 Far as I’m concerned, you can get out
  ton cloth is easy as pie.                           and never come back. So far as I’m con-
                                                      cerned, you’re okay. 2. [with something]
(as) easy as duck soup very easy; requir-             having to do with something; pertaining
  ing no effort. (Informal. When a duck is            to something; as for something. This
  cooked, it releases a lot of fat and juices,        bill? As far as that’s concerned, the com-
  making a “soup” without effort.) Find-              mittee will have to take care of it. As
  ing your way to the shopping center is easy         far as the roof ’s concerned, it will just have
  as duck soup. Getting Bob to eat fried              to last another year.
  chicken is as easy as duck soup.
                                                    (as) fat as a pig exceptionally fat;
(as) easy as falling off a log and (as)               grotesquely fat.       If I don’t stop eating
  easy as rolling off a log very easy.                this cake, I’ll be fat as a pig! You really
  (Folksy.) Passing that exam was as easy             ought to go on a diet; you’re as fat as a pig.
  as falling off a log. Getting out of jail
  was easy as rolling off a log.                    (as) fit as a fiddle healthy and physically
                                                      fit. Mary is as fit as a fiddle. Tom
(as) easy as rolling off a log Go to (as)             used to be fit as a fiddle. Look at him now!
  easy as falling off a log.
                                                    (as) flat as a board very flat. (Also used
(as) exciting as watching (the) paint dry             to describe someone’s chest or abdomen,
  very, very dull. This book is about as ex-          referring to well-developed abdominal
  citing as watching paint dry. Listening             muscles or to small or absent breasts or
  to you is exciting as watching the paint dry.       pectoral development—in either sex.)
                                                      Jane was f lat as a board until she was six-
(as) far as anyone knows and so far as
                                                      teen, when she suddenly blossomed. The
  anyone knows to the limits of anyone’s
                                                      terrain in that part of the country is as f lat
  knowledge. (Informal. The anyone can be             as a board.
  replaced with a more specific noun or
  pronoun.) As far as anyone knows, this            (as) flat as a pancake very flat. (Infor-
  is the last of the great herds of buffalo.          mal.) The punctured tire was as f lat as
  Far as I know, this is the best one. These          a pancake. Bobby squashed the ant f lat
  are the only keys to the house so far as any-       as a pancake.
  one knows.
                                                    as for someone or something 1. and as to some-
as far as it goes as much as something                one or something regarding someone or
  does, covers, or accomplishes. (Usually             something. As for the mayor, he can pay
  said of something that is inadequate.)              for his own dinner. As for you, Bobby,
  Your plan is fine as far as it goes. It doesn’t     there will be no dessert tonight. As for
  seem to take care of everything, though.            this chair, there is nothing to do but throw
      As far as it goes, this law is a good one.      it away. As to your idea about building
  It should require stiffer penalties, however.       a new house, forget it. 2. [with someone]

                                                                            (as) hard as nails

  quoting someone; speaking for someone.            finished, painted, typed, etc.) This job
    As for me, I prefer vegetables to meat.         is as good as done. It’ll just take another
  As for Tom, he refuses to attend the              second. Yes, sir, if you hire me to paint
  concert.                                          your house, it’s as good as painted.
(as) free as a bird carefree; completely
                                                    When I hand my secretary a letter to be
  free. Jane is always happy and free as a          typed, I know that it’s as good as typed
  bird. The convict escaped from jail and           right then and there.
  was as free as a bird for two days. In          (as) good as gold genuine; authentic.
  the summer I feel free as a bird.                 Mary’s promise is as good as gold. Yes,
(as) free as (the) air completely free;             this diamond is genuine—good as gold.
  without obligations or responsibilities.        as good as one’s word obedient to one’s
  The day I got out of the army, I felt as free     promise; dependable in keeping one’s
  as air. No, I’m not married. I don’t even         promises. He was as good as his word.
  have a girlfriend. I’m free as the air.           He lent me the books as promised. She
(as) fresh as a daisy very fresh; fresh and         said she would baby-sit and she was as
  alert. The morning dew was as fresh as            good as her word.
  a daisy. Sally was fresh as a daisy and         (as) graceful as a swan very graceful.
  cheerful as could be.                             The boat glided out onto the lake as grace-
(as) full as a tick and (as) tight as a tick        ful as a swan. Jane is graceful as a swan.
  very full of food or drink. (Informal.          (as) gruff as a bear gruff; curt and unso-
  Refers to a tick that has filled itself full      ciable.    I hate to ask Erica questions;
  of blood.) Little Billy ate and ate until         she’s always gruff as a bear. I’m always
  he was as tight as a tick. Our cat drank          as gruff as a bear before I’ve had my first
  the cream until he became full as a tick.         cup of coffee.
(as) funny as a barrel of monkeys and
  more fun than a barrel of monkeys               (as) happy as a clam happy and content.
  very funny. (Almost the same as as much           (Note the variation in the examples.
  fun as a barrel of monkeys.)     Todd was         Sometimes with additional phrases, such
  as funny as a barrel of monkeys. The en-          as in butter sauce or at high tide.) Tom
  tire evening was funny as a barrel of mon-        sat there smiling, as happy as a clam.
  keys. The party was more fun than a               There they all sat, eating corn on the cob
  barrel of monkeys.                                and looking happy as clams.

(as) funny as a crutch not funny at all.          (as) happy as a lark visibly happy and
  Your trick is about as funny as a crutch.         cheerful. (Note the variation in the ex-
  Nobody thought it was funny. The well-            amples.) Sally walked along whistling,
  dressed lady slipped and fell in the gutter,      as happy as a lark. The children danced
  which was funny as a crutch.                      and sang, happy as larks.
(as) gaudy as a butterfly gaudy; color-           (as) happy as can be very happy.       We
  ful. Marie looked as gaudy as a butter-           are both as happy as can be. Bob was
  f ly in her new dress. Michael’s scarf is         happy as can be when he won the lottery.
  gaudy as a butterf ly.                          (as) hard as a rock and (as) hard as
(as) gentle as a lamb very gentle. (Used            stone very hard.  This cake is as hard
  to describe people.) Don’t be afraid of           as a rock! I can’t drive a nail into this
  Mr. Smith. He may look fierce, but he’s as        wood. It’s hard as stone.
  gentle as a lamb. Lisa was gentle as a
                                                  (as) hard as nails very hard; cold and
  lamb when dealing with children.
                                                    cruel. (Refers to the nails that are used
(as) good as done the same as being done;           with a hammer.) The old loaf of bread
  almost done. (Other past participles can          was dried out and became as hard as nails.
  replace done in this phrase: cooked, dead,          Ann was unpleasant and hard as nails.

(as) hard as stone

(as) hard as stone Go to (as) hard as a          (as) large as life in person; actually, and
  rock.                                            sometimes surprisingly, present at a
                                                   place.    I thought Jack was away, but
(as) high as a kite and (as) high as the           there he was as large as life. Jean was not
  sky 1. very high. The tree grew as high          expected to appear, but she turned up large
  as a kite. Our pet bird got outside and          as life.
  f lew up high as the sky. 2. drunk or
  drugged. Bill drank beer until he got as       (as) light as a feather of little weight.
  high as a kite. The thieves were high as         Sally dieted until she was as light as a
  the sky on drugs.                                feather. Of course I can lift the box. It’s
                                                   light as a feather.
(as) high as the sky Go to (as) high as a
  kite.                                          (as) likely as not probably; with an even
                                                   chance either way. He will as likely as
(as) hoarse as a crow hoarse.        After         not arrive without warning. Likely as
  shouting at the team all afternoon, the          not, the game will be canceled.
  coach was as hoarse as a crow. JILL: Has
                                                 as long as 1. and so long as since; be-
  Bob got a cold? JANE: No, he’s always
  hoarse as a crow.                                cause.      As long as you’re going to the
                                                   bakery, please buy some fresh bread. So
(as) hot as fire very hot; burning hot.            long as you’re here, please stay for dinner.
  I’m afraid Betsy has a high fever. Her fore-     2. and so long as if; only if. You may
  head is hot as fire. In the summertime,          have dessert so long as you eat all your veg-
  the concrete sidewalks feel as hot as fire.      etables. You can go out this evening as
                                                   long as you promise to be home by mid-
(as) hot as hell very hot. (Informal. Use          night. 3. for a specified length of time.
  caution with hell.) It’s as hot as hell out-     You may stay out as long as you like. I
  side. It must be near 100 degrees. I hate        didn’t go to school as long as Bill did. 4. [in
  to get into a car that has been parked in        comparisons] of equal length. Is this
  the sun. It’s hot as hell.                       one as long as that one? This snake is
(as) hungry as a bear very hungry. (In-            as long as a car!
  formal.) I’m as hungry as a bear. I could      as luck would have it by good or bad
  eat anything! Whenever I jog, I get hun-         luck; as it turned out; by chance. As
  gry as a bear.                                   luck would have it, we had a f lat tire.
                                                   As luck would have it, the check came in
(as) hungry as a hunter very hungry.
                                                   the mail today.
  Is there anything to eat? I’ve been out hoe-
  ing my garden all morning, and I’m as          (as) mad as a hatter 1. crazy. (From the
  hungry as a hunter! We’d better have a           crazy character called the Hatter in Lewis
  big meal ready by the time Tommy gets            Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonder-
  home; he’s always hungry as a hunter af-         land.) Poor old John is as mad as a hat-
  ter soccer practice.                             ter.    All these screaming children are
                                                   driving me mad as a hatter. 2. angry.
as I expected Go to (just) as I expected.          (This is a misunderstanding of mad in
(as) innocent as a lamb guiltless; naive.          the first sense. Folksy. The first as can be
    “Hey! You can’t throw me in jail,” cried       omitted.) You make me so angry! I’m as
  the robber. “I’m innocent as a lamb.”            mad as a hatter. John can’t control his
  Look at the baby, as innocent as a lamb.         temper. He’s always mad as a hatter.
                                                 (as) mad as a hornet angry.     You make
as it were as one might say. (Sometimes
                                                   me so angry. I’m as mad as a hornet.
  used to qualify an assertion that may not
                                                   Jane can get mad as a hornet when some-
  sound reasonable.)       He carefully con-
                                                   body criticizes her.
  structed, as it were, a huge sandwich.
  The Franklins live in a small, as it were,     (as) mad as a March hare crazy. (From
  exquisite house.                                 the name of a character in Lewis Carroll’s

                                                        (as) plain as the nose on one’s face

  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.)              (as) old as the hills very old.      The chil-
  Sally is getting as mad as a March hare.          dren think their mother’s as old as the hills,
     My Uncle Bill is mad as a March hare.          but she’s only forty. That song’s not new.
                                                    It’s old as the hills.
(as) mad as a wet hen angry. (Folksy.)
  Bob was screaming and shouting—as mad           as one as if a group were one person. (Es-
  as a wet hen. What you said made Mary             pecially with act, move, or speak.) All
  mad as a wet hen.                                 the dancers moved as one. The chorus
                                                    spoke as one.
(as) mad as hell very angry. (Informal.
  Use caution with hell.)   He made his           (as) pale as a ghost Go to (as) white as
  wife as mad as hell.    Those terrorists          a ghost.
  make me mad as hell.                            (as) pale as death extremely pale. (The
                                                    reference to death gives this phrase omi-
(as) meek as a lamb meek; quiet and
                                                    nous connotations.) Rita was as pale as
  docile. Only an hour after their argu-            death when she came out of the doctor’s of-
  ment, Joe went to Elizabeth and, meek as          fice. What’s the matter? You’re pale as
  a lamb, asked her to forgive him. Betsy           death!
  terrorizes the other children, but she’s as
  meek as a lamb around her elders.               (as) patient as Job very patient. (Refers
                                                    to a character in the Bible.) If you want
(as) merry as a cricket cheerful. (Old-             to teach young children, you must be as pa-
  fashioned.)       Mary is as merry as a           tient as Job. The director who is work-
  cricket whenever she has company come to          ing with that temperamental actor must
  call. George is such a pleasant compan-           have the patience of Job.
  ion; he’s usually merry as a cricket.
                                                  (as) phony as a three-dollar bill phony;
(as) merry as the day is long very happy            bogus. This guy’s as phony as a three-
  and carefree. The little children are as          dollar bill. The whole deal stinks. It’s as
  merry as the day is long. Only on va-             phony as a three-dollar bill.
  cation are we merry as the day is long.
                                                  (as) plain as a pikestaff obvious; very
as much fun as a barrel of monkeys a                clear. JILL: Why does the Senator al-
  great deal of fun. (Almost the same as            ways vote for measures that would help the
  (as) funny as a barrel of monkeys.)               tobacco industry? JANE: It’s as plain as a
  Roger is as much fun as a barrel of mon-          pikestaff—because there are a lot of to-
  keys. The circus was as much fun as a             bacco growers in his district, and he wants
  barrel of monkeys.                                them to vote for him. FRED: I have a
                                                    suspicion that Marcia is upset with me.
(as) naked as a jaybird naked.         “Billy,”     ALAN: A suspicion? Come on, Fred, that’s
  called Mrs. Franklin, “get back in the house      been plain as a pikestaff for quite some
  and get some clothes on. You’re as naked as       time!
  a jaybird.” Tom had to get naked as a
  jaybird for the doctor to examine him.          (as) plain as day 1. very plain and sim-
                                                    ple. Although his face was as plain as
(as) neat as a pin neat and orderly.   Brad         day, his smile made him look interesting
  is such a good housekeeper; his apartment         and friendly. Our house is plain as day,
  is always as neat as a pin. Joanne cer-           but it’s comfortable. 2. clear and under-
  tainly is well-organized. Her desk is neat        standable. The lecture was as plain as
  as a pin.                                         day. No one had to ask questions. His
(as) nutty as a fruitcake silly; crazy.             statement was plain as day.
  (Slang. A fruitcake usually has lots of         (as) plain as the nose on one’s face ob-
  nuts in it.)    Whenever John goes to a           vious; clearly evident. (Informal.)
  party, he gets as nutty as a fruitcake.           What do you mean you don’t understand?
  Sally has been acting as nutty as a fruit-        It’s as plain as the nose on your face.
  cake lately.                                      Your guilt is plain as the nose on your face.

(as) pleased as punch

(as) pleased as punch very pleased; very          (as) quiet as a mouse very quiet; shy and
  pleased with oneself. (Refers to the char-        silent. (Informal. Often used with chil-
  acter Punch in [English] Punch and Judy           dren.) Don’t yell; whisper. Be as quiet
  puppet shows. Punch is sometimes capi-            as a mouse. Mary hardly ever says any-
  talized.) Wally was as pleased as punch           thing. She’s quiet as a mouse.
  when he won the prize.         She seems
                                                  (as) quiet as the grave very quiet; silent.
  pleased as punch, but she knows she does-
                                                       The house is as quiet as the grave when
  n’t deserve the award.
                                                    the children are at school. This town is
(as) poor as a church mouse very poor.              quiet as the grave now that the offices have
     My aunt is as poor as a church mouse.          closed.
     The Browns are poor as church mice.          (as) red as a cherry bright red. (Some-
(as) pretty as a picture very pretty.               what old-fashioned.)      When the chil-
  Sweet little Mary is as pretty as a picture.      dren came in from ice-skating, Clara’s nose
    Their new house is pretty as a picture.         was as red as a cherry. When Lester pro-
                                                    posed marriage, Nancy blushed as red as
(as) proud as a peacock very proud;                 a cherry.
  haughty.     John is so arrogant. He’s as
  proud as a peacock. The new father was          (as) red as a poppy bright red. (Usually
  proud as a peacock.                               used to describe someone blushing.)
                                                    You must be embarrassed—you’re as red
(as) pure as the driven snow pure and               as a poppy! When her boss praised her
  virginal. (Often used ironically.) JILL:          in front of the whole office, Emily turned
  Sue must have gone to bed with every man          red as a poppy.
  in town. JANE: And I always thought she
  was as pure as the driven snow. Robert          (as) red as a rose intensely red.     Bill
  was notoriously promiscuous, but tried to         blushed as red as a rose when we teased
  convince all his girlfriends that he was pure     him.
  as the driven snow.                             (as) red as a ruby deep red. (Often used
(as) queer as a three-dollar bill very              to describe a person’s lips.) Linda has
  strange. Today I saw a woman pushing              a beautiful face, with big blue eyes and lips
  a lawn mower down the street and singing          as red as rubies.
  to it as she went. I thought she was queer      (as) red as blood completely red; deep
  as a three-dollar bill.     JILL: In all the      red. (The reference to blood gives this ex-
  years I’ve known him, Mike has never had          pression sinister connotations.)       The
  a suit and he goes barefoot. FRED: That’s         magician’s cape was lined with satin as red
  because he’s as queer as a three-dollar bill.     as blood. I want to have my car painted
(as) quick as a flash Go to (as) quick as           red as blood.
  a wink.                                         (as) regular as clockwork dependably re-
(as) quick as a wink and (as) quick as              gular. (Informal.) She comes into this
  a flash very quickly.  As quick as a              store every day, as regular as clockwork.
  wink, the thief took the lady’s purse. I’ll          Our tulips come up every year, regular
  finish this work quick as a wink. The             as clockwork.
  dog grabbed the meat as quick as a f lash.      (as) right as rain correct; genuine.
      The summer days went by quick as a            (Folksy.) Your answer is as right as rain.
  f lash.                                              John is very dependable. He’s right as
(as) quick as greased lightning very
  quickly; very fast. (Folksy. See also like      (as) scarce as hens’ teeth and scarcer
  greased lightning.)   Jane can really run.        than hens’ teeth very scarce or nonex-
  She’s as quick as greased lightning.              istent. (An exaggeration. Chickens don’t
  Quick as greased lightning, the thief stole       have teeth.) I’ve never seen one of those.
  my wallet.                                        They’re as scarce as hens’ teeth. I was

                                                                             (as) soft as velvet

  told that the part needed for my car is         (as) slippery as an eel devious; unde-
  scarcer than hens’ teeth, and it would take       pendable. Tom can’t be trusted. He’s as
  a long time to find one.                          slippery as an eel. It’s hard to catch Joe
                                                    in his office because he’s slippery as an eel.
(as) sharp as a razor 1. very sharp.     The
  penknife is sharp as a razor. The carv-         (as) slow as molasses in January and
  ing knife will have to be as sharp as a ra-       slower than molasses in January slow.
  zor to cut through this meat. 2. very                Can’t you get dressed any faster? I de-
  sharp-witted or intelligent.       The old        clare, you’re as slow as molasses in Janu-
  man’s senile, but his wife is as sharp as a       ary. The traffic on the way to the con-
  razor. Don’t say too much in front of the         cert was slower than molasses in January.
  child. She’s as sharp as a razor.               (as) sly as a fox smart and clever. My
(as) sharp as a tack intellectually bright.         nephew is as sly as a fox. You have to
    Melissa doesn’t say very much, but she’s        be sly as a fox to outwit me.
  sharp as a tack. Sue can figure things          (as) smooth as glass smooth and shiny.
  out from even the slightest hint. She’s as        (Often used to describe calm bodies of
  sharp as a tack.                                  water.) The bay is as smooth as glass,
                                                    so we should have a pleasant boat trip.
(as) sick as a dog very sick; sick and vom-         Eugene polished the f loor until it was
  iting. We’ve never been so ill. The whole         smooth as glass.
  family was sick as dogs. Sally was as sick
  as a dog and couldn’t go to the party.          (as) smooth as silk very smooth.          This
                                                    pudding is smooth as silk.       Your skin is
(as) silent as the dead and (as) silent as          as smooth as silk.
  the grave completely silent. (Has omi-
  nous connotations because of the refer-         (as) snug as a bug in a rug cozy and snug.
  ence to death. Usually used to promise            (Informal. The kind of thing said when
  someone that you will be silent and               putting a child to bed.) Let’s pull up the
  therefore not betray a secret.) I knew            covers. There you are, Bobby, as snug as a
  something was wrong as soon as I entered          bug in a rug. What a lovely little house!
  the classroom; everyone was silent as the         I know I’ll be snug as a bug in a rug.
  dead. Jessica is as silent as the grave on      (as) sober as a judge 1. very formal, som-
  the subject of her first marriage. If you         ber, or stuffy. You certainly look gloomy,
  tell me what Katy said about me, I promise        Bill. You’re sober as a judge. Tom’s as
  to be as silent as the grave.                     sober as a judge. I think he’s angry. 2. not
                                                    drunk; alert and completely sober.
(as) silent as the grave Go to (as) silent
                                                    John’s drunk? No, he’s as sober as a judge.
  as the dead.
                                                      You should be sober as a judge when you
(as) silly as a goose very foolish.       Edith     drive a car.
  is as silly as a goose. She thinks that read-   (as) soft as a baby’s bottom very soft and
  ing aloud to her houseplants will help them       smooth to the touch. This cloth is as
  grow.       JILL: The ad in the newspaper         soft as a baby’s bottom. No, Bob does-
  said this lotion would make my hair grow          n’t shave yet. His cheeks are soft as a baby’s
  faster, but I’ve been using it for a whole        bottom.
  month and my hair is still the same length.
  JANE: You’re as silly as a goose! Do you be-    (as) soft as down soft to the touch.
  lieve everything you read in newspaper            (Refers to the softness of goose or duck
  ads?                                              down.) The kitten’s fur was as soft as
                                                    down. The baby’s skin was soft as down.
(as) slick as a whistle quickly and cleanly;
                                                  (as) soft as silk very soft.    This fabric is
  quickly and skillfully.       Tom took a
  broom and a mop and cleaned the place up          as soft as silk.   Your touch is soft as silk.
  as slick as a whistle. Slick as a whistle,      (as) soft as velvet very soft to the touch.
  Sally pulled off the bandage.                        The horse’s nose felt as soft as velvet.

(as) solid as a rock

  This lotion will make your skin soft as            means “honest.”) Tom is straight as an
  velvet.                                            arrow. I’d trust him with anything.
(as) solid as a rock very solid; dependable.       (as) strong as a horse [of someone] very
     Jean has been lifting weights every day,        strong. JILL: My car broke down; it’s sit-
  and her arm muscles are solid as a rock.           ting out on the street. JANE: Get Linda to
     This company builds typewriters that            help you push it; she’s as strong as a horse.
  are as solid as a rock.                               The athlete was strong as a horse. He
as soon as at the moment that; at the time           could lift his own weight with just one
  that; when. I fell asleep as soon as I lay         hand.
  down.     John ate dinner as soon as he          (as) strong as a lion very strong.      See if
  came home.                                         you can get Melissa to help us move our
(as) soon as possible at the earliest time.          furniture. She’s as strong as a lion. The
    I’m leaving now. I’ll be there as soon as        football player was strong as a lion.
  possible.   Please pay me as soon as             (as) strong as an ox very strong.       Tom
  possible.                                          lifts weights and is as strong as an ox.
(as) sound as a dollar 1. very secure and            Now that Ann has recovered from her ill-
  dependable. This investment is as sound            ness, she’s strong as an ox.
  as a dollar. I wouldn’t put my money in          (as) stubborn as a mule very stubborn.
  a bank that isn’t sound as a dollar. 2.            My husband is as stubborn as a mule.
  sturdy and well-constructed.              This     Our cat is stubborn as a mule.
  house is as sound as a dollar. The garage
  is still sound as a dollar. Why tear it down?    as such the way something is; as someone
                                                     or something is. I cannot accept your
(as) sour as vinegar sour and disagree-              manuscript as such. It needs revisions.
  able.     The old man greeted us ill-              You are new here, and as such, I will have
  naturedly, his face as sour as vinegar.            to train you.
  JILL: Is Mary in a bad mood today? JANE:
  Yes, sour as vinegar.                            (as) sure as death sure; very certain.     As
                                                     political tension increased, it became more
(as) steady as a rock very steady and un-            and more apparent that war was coming,
  movable; very stable.       His hand was           as sure as death. JILL: Is the company
  steady as a rock as he pulled the trigger of       definitely going to lay people off ? JANE:
  the revolver. You must remain as steady            Sure as death.
  as a rock when you are arguing with your
  supervisor.                                      (as) sweet as honey and (as) sweet as
                                                     sugar 1. very sweet. These little cakes
(as) stiff as a poker rigid and inflexible;          are as sweet as honey. This fruit juice is
  stiff and awkward. (Usually used to de-            as sweet as honey. 2. charming; very nice
  scribe people.)      This guy’s dead. He’s         and friendly. She is as sweet as honey
  cold and as stiff as a poker. John is not          whenever she talks to me.        He seems
  a very good dancer; he’s stiff as a poker.         sweet as honey, but he is really mean.
(as) still as death immobile; completely           (as) sweet as sugar Go to (as) sweet as
  still. (The reference to death gives this ex-      honey.
  pression ominous connotations.)
  George sat as still as death all afternoon.      (as) swift as an arrow very fast.         The
      When the storm was over, everything            new intercity train is swift as an arrow.
  was suddenly still as death.                       My week of vacation sped by as swift as an
(as) straight as an arrow 1. [of some-
  thing] very straight.      The road to my        (as) swift as the wind very fast.     This
  house is as straight as an arrow, so it            new car is as swift as the wind. Joe ran
  should be very easy to follow. 2. [of some-        swift as the wind, trying to get home in
  one] honest or forthright. (Straight here          time.

                                                              (as) white as the driven snow

(as) swift as thought extremely fast.               was a child she was as ugly as a toad.
  Thanks to modern communication de-                The shopkeeper was ugly as a toad, but he
  vices, news can now travel almost as swift        was kind and generous, and everyone loved
  as thought. You won’t have to wait for            him.
  me long; I’ll be there, swift as thought.
                                                  (as) ugly as sin very ugly.   The new
as the crow flies straight across the land,         building is as ugly as sin.  The old
  as opposed to distances measured on a             woman is ugly as sin, but she dresses
  road, river, etc. (Folksy.)     It’s twenty       beautifully.
  miles to town on the highway, but only ten
  miles as the crow flies. Our house is only      as usual as is the normal or typical situa-
  a few miles from the lake as the crow f lies.     tion. John ordered eggs for breakfast as
                                                    usual. He stood quietly as usual, wait-
(as) thick as pea soup [of a liquid or fog]         ing for the bus to come.
  very thick. (Informal.) This fog is as
  thick as pea soup.       Wow, this coffee is    (as) warm as toast very warm and cozy.
  strong! It’s thick as pea soup.                      The baby will be warm as toast in that
                                                    blanket. We were as warm as toast by
(as) thick as thieves very close-knit;              the side of the fire.
  friendly; allied. Mary, Tom, and Sally
  are as thick as thieves. They go everywhere     (as) weak as a baby [of someone] phys-
  together. Those two families are thick as         ically very weak. Six weeks of illness left
  thieves.                                          the athlete as weak as a baby. Hot, hu-
                                                    mid weather like this always makes me feel
(as) tight as a drum 1. stretched tight.            weak as a baby.
  Julia stretched the upholstery fabric over
  the seat of the chair until it was as tight     (as) weak as a kitten weak; weak and
  as a drum. 2. sealed tight. Now that              sickly. John is as weak as a kitten be-
  I’ve caulked all the windows, the house           cause he doesn’t eat well. Oh! Suddenly
  should be tight as a drum. 3. very stingy.        I feel weak as a kitten.
     He won’t contribute a cent. He’s as tight    as well also; in addition.      Could I have
  as a drum.                                        some more potatoes as well?     I’m feeling
(as) tight as a tick Go to (as) full as a tick.     tired, and dizzy as well.
(as) tight as Dick’s hatband very tight.          as well as 1. in addition to someone or
      I’ve got to lose some weight. My belt is      something. Mary and Jane are coming
  as tight as Dick’s hatband. This window           to the party, as well as Tom. I’m study-
  is stuck tight as Dick’s hatband.                 ing biology and chemistry, as well as his-
as to someone or something Go to as for some-       tory. 2. to the same high degree as some-
  one or something .                                one or something; as much as. Mary’s
                                                    parents treated me as well as they treated
(as) tough as an old boot 1. very tough.            her. I did as well as you on the test.
     This meat is tough as an old boot. Bob
  couldn’t eat the steak. It was as tough as an   (as) white as a ghost and (as) pale as
  old boot. 2. very strong; not easily moved        a ghost [of a person] very pale. His
  by feelings such as pity.        Margaret is      face is as white as a ghost. He turned
  never off work. She’s as tough as an old          pale as a ghost when he saw his injured leg.
  boot. Don’t expect sympathy from the            (as) white as a sheet very pale.      Jane
  boss. She’s tough as an old boot.                 was white as a sheet for weeks after her
(as) true as steel very loyal and depend-           illness. Mary went as white as a sheet
  able. Through all my troubles, my hus-            when she heard the news.
  band has been as true as steel.      Pedro      (as) white as the driven snow very white.
  was a staunch friend, true as steel.                 I like my bed sheets to be as white as
(as) ugly as a toad very ugly.    Maria             the driven snow. We have a new kitten
  may be a beautiful woman, but when she            whose fur is white as the driven snow.

(as) wise as an owl

(as) wise as an owl very wise.         Grand-    assault the ears [for sound or speech] to
  father is as wise as an owl. My goal is          be very loud or persistent. That loud
  to be wise as an owl.                            music assaults the ears! I can’t hear with
(as) wise as Solomon very wise. (Refers
                                                   all that talk assaulting my ears.
  to a character in the Bible.) If you are       assemble a case (against someone ) Go to
  in trouble, get Chris to advise you. He’s as     build a case (against someone ).
  wise as Solomon. This is a difficult prob-     assume liability to accept the responsibil-
  lem. You’d need to be as wise as Solomon         ity for paying a cost.       Mr. Smith as-
  to be able to solve it.                          sumed liability for his son’s student loans.
aside from someone or something not includ-           The store assumed liability for the in-
  ing someone or something. Aside from             jured customer’s hospital bill.
  a small bank account, I have no money at       at all without distinguishing; without qual-
  all. Aside from Mary, I have no friends.         ification. (See the examples for word or-
ask for something to do something that will        der variations.) It really wasn’t very cold
  cause trouble. (Also literal.) Don’t talk        at all. It really wasn’t at all cold. Tom
  to me that way! You’re really asking for it.     will eat anything at all. Jane isn’t at all
     Anyone who acts like that is just asking      hungry. Grandma was always ready to
  for a good talking to.                           go anywhere at all.
ask for the moon to ask for too much; to         at all costs and at any cost regardless of
  make great demands. When you’re try-             the difficulty or cost; no matter what.
  ing to get a job, it’s unwise to ask for the     I intend to have that car at all costs. I’ll
  moon. Please lend me the money. I’m              get there by six o’clock at all costs. Mary
  not asking for the moon!                         was going to get that job at any cost.
ask for trouble and look for trouble to          at all times constantly; continuously.
  seem to be trying to get into trouble; to        You must keep your passport handy at all
  do something that would cause trouble;           times when you are traveling in a foreign
  to do or say something that will cause           country. When you’re in a crowd, you
  trouble.      Stop talking to me that way,       must watch your child at all times.
  John. You’re just asking for trouble. The
                                                 at a loss (for words) unable to speak;
  guard asked me to leave unless I was look-
                                                   speechless; befuddled.          I was so sur-
  ing for trouble. Anybody who threatens
                                                   prised that I was at a loss for words. Tom
  a police officer is just asking for trouble.
                                                   was terribly confused—really at a loss.
     You’re looking for trouble if you ask the
  boss for a raise.                              at an early date soon; some day soon.
                                                   The note said, “Please call me at an early
ask someone out to ask a person for a date.
                                                   date.” You’re expected to return the form
     Mary hopes that John will ask her out.
                                                   to the office at an early date.
  T John doesn’t want to ask out his best
  friend’s girl.                                 at any cost Go to at all costs.
asleep at the switch not attending to one’s      at any rate anyway. (Informal. Frequently
  job; failing to do one’s duty at the proper      used as an introduction to a conclusion
  time. (Also literal.)       The guard was        or a final statement.) At any rate, we
  asleep at the switch when the robber broke       had a nice time at your party. We are
  in. If I hadn’t been asleep at the switch,       grateful that you asked us. It’s not much,
  I’d have seen the stolen car.                    at any rate, but it’s the best we can do.
assault and battery a violent attack [upon       at a premium at a high price; priced high
  someone] followed by a beating. (A crim-         because of something special.       Sally
  inal charge.) Max was charged with two           bought the shoes at a premium because
  counts of assault and battery. Dave does         they were of very high quality.      This
  not go out at night because he does not          model of car is selling at a premium be-
  want to be a victim of assault and battery.      cause so many people want to buy it.

                                                                                          at hand

at a set time at a particular time; at an as-     at ease relaxed and comfortable.      I don’t
  signed time. Each person has to show              feel at ease driving when there is a lot of
  up at a set time. Do I have to be there           traffic. Mary is most at ease when she’s
  at a set time, or can I come whenever I           near the sea.
  want?                                           at every turn everywhere; everywhere one
at a sitting at one time; during one period.        looks. There is a new problem at every
  (Refers to an activity that takes place           turn.     Life holds new adventures at
  while a person is seated.) The restau-            every turn.
  rant could feed only sixty people at a sit-     at face value from outward appearance;
  ting.    I can read about 300 pages at a          from what something first appears to be.
  sitting.                                          (From the value printed on the “face” of
at a snail’s pace very slowly.     When you         a coin or bank note.) Don’t just accept
  watch a clock, time seems to move at a            her offer at face value. Think of the impli-
  snail’s pace. You always eat at a snail’s         cations. Joan tends to take people at face
  pace. I’m tired of waiting for you.               value and so she is always getting hurt.
at a stretch continuously; without stop-          at first initially; at the beginning.He was
  ping. We all had to do eight hours of             shy at first. Then he became more friendly.
  duty at a stretch. The baby doesn’t sleep            At first we chose the red one. Later we
  for more than three hours at a stretch.           switched to the blue one.
at bay at a distance.  I have to keep the bill    at first blush Go to at first glance.
  collectors at bay until I get my check.         at first glance and at first blush when
  The wolves will not remain at bay for very        first examined; at an early stage.      At
  long.                                             first glance, the problem appeared quite
                                                    simple. Later we learned just how complex
at best and at most in the best view; in
                                                    it really was. He appeared quite healthy
  the most positive judgment; as the best           at first glance.   At first blush, she ap-
  one can say. I believe her to be totally          peared to be quite old.
  negligent. Her actions were careless at best.
     At best we found their visit pleasantly      (at) full blast using full power; as loudly as
  short. The dinner was not at all pleas-           possible. The neighbors had their tele-
  ant. At best the food was not burned.             visions on at full blast. The car radio
  At most she was careless, but not criminal.       was on full blast. We couldn’t hear what
     We found their visit pleasingly short at       the driver was saying.
  most.                                           at full speed and at full tilt as fast as pos-
at close range very near; in close proxim-          sible.      The motor was running at full
  ity. (Usually used in regard to shooting.)        speed.        John finished his running at
      The hunter fired at the deer at close         full speed.      Things are now operating
  range. The powder burns tell us that the          at full tilt.
  gun was fired at close range.                   at full tilt Go to at full speed.
at cross-purposes with opposing pur-              at half-mast halfway up or down. (Pri-
  poses; with goals that interfere with each        marily referring to flags. Can be used for
  other. We are arguing at cross-purposes.          things other than flags as a joke.) The
  We aren’t even discussing the same thing.         f lag was f lying at half-mast because the
     Bill and Tom are working at cross-             general had died. Americans f ly f lags
  purposes. They’ll never get the job done          at half-mast on Memorial Day. The lit-
  right.                                            tle boy ran out of the house with his pants
at death’s door near death. (Euphemistic.)          at half-mast.
     I was so ill that I was at death’s door.     at hand close by. (Used with both time and
     The family dog was at death’s door for         distance. See also close at hand; near at
  three days, and then it finally died.             hand.)    I don’t happen to have your ap-

at hazard

  plication at hand at the moment. With              one’s leisure at one’s convenience.
  the holiday season at hand, everyone is            Choose one or the other at your leisure.
  very excited.                                      Please drop by at your leisure.
at hazard risked; in danger; at risk.        He    at length 1. after some time; finally.    At
  is not willing to have much of his money           length, the roses bloomed and the tomatoes
  at hazard in the stock market. Your en-            ripened.      And at length, the wizard
  tire life is at hazard unless you wear a hel-      spoke. 2. and at some length for quite
  met when you ride your bicycle.                    a long time. He spoke on and on at some
at home at or in one’s dwelling. Is Mary             length. He described the history of his
  at home, or is she still at work? What             village at length.
  time will she be at home?                        at liberty free; unrestrained.     The crim-
at home with someone or something comfort-           inal was set at liberty by the judge.
  able with someone or something; com-               You’re at liberty to go anywhere you wish.
  fortable doing something. (Also literal.             I’m not at liberty to discuss the matter.
  See also feel at home.)         Tom is very      at loggerheads (with someone ) in opposi-
  much at home with my parents. Sally                tion; at an impasse; in a quarrel. Mr.
  seems to be very much at home with her             and Mrs. Franklin have been at logger-
  car. Mary seems to be at home with her             heads for years. The two political par-
  job.                                               ties were at loggerheads during the entire
at it again doing something again. (Infor-           legislative session.   She was at logger-
  mal.) I asked Tom to stop playing his              heads with him for years.
  trumpet, but he’s at it again. They are          at (long) last after a long wait; finally.
  at it again. Why are they always fighting?         At last the hostages were released.     Sally
at large 1. free; uncaptured. (Usually said          earned her diploma at long last.
  of criminals running loose.) At noon
  the day after the robbery, the thieves were      at loose ends restless and unsettled; un-
  still at large.     There is a murderer at         employed. Just before school starts, all
  large in the city. 2. in general; according        the children are at loose ends.     When
  to a general sample. Truck drivers at              Tom is home on the weekends, he’s always
  large don’t like the new law. Students             at loose ends. Jane has been at loose ends
  at large felt that the rule was too strict. 3.     ever since she lost her job.
  representing the whole group rather than         at most Go to at best.
  its subsections. (Always refers to a special
  kind of elective office.) He ran for rep-        at night during the night.      Most people
  resentative at large.       She represented        sleep at night.    Mary studies at night.
  shareholders at large on the governing           at odds (with someone ) in opposition to
  board.                                             someone; at loggerheads (with someone ).
at last Go to at (long) last.                          Mary is always at odds with her father
                                                     about how late she can stay out. John
at least 1. no less than; no fewer than.             and his father are always at odds too.
  There were at least four people there that
  I knew. I want to spend at least three           at once immediately; at this very moment.
  weeks in Mexico. 2. anyway; in spite of               John, come here at once! Bring me my
  difficulties. At least we had a good eve-          coffee at once! Shall I do it at once or
  ning, even though the afternoon was rainy.         wait until morning?
      At least we came away with some of our       at one fell swoop and in one fell swoop
  money left.                                        in a single incident; as a single event.
at leisure 1. resting; not working. What             (This phrase preserves the old word fell,
  do you usually do when you are at leisure?         meaning “terrible” or “deadly.”) The
      During the summer when you are at              party guests ate up all the snacks at one fell
  leisure, you ought to play golf. 2. and at         swoop. When the stock market crashed,

                                                                         at someone’s service

  many large fortunes were wiped out in one       at sea on the sea; away on a voyage on the
  fell swoop.                                       ocean. (See also (all) at sea (about some-
at one’s best in the best of health; display-
                                                    thing ).) The ship is at sea now, and you
  ing the most civilized behavior. (Often in        can’t disembark.    I spent many happy
  the negative.) I’m not at my best when            days at sea on my cruise.
  I’m angry. He’s at his best after a good        at sea (about something ) Go to (all) at sea
  nap.                                              (about something ).
at one’s leisure Go to at leisure.                at sea level located at the bottom of the
at one’s wit’s end at the limits of one’s men-
                                                    sea. It is easier to breathe at sea level
  tal resources. I’m at my wit’s end with           than in the mountains.        Boats on the
  this problem. I cannot figure it out. Tom         ocean are at sea level, but those on rivers
  could do no more. He was at his wit’s end.        are not.
                                                  at sixes and sevens disorderly; lost and
at peace 1. peaceful; relaxed; happy.       I
  am always at peace when I sit in my rock-         bewildered; at loose ends. Mrs. Smith
  ing chair.       When the warm breeze is          is at sixes and sevens since the death of her
  blowing, I am at peace. 2. dead. It was           husband. Bill is always at sixes and sev-
  a long illness, but she is at peace now. At       ens when he’s home by himself.
  last, Uncle Tom is at peace.                    at some length Go to at length.
at play [at this moment] involved in play-        at someone’s beck and call ready to obey
  ing. The children are at play, and I am           someone. What makes you think I wait
  doing household chores. Whether I am              around here at your beck and call? I live
  at work or at play, I try to be pleasant to       here too, you know! It was a fine hotel.
  people.                                           There were dozens of maids and waiters at
at present now; at this point in time.  We          our beck and call.
  are not able to do any more at present.         at someone’s doorstep and on someone’s
  We may be able to lend you money next             doorstep in someone’s care; as some-
  week, but not at present.                         one’s responsibility. Why do you always
at random without sequence or order.
                                                    have to lay your problems at my doorstep?
  Sally picked four names at random from              I shall put this issue on someone else’s
  the telephone book. The gunman walked             doorstep. I don’t want it on my doorstep.
  into the crowded restaurant and fired at        at someone’s earliest convenience as soon
  random. Jane will read almost anything.           as it is easy or convenient for someone.
  She selects four novels at random at the          (This is also a polite way of saying im-
  library each week and reads them all.             mediately.) Please stop by my office at
at regular intervals at points that are
                                                    your earliest convenience.    Bill, please
  equal in distance apart. You will find            have the oil changed at your earliest
  service stations at regular intervals along       convenience.
  the highway.      There are streetlights at     at someone’s mercy Go to at the mercy of
  regular intervals on the main street of           someone .
  town.                                           at someone’s request due to someone’s re-
at rest not moving; not active.      After the      quest; on being asked by someone. At
  hectic day, the office was finally at rest by     his mother’s request, Tom stopped playing
  midnight. Do not remove your seat belt            the saxophone. At the request of the po-
  until the plane is at rest.                       lice officer, Bill pulled his car over to the
at risk in a situation where there is risk or
                                                    side of the road.
  hazard; in danger. I refuse to put my           at someone’s service ready to help someone
  family’s welfare at risk by quitting my job.      in any way.     The count greeted me
     Your whole future is at risk if you don’t      warmly and said, “Welcome to my home.
  stop smoking.                                     Just let me know what you need. I’m at

at some time sharp

  your service.”   The desk clerk said,            pers in at the eleventh hour. We don’t
  “Good morning, madam. We are always at           worry about death until the eleventh hour.
  your service.”
                                                 at the end of nowhere at a remote place;
at some time sharp exactly at a named time.        at some distance from civilization.
     You must be here at noon sharp. The           They live way out in the country at the end
  plane is expected to arrive at seven forty-      of nowhere. The police will never find
  five sharp.                                      us here at the end of nowhere.
at stake to be won or lost; at risk; hanging     at the end of one’s rope and at the end
  in the balance. That’s a very risky in-          of one’s tether at the limits of one’s en-
  vestment. How much money is at stake?            durance. I’m at the end of my rope! I
     I have everything at stake on this wager.     just can’t go on this way! These kids are
                                                   driving me out of my mind. I’m at the end
at that rate in that manner; at that speed.        of my tether.
  (See also at this rate.)   If things keep
  progressing at that rate, we’ll be rich by     at the end of one’s tether Go to at the end
  next year. At that rate we’ll never get the      of one’s rope.
  money that is owed us.                         at the end of the day when everything
at the appointed time at the announced             else has been taken into consideration.
  or assigned time. The cab pulled up in           (Also literal.) At the end of the day you
  the driveway at the appointed time. We           will have to decide where you want to live.
  all met at the hotel at the appointed time.         The committee interviewed many ap-
                                                   plicants for the post, but at the end of the
at the bottom of the hour on the half              day made no appointment.
  hour; the opposite of at the top of the
  hour. (Typically heard on television or the    at the expense of someone or something to
  radio. Refers to the minute hand on a            the detriment of someone or something;
  clock.) Hear the news on WNAG at the             to the harm of someone or something.
  bottom of the hour. We will have an in-          He had a good laugh at the expense of his
  terview with Harry Smith at the bottom of        brother. He took a job in a better place
  the hour.                                        at the expense of a larger income.
at the bottom of the ladder at the low-          at the forefront (of something ) and in the
  est level of pay and status. Most peo-           forefront (of something ) the most impor-
  ple start work at the bottom of the ladder.      tant place; the place of greatest activity.
     When Ann got fired, she had to start all         I interviewed Max Brown, the director
  over again at the bottom of the ladder.          who is in the forefront of the movie in-
                                                   dustry. The university I go to is at the
at the break of dawn Go to at the crack            forefront of computer technology.
  of dawn.
                                                 at the height of something at the most in-
at the crack of dawn and at the break              tense or forceful aspect of something.
  of dawn at the time of the earliest light        At the height of his career, Tom was known
  of the day. Jane was always up at the            around the world. At the height of the
  crack of dawn. The birds start singing           party, there were 50 people present.
  at the break of dawn.
                                                 at the helm (of something ) in the position
at the drop of a hat immediately and               of being in control of something. (Also
  without urging. John was always ready            literal for ships and boats.) The presi-
  to go fishing at the drop of a hat. If you       dent is at the helm of the company.
  need help, just call on me. I can come at        Things will go well with Anne at the helm.
  the drop of a hat.
                                                 at the last gasp at the very last; at the last
at the eleventh hour at the last possible          chance; at the last minute. (Refers to
  moment. (See also eleventh-hour deci-            someone’s last breath before death.)
  sion.) She always turned her term pa-            She finally showed up at the last gasp,

                                                                                         at times

  bringing the papers that were needed.                 How can I work when you’re all talk-
  We got there at the last gasp, just before our     ing at the top of your lungs?
  names were called.
                                                   at the top of the hour at the exact begin-
at the last minute at the last possible              ning of the hour. (Typically heard on
  chance. (Compare this with at the elev-            television or the radio. See also at the bot-
  enth hour.)      Please don’t make reserva-        tom of the hour. Refers to the minute
  tions at the last minute. Why do you ask           hand on a clock.)        Every class in my
  all your questions at the last minute?             school starts at the top of the hour. Our
                                                     next newscast will be at the top of the hour.
at the latest no later than.        Please pay
  this bill in ten days at the latest. I’ll be     at the (very) outside at the very most.
  home by midnight at the latest.                    The car repairs will cost $300 at the out-
                                                     side. I’ll be there in three weeks at the
at the mercy of someone and at someone’s
  mercy under the control of someone;
  without defense against someone. We              at (the) worst in the worst view; in the
  were left at the mercy of the arresting of-        most negative judgment; as the worst one
  ficer. Mrs. Franklin wanted Mr. Frank-             can say about something.         At worst,
  lin at her mercy.                                  Tom can be seen as greedy. Ann will re-
                                                     ceive a ticket for careless driving, at the
at the outset at the beginning. (See also
  from the outset.)    It seemed like a very
  simple problem at the outset. At the out-        at the zenith of something at the highest
  set, they were very happy. Then they had           point of something; at the pinnacle of
  money problems.                                    something. At the zenith of his career,
                                                     the teacher died suddenly. The scientist
at the point of doing something Go to on the
                                                     was at the zenith of her career when she
  point of doing something .
                                                     made her discovery.
at the present time and at this point (in
                                                   at this juncture at this point in time; at
  time) now; at present. (Used often as a
                                                     this pause. There is little more that I can
  wordy replacement for now.) We don’t               say at this juncture. We can, if you wish,
  know the location of the stolen car at the         at this juncture, request a change in venue.
  present time.       The tomatoes are doing
  nicely at the present time. At this point        at this point (in time) Go to at the pres-
  in time, we feel very sad about his death.         ent time.
     Yes, it’s sad, but there is nothing we can
                                                   at this rate at this speed. (Compare this
  do at this point.
                                                     with at any rate and at that rate.)
at the rear of something located at the back         Hurry up! We’ll never get there at this rate.
  part of something. I keep my tools at                 At this rate, all the food will be gone be-
  the rear of my garage. There’s a creek             fore we get there.
  at the rear of my property.
                                                   at this stage Go to at this stage of the
at the same time nevertheless; however.              game.
  (Also literal.) Bill was able to make the
                                                   at this stage of the game and at this
  car payment. At the same time, he was
                                                     stage at the current point in some event;
  very angry about the bill. We agree to
  your demands. At the same time, we object          currently. (The first phrase is informal.)
  strongly to your methods.                             We’ll have to wait and see. There isn’t
                                                     much we can do at this stage of the game.
at the top of one’s lungs Go to at the top              At this stage, we are better off not call-
  of one’s voice.                                    ing the doctor.
at the top of one’s voice and at the top           at times sometimes; occasionally.        I feel
  of one’s lungs with a very loud voice.             quite sad at times.   At times, I wish I had
  Bill called to Mary at the top of his voice.       never come here.

at will

at will whenever one wants; freely. (Com-         able.    We availed ourselves of Tom’s
  pare this with at liberty.) You’re free to      goodwill and let him repair the fence.
  come and go at will. The soldiers were          The campers availed themselves of the first
  told to fire their guns at will. You can        chance in a week to take a shower.
  eat anything you want at will.
                                                avenue of escape the pathway or route
at work 1. working (at something); busy           along which someone or something es-
  (with something). Tom is at work on             capes. The open window was the bird’s
  his project. He’ll be finished in a minute.     only avenue of escape from the house.
      Don’t disturb me when I’m busy at           Bill saw that his one avenue of escape was
  work. 2. at one’s place of work.        I’m     through the back door.
  sorry to call you at work, but this is im-
  portant.      She’s at work now. She’ll be    avoid someone or something like the plague
  home at supper time.                            to avoid someone or something totally.
                                                  (Informal.)      What’s wrong with Bob?
at worst Go to at (the) worst.                    Everyone avoids him like the plague. I
attached to someone or something fond of          don’t like opera. I avoid it like the plague.
  something or something. John is really
                                                away from one’s desk not available for a
  attached to his old-fashioned ideas. I’m
                                                  telephone conversation; not available to
  really attached to this old house.
                                                  be seen. (Sometimes said by the person
attract someone’s attention to cause some-        who answers a telephone in an office. It
  one to take notice; to get someone’s at-        means that the person whom the caller
  tention. I called and waved to attract          wants is not immediately available due to
  Ann’s attention. A small yellow f lower         personal or business reasons.)        I’m
  attracted my attention.                         sorry, but Ann is away from her desk just
augur well for someone or something to indi-      now. Can you come back later? Tom is
  cate or predict good things for someone         away from his desk, but if you leave your
  or something. (Usually in the negative.)        number, he will call you right back.
     This latest message does not augur well    awkward as a cow on a crutch Go to (as)
  for the hostages. I am afraid that this         awkward as a cow on a crutch.
  does not augur well for the outcome of the
  election.                                     awkward as a cow on roller skates Go
                                                  to (as) awkward as a cow on roller skates.
avail oneself of something to help oneself by
  making use of something that is avail-        AWOL Go to absent without leave.

a babe in the woods a naive or innocent
  person; an inexperienced person. Bill
                                                    East, but his brother attended college in the
  is a babe in the woods when it comes to
  dealing with plumbers.       As a painter,      back in circulation 1. [for a thing to be]
  Mary is fine, but she’s a babe in the woods       available to the public again. (Said espe-
  as a musician.                                    cially of things that are said to circulate,
                                                    such as money, library books, and mag-
back and fill to act indecisively; to change        azines.) I’ve heard that gold coins are
  one’s direction repeatedly; to reverse            back in circulation in Europe. I would
  one’s course. (Originally nautical, refer-        like to read War and Peace. Is it back in
  ring to alternately filling the sails with        circulation, or is it still checked out? 2. [for
  wind and releasing the wind.)          The        a person to be] socially active again; dat-
  president spent most of his speech backing        ing again after a divorce or breakup with
  and filling on the question of taxation.          one’s lover. (Informal.) Now that Bill is
  The other candidate was backing and fill-         a free man, he’s back in circulation. Tom
  ing on every issue, depending on whom she         was in the hospital for a month, but now
  was addressing.                                   he’s back in circulation.
back and forth backwards and forwards;
  first one way and then another way.             back off (from someone or something ) Go to
  (Compare this with to and fro.) The               back down (from someone or something ).
  young man was pacing back and forth in          back of the beyond the most remote
  the hospital waiting room. The pendu-             place; somewhere very remote. (Infor-
  lum on the clock swung back and forth.            mal.) John hardly ever comes to the city.
back down (from someone or something ) and          He lives at the back of the beyond. Mary
  back off (from someone or something ) to          likes lively entertainment, but her husband
  yield to a person or a thing; to fail to          likes to vacation in the back of the beyond.
  carry through on a threat. Jane backed
  down from her position on the budget.           back order something [for a merchant] to or-
  It’s probably better to back down from            der something that is not in stock and
  someone than to have an argument.                 then make delivery to the customer when
  John agreed that it was probably better to        the goods become available. (The mer-
  back down than to risk getting shot. Bill         chant may hold your money until the or-
  doesn’t like to back off from a fight.            der is filled.) The store didn’t have the
  Sometimes it’s better to back off than to get     replacement part for my vacuum cleaner,
  hurt.                                             so the manager back ordered it for me.
                                                    The shop had to back order some of the
back East to or from the eastern United             items on my list.
  States, often the northeastern or New En-
  gland states. (See also down South, out         back out (of something ) to withdraw from
  West, and up North. This is used even by          something you have agreed to do; to
  people who have never been in the East.)          break an agreement. (Also literal.) The
     Sally felt that she had to get back East       buyer tried to back out of the sale, but the
  for a few days. Tom went to school back           seller wouldn’t permit it. Please don’t

back someone or something up

  back out of our date.      Mary backed out         There is no bad blood between us. I don’t
  at the last minute.                                know why we should quarrel.
back someone or something up to support            bad-mouth someone or something to say bad
  someone or something; to concur with               things about someone or something.
  someone. (Also literal.) Please back me            (Slang.)     Mr. Smith was always bad-
  up in this argument. T I would like you            mouthing Mrs. Smith. They didn’t get
  to back up John in this discussion.                along.     John bad-mouths his car con-
                                                     stantly because it doesn’t run.
back the wrong horse to support some-
  one or something that cannot win or suc-         bag and baggage and part and parcel
  ceed. (Also literal, as in horse racing.)          with one’s luggage; with all one’s posses-
  I don’t want to back the wrong horse, but          sions. (Informal. See also part and par-
  it seems to me that Jed is the better candi-       cel (of something ).) Sally showed up at
  date. Fred backed the wrong horse in the           our door bag and baggage one Sunday
  budget hearings.                                   morning. All right, if you won’t pay the
                                                     rent, out with you, bag and baggage!
back-to-back 1. adjacent and touching                Get all your stuff—part and parcel—out
  backs. They started the duel by stand-             of here!
  ing back-to-back. Two people who stand
  back-to-back can manage to see in all di-        bag of tricks a collection of special tech-
  rections. 2. following immediately. (Said          niques or methods. What have you got
  of things or events.) The doctor had ap-           in your bag of tricks that could help me
  pointments set up back-to-back all day             with this problem? Here comes Mother
  long. I have three lecture courses back-           with her bag of tricks. I’m sure she can
  to-back every day of the week.                     help us.
back to square one back to the beginning.          bail out (of something ) 1. to jump out of an
  (Also literal with a board game. See also          airplane (with a parachute). John still
  the following entry.) Negotiations have            remembers the first time he bailed out of
  broken down, and it’s back to square one.          a plane. When we get to 8,000 feet, we’ll
      We lost the appeal of the court case, so       all bail out and drift down together. We’ll
  it’s back to square one.                           open our parachutes at 2,000 feet. 2. to
                                                     abandon a situation; to get out of some-
back to the drawing board time to start              thing. (Informal.)        John got tired of
  over again; it is time to plan something           school, so he just bailed out. Please stay,
  over again. (Also literal. Note the varia-         Bill. You’ve been with us too long to bail
  tion in the examples.) It didn’t work.             out now.
  Back to the drawing board. I f lunked
  English this semester. Well, back to the old     bail someone or something out 1. [with some-
  drawing board.                                     one] to deposit a sum of money that al-
                                                     lows someone to get out of jail while
back to the salt mines time to return to             waiting for a trial. John was in jail. I
  work, school, or something else that               had to go down to the police station to bail
  might be unpleasant. (As if the speaker            him out. T You kids are always getting into
  were a slave who works in the salt mines.)         trouble. Do you really expect me to bail out
     It’s eight o’clock. Time to go to work!         the whole gang of you every time you have
  Back to the salt mines. School starts in           a problem? 2. [with something] to remove
  the fall, and then it’s back to the salt mines     water from the bottom of a boat by dip-
  again.                                             ping or scooping. Tom has to bail the
bad as all that Go to (as) bad as all that.
                                                     boat out before we get in. T You should
                                                     always bail out a boat before using it. 3. to
bad blood (between people ) unpleasant               rescue someone or something from trou-
  feelings or animosity between people.              ble or difficulty. The proposed law was
  There is bad blood between Fred and Jim.           in trouble, but Todd bailed it out at the last
  They cannot be civil to one another.               minute. I was going to be late with my

                                                           base one’s opinion on something

  report, but my roommate lent a hand and           blisters on the balls of her feet from play-
  bailed me out at the last minute.                 ing tennis. The dancer balanced on the
bait and switch a deceptive merchandis-
                                                    balls of his feet.
  ing practice where one product is adver-        bang one’s head against a brick wall Go
  tised to get people’s attention [the bait],       to beat one’s head against the wall.
  but pressure is applied to get the cus-         bank on something to count on something;
  tomer to purchase a more expensive item.          to rely on something. The weather ser-
     Walter described the appliance store as        vice said it wouldn’t rain, but I wouldn’t
  bait and switch, since they never seemed to       bank on it. My word is to be trusted. You
  have in stock the bargains that they ad-          can bank on it.
  vertised. Max accused the merchant of
  bait and switch and stalked out of the          baptism of fire a first experience of some-
  store.                                            thing, usually something difficult or un-
                                                    pleasant. My son’s just had his first visit
balance the accounts 1. and balance the
                                                    to the dentist. He stood up to the baptism
  books to determine through accounting
                                                    of fire very well. Mary’s had her bap-
  that accounts are in balance, that all            tism of fire as a teacher. She was assigned
  money is accounted for. Jane was up all           to the worst class in the school.
  night balancing the accounts.         The
  cashier was not allowed to leave the bank       the bare something the smallest amount of
  until the manager balanced the books. 2.          something possible. Bob did the bare
  to get even [with someone]. Tom hit               minimum of work to pass the class.
  Bob. Bob balanced the accounts by break-          Food, clothing, and shelter are the bare ne-
  ing Tom’s toy car.    Once we have bal-           cessities of life.
  anced the accounts, we can shake hands          bargain for something and bargain on some-
  and be friends again.                             thing to plan for something; to expect
balance the books Go to balance the                 something. (Also literal. Informal.) We
  accounts.                                         knew it would be difficult, but we didn’t
                                                    bargain for this kind of trouble. I bar-
bald as a baby’s backside Go to (as) bald
                                                    gained on an easier time of it than this.
  as a baby’s backside.
                                                  bargain on something Go to bargain for some-
bald as a coot Go to (as) bald as a coot.
                                                    thing .
baleful as death Go to (as) baleful as
                                                  barge in (on someone or something ) to break
                                                    in on someone or something; to interrupt
ball and chain a person’s special burden;           someone or something. Oh! I’m sorry.
  a job. (Usually considered slang. Prison-         I didn’t mean to barge in on you. They
  ers are sometimes fettered with a chain           barged in on the church service and caused
  attached to a leg on one end and a heavy          a commotion. You can’t just barge in like
  metal ball on the other.) Tom wanted              that!
  to quit his job. He said he was tired of that   [bark is worse than one’s bite] Go to One’s
  old ball and chain. Mr. Franklin always           bark is worse than one’s bite.
  referred to his wife as his ball and chain.
                                                  bark up the wrong tree to make the
ball of fire a very active and energetic per-
                                                    wrong choice; to ask the wrong person;
  son who always succeeds. (Usually con-            to follow the wrong course. (Refers to a
  sidered slang.)    Sally is a real ball of        hunting dog’s error.) If you think I’m
  fire—she works late every night. Ann is           the guilty person, you’re barking up the
  no ball of fire, but she does get the job         wrong tree. The baseball players blamed
  done.                                             their bad record on the pitcher, but they
balled up Go to (all) balled up.                    were barking up the wrong tree.
the balls of one’s feet the bottom part of        base one’s opinion on something to make a
  the feet just under the toes. Mary got            judgment or form an opinion from

batten down the hatches

  something.     You must not base your           be all ears listening eagerly and carefully.
  opinion on one bad experience. I base             (See also the following entry.)     Well,
  my opinion on many years of studying the          hurry up and tell me. I’m all ears. Be
  problem.                                          careful what you say. The children are all
batten down the hatches to prepare for
  difficult times. (A nautical expression,        be all eyes (and ears) to be alert for
  meaning, literally, to seal the hatches           something to happen; to wait eagerly for
  against the arrival of a storm.) Here             something to happen or for someone or
  comes that contentious Mrs. Jones. Batten         something to appear. (See also the pre-
  down the hatches!        Batten down the          vious entry.) There they were, sitting
  hatches, Congress is in session again.            at the table, all eyes. The birthday cake was
                                                    soon to be served. Nothing can escape
battle something out to argue something to          my notice. I’m all eyes and ears.
  a conclusion; to fight something to a con-
  clusion. The Senate and the House dis-          be all things to all men and be all things
  agree on the bill, so they will have to bat-      to all people [for someone or some-
  tle a compromise out. T The two young             thing] to be liked or used by all people;
  toughs went into the alley to battle out          [for someone or something] to be every-
  their disagreement.                               thing that is wanted by all people. You
                                                    simply can’t be all things to all people.
bawl someone out to scold someone in a              The candidate set out to be all things to
  loud voice. The teacher bawled the stu-           all men and came off looking very wishy-
  dent out for arriving late. T Teachers don’t      washy.
  usually bawl out students.
                                                  be all things to all people Go to be all
[be] <For phrases that can begin with be,           things to all men.
  become, or seem like, consult some other
  word in the phrase in the Phrase-Finder         be a million miles away to be distracted
  Index.>                                           and daydreaming; not to be paying at-
                                                    tention. (Also literal.) You were a mil-
be about something to be busy doing some-           lion miles away while I was talking to you.
  thing, especially doing one’s business.              Most of the class was a million miles
  It’s eight o’clock, and it’s time I was about     away in the hot spring afternoon.
  my homework. Good-bye, Jane. I must
  be about my business.                           be a new one on someone to be something
                                                    one has not heard before and that one is
be a heartbeat away from something [for             not ready to believe. (Informal. The
  someone] to be the next ruler upon the            someone is often me.) Jack’s poverty is
  final heartbeat of the current ruler. (Es-        a new one on me. He always seems to have
  pecially in reference to U.S. presidential        plenty of money. The city’s difficulties
  succession.) The vice president is just           are a new one on me.
  a heartbeat away from being president.
  The prince was only a heartbeat away from       be curtains for someone or something to be
  being king.                                       the death, end, or ruin of someone or
                                                    something. (Informal. From the lowering
be-all and (the) end-all Go to the be-all           or closing of the curtains at the end of a
  and (the) end-all.                                stage performance.) If the car hadn’t
                                                    swerved, it would have been curtains for
the be-all and (the) end-all something              the pedestrians. If they can’t get into the
  that is the very best or most important;          export market, it’s curtains for the whole
  something so good that it will end the            company.
  search for something better. Finishing
  the building of his boat became the be-all      be death on something to be very harmful
  and end-all of Roger’s existence. Sally           to something. (Informal or slang.) The
  is the be-all and the end-all of Don’s life.      salt they put on the roads in the winter is

                                                                     be the death of me (yet)

  death on cars.     That teacher is death on        to marching. See also get off on the
  slow learners.                                     wrong foot; get off to a bad start; start off
                                                     on the wrong foot.) I’m sorry we are off
(be) easier said than done said of a task
  that is easier to talk about than to do.           to a bad start. I tried to be friendly. I
  Yes, we must find a cure for cancer, but it’s      hope that we won’t be off to a bad start
  easier said than done. Finding a good              after our little argument.
  job is easier said than done.                    be off to a bad start Go to be off on the
                                                     wrong foot.
be flying high 1. to be very successful in
  one’s ambitions; to obtain an important          be of service (to someone ) to help some-
  or powerful position. (Also literal. Often         one; to serve someone. (A phrase often
  with the implication that this will not last       used by salesclerks. See also be at some-
  very long.)        The government is f lying       one’s service.) Good morning, madam.
  high just now, but wait until the budget is        May I be of service to you? Welcome to
  announced. He’s f lying high these days,           the Warwick Hotel. Can I be of service?
  but he comes from a very poor family. 2.         be of the persuasion that something is so
  to be in a state of euphoria. (From good           to hold a belief that something is true or
  news, success, or drugs.) Wow! Todd                is in existence. Anne is of the persua-
  is really f lying high. Did he discover a gold     sion that supports that candidate for
  mine? Sally is f lying high. What’s she            mayor.      The paranoid was of the per-
  on?                                                suasion that aliens lived among us.
be friends with someone to be a friend of
                                                   be reluctant to do something to be unwilling
  someone. Sally is friends with Bill.               to do something. David was reluctant
  Mary and Bill are friends with one                 to admit his mistakes. The witness was
  another.                                           reluctant to testify and was ordered to do
be from Missouri to require proof; to have           so by the judge.
  to be shown [something]. (Also literal.
                                                   be sick to vomit. (Euphemistic. Also with
  From the nickname for the state of Mis-
                                                     get, as in the examples. Also literal, mean-
  souri, the “Show Me” State.)            You’ll
                                                     ing “to suffer from an illness.”)
  have to prove it to me. I’m from Missouri.
                                                     Mommy, Billy just got sick on the f loor.
      She’s from Missouri and has to be
                                                     Oh, excuse me! I think I’m going to be sick.
                                                        Bob was sick all over the carpet.
be game to be ready for action; to be agree-
                                                   be so Go to be too.
  able to participating in something.
  “I’m game,” David replied when I sug-            be swimming in something to be engulfed
  gested we go bowling. We’re going to the           by an excess of something, as if it were a
  park to play football. Are you game?               flood. (Also literal.) The war-torn city
                                                     was swimming in blood. I am just swim-
be into something to be interested in some-
                                                     ming in paperwork.
  thing; to be involved in something.
  (Slang.) Did you hear? Tom is into sky-          be that as it may even if what you say is
  diving! Too many people are into drugs.            true. I am sorry to hear that, but, be
be off 1. to be spoiled; to be running in-
                                                     that as it may, you still must carry out your
  correctly, as with a mechanical device.            responsibilities. Be that as it may, I still
  Oh! I’m afraid that this meat is off. Don’t        cannot help you.
  eat it. I don’t have the exact time. My          be the case to be true; to be an actual sit-
  watch is off. 2. to leave; to depart. Well,        uation. I think Bill is a vegetarian, and
  I must be off. Good-bye. The train leaves          if that is the case, we should not serve him
  in an hour, so I must be off.                      meat. Susie believes trees can talk, but
be off on the wrong foot and be off to
                                                     that is not the case.
  a bad start to have started something            be the death of me (yet) [these kinds of
  with negative factors. (Literal in reference       problems will] be my ruin, death, or

be the last straw

  downfall. This cold will be the death of        be with someone to be on someone’s side;
  me. All these problems will be the death          to be allied with someone. (Also literal.)
  of me yet.                                           Keep on trying, John. We are all with
be the last straw and be the straw that
                                                    you. I’m with you in your efforts to win
  broke the camel’s back to be the final
  thing.; to be the last little burden or prob-   bear a grudge (against someone) and have
  lem that causes everything to collapse.           a grudge (against someone ); hold a
  (From the image of a camel being loaded           grudge (against someone ) to have an old
  down with much weight, one straw at a             resentment for someone; to be continu-
  time. Finally, at some point, when one is         ally angry at someone. (See also nurse a
  adding straw after straw, one straw will          grudge (against someone ).)    She bears a
  finally be too much and the camel’s back          grudge against the judge who sentenced
  will break.)      When Sally came down            her. I have a grudge against my land-
  sick, that was the straw that broke the           lord for overcharging me. How long can
  camel’s back. When she showed up late,            a person hold a grudge? Let’s be friends.
  that was the straw that broke the camel’s       bear fruit to yield results; to give results.
  back.                                             (Also literal for fruit-bearing plants and
be the spit and image of someone and be             trees.) I hope your new plan bears fruit.
  the spitting image of someone to look                We’ve had many good ideas, but none
  very much like someone; to resemble               of them has borne fruit.
  someone very closely. (Folksy. The sec-         bear in mind that something is so to re-
  ond version is a frequent error.) John            member that something is so; to consider
  is the spit and image of his father. I’m          that something is so. (See also keep some-
  not the spit and image of anyone.          At     one or something in mind.) Bear in mind
  first, I thought you were saying spitting         that the trip will be expensive. I asked
  image.                                            the teacher to bear in mind that I am just
be the spitting image of someone Go to be           a beginner.
  the spit and image of someone .                 bear one’s cross and carry one’s cross to
be the straw that broke the camel’s                 carry or bear one’s burden; to endure
  back Go to be the last straw.                     one’s difficulties. (This is a Christian bib-
be to do something to be obliged to do some-        lical theme. It is always used figuratively
  thing; to be expected or directed to do           except in the biblical context.) It’s a
  something. Am I to clean up the entire            very bad disease, but I’ll bear my cross.
  kitchen by myself ? John is to take the           I can’t help you with it. You’ll just have to
  money to the bank.                                carry your cross.
be too and be so to be something (despite         bear someone or something in mind Go to
                                                    keep someone or something in mind.
  anything to the contrary). (An emphatic
  form of is, am, are, was, were. See also        bear something out to demonstrate or prove
  do too, have too.) MOTHER: Billy, you             that something is right. I hope that the
  aren’t old enough to be up this late. BILLY:      facts will bear your story out. T I’m sure
  I am too! I was so! I was there exactly           that the facts will bear out my story.
  when I said I would be!                         bear the brunt (of something ) to withstand
be used to doing something Go to be used to         the worst part or the strongest part of
  something .                                       something, such as an attack. I had to
be used to something and be used to do-             bear the brunt of her screaming and
  ing something accustomed to something;            yelling. Why don’t you talk with her the
  comfortable with something because it is          next time? I’m tired of bearing the brunt.
  familiar.   We are used to cooking our          bear watching to need watching; to de-
  own food. I lived in Alaska so long that          serve observation or monitoring. This
  I am used to the cold.                            problem will bear watching. This is a

                                                                                 beat the gun

  very serious disease, and it will bear watch-   beat one’s head against the wall and
  ing for further developments.                     bang one’s head against a brick wall
                                                    to waste one’s time trying to accomplish
bear with someone or something to be patient
                                                    something that is completely hopeless.
  with someone or something; to endure              You’re wasting your time trying to fix up
  someone or something.            Please bear      this house. You’re just beating your head
  with me while I fill out this form. Please        against the wall.    You’re banging your
  bear with my old car. It’ll get us there          head against a brick wall trying to get that
  sooner or later.                                  dog to behave properly.
beard the lion in his den to face an ad-          beat someone down (to size) and knock
  versary on the adversary’s home ground.           someone down (to size) to make a person
     I went to the tax collector’s office to        more humble, possibly by beating. (See
  beard the lion in his den.     He said he         also cut someone down (to size).) If you
  hadn’t wanted to come to my home, but it          keep acting so arrogant, someone is going
  was better to beard the lion in his den.          to beat you down to size. It’s time some-
beat about the bush Go to beat around               one knocked you down to size. I’ll try
  the bush.                                         to be more thoughtful. I don’t want any-
                                                    one to beat me down.
beat a dead horse to continue fighting a
  battle that has been won; to continue to        beat someone to the draw Go to beat some-
  argue a point that is settled. (A dead            one to the punch.
  horse will not run no matter how hard           beat someone to the punch and beat some-
  it is beaten.)    Stop arguing! You have          one to the draw to do something before
  won your point. You are just beating a            someone else does it. I wanted to have
  dead horse. Oh, be quiet. Stop beating            the first new car, but Sally beat me to the
  a dead horse.                                     punch. I planned to write a book about
                                                    computers, but someone else beat me to the
beat a (hasty) retreat to retreat or with-
  draw very quickly. We went out into the
  cold weather, but beat a retreat to the         beat someone up to harm or subdue a per-
  warmth of our fire. The dog beat a hasty          son by beating and striking. The rob-
  retreat to its own yard.                          ber beat me up and took my money. T I
                                                    really want to beat up that robber.
beat a path to someone’s door [for people]
  to come to someone in great numbers.            beat something into someone’s head to force
  (So many people will wish to come and             someone to learn something, possibly
  see you that they will wear down a path-          through violence. (This can be a threat of
  way to your door.) I have a product so            violence and should not be used casu-
  good that everyone is beating a path to my        ally.) I studied for hours. I have never
  door. If you really become famous, peo-           beat so much stuff into my head in such a
  ple will beat a path to your door.                short time.     You’re going to learn this
                                                    math if I have to beat it into your head.
beat around the bush and beat about
  the bush to avoid answering a question;         [beat the band] Go to to beat the band.
  to stall; to waste time.     Stop beating       beat the clock to do something before a
  around the bush and answer my question.           deadline; to finish before the time is up.
     Let’s stop beating about the bush and             Sam beat the clock, arriving a few min-
  discuss this matter.                              utes before the doors were locked. They
beat one’s brains out (to do something ) to         were afraid they would be late and hurried
  work very hard (to do something). (In-            in order to beat the clock.
  formal or slang.) I beat my brains out          beat the gun to manage to do something
  to solve the problem. That’s the last time        before the ending signal. (Originally
  I’ll beat my brains out trying to cook a nice     from sports, referring to making a goal
  dinner for you.                                   in the last seconds of a game. See also

beat the living daylights out of someone

  jump the gun.)     The ball beat the gun          is not becoming on you.     That color is be-
  and dropped through the hoop just in time.        coming on you.
    Tom tried to beat the gun, but he was         becoming to someone complimentary to
  one second too slow.                              someone; enhancing one’s good looks.
beat the living daylights out of someone            (Refers to hairstyle and things that add to
  and beat the stuffing out of someone ;            one’s good looks. See also becoming on
  beat the tar out of someone ; whale the           someone .)   Your new fur coat is becom-
  tar out of someone to beat or spank some-         ing to you.     That hairstyle is very be-
  one, probably a child. (Folksy. These are         coming to you.
  all threats to do violence and should not       a bed of roses a situation or way of life
  be used casually.) If you do that again,          that is always happy and comfortable.
  I’ll beat the living daylights out of you.        Living with Pat can’t be a bed of roses, but
  The last time Bobby put the cat in the re-        her husband is always smiling. Being the
  frigerator, his mother beat the living day-       boss isn’t exactly a bed of roses. There are
  lights out of him. If you continue to act         so many problems to take care of.
  that way, I’ll beat the tar out of you. He
  wouldn’t stop, so I beat the stuffing out of    beef something up to make something
  him. He threatened to whale the tar out           stronger; to supplement something. (In-
  of each of them.                                  formal or slang.) The government de-
                                                    cided to beef the army up by buying hun-
beat the pants off someone 1. to beat               dreds of new tanks. T Okay, let’s beef up
  someone severely. (Informal. Refers to            the opening song. Please, everyone, sing
  physical violence, not the removal of             louder!
  someone’s pants.) The thugs beat the
  pants off their victim.       If you do that    [been had] Go to have been had.
  again, I’ll beat the pants off you. 2. to win   beer and skittles Go to (all) beer and
  out over someone. (Informal. This has             skittles.
  nothing to do with violence or removing
  pants.) In the footrace, Sally beat the         before long soon.     Billy will be grown-
  pants off Jane. Tom beats the pants off           up before long.   Before long, we’ll be
  Bob when it comes to writing poetry.              without any money if we keep spending so
beat the rap to escape conviction and pun-
  ishment (for a crime). (Slang, especially       before you can say Jack Robinson al-
  criminal slang.) He was charged with              most immediately. (Often found in chil-
  drunk driving, but he beat the rap. The           dren’s stories.) And before you could say
  police hauled Tom in and charged him              Jack Robinson, the bird f lew away. I’ll
  with a crime. His lawyer helped him beat          catch a plane and be there before you can
  the rap.                                          say Jack Robinson.
beat the stuffing out of someone Go to            before you know it almost immediately.
  beat the living daylights out of someone .
                                                      I’ll be there before you know it. If you
                                                    keep spending money like that, you’ll be
beat the tar out of someone Go to beat the          broke before you know it.
  living daylights out of someone .
                                                  beg off (on something ) to ask to be released
Beauty is only skin-deep. Looks are only            from something; to refuse an invitation.
  superficial. (Proverb.) BOB: Isn’t Jane              I’m sorry. I’ll have to beg off on your in-
  lovely? TOM: Yes, but beauty is only skin-        vitation. I have an important meeting,
  deep. I know that she looks like a mil-           so I’ll have to beg off.
  lion dollars, but beauty is only skin-deep.
                                                  beg the question 1. to carry on a false ar-
becoming on someone complimentary to                gument where one assumes as proved the
  someone; enhancing one’s good looks.              very point that is being argued, or more
  (Refers to clothing and other personal or-        generally, to evade a principled discus-
  naments.) The dress you wore last night           sion of the issue at hand. (Essentially a

                                                                             belabor the point

  criticism of someone’s line of argument.)          of the end. The enormous federal deficit
     Stop talking in circles. You’re begging the     marked the beginning of the end as far as
  question. A: Why do two lines that are             our standard of living is concerned.
  equidistant from one another never meet?         behind closed doors in secret; away from
  B: Because they are parallel. A: You are           observers, reporters, or intruders. (Refers
  begging the question. 2. to invite the (fol-       to being in a private room with the doors
  lowing) question. (This erroneous rein-            closed.) They held the meeting behind
  terpretation of beg the question is                closed doors, as the law allowed. Every
  becoming increasingly popular and wide-            important issue was decided behind closed
  spread.) His complaints beg the ques-              doors.
  tion: Didn’t he cause all of his problems
  himself ?                                        behind in something and behind on some-
                                                     thing late with something; late in doing
beg to differ (with someone ) to disagree            something. I’m behind in my car pay-
  with someone; to state one’s disagree-             ments. She’s behind on her work.
  ment with someone in a polite way. (Usu-
  ally used in a statement made to the per-        behind on something Go to behind in some-
  son being disagreed with.)         I beg to        thing .
  differ with you, but you have stated every-      behind schedule having failed to do
  thing exactly backwards. If I may beg              something by the time listed on the
  to differ, you have not expressed things as        schedule. We have to hurry and finish
  well as you seem to think.                         soon because we are behind schedule.
beggar description to defy description; to           The project is behind schedule. Very late,
  be unable to be described. The house               in fact.
  was a mess. The place beggared descrip-          behind someone’s back in secret; without
  tion. Our reaction to the proposal beg-            someone’s knowledge. Please don’t talk
  gars description. We were deeply disturbed         about me behind my back. She sold the
  for days.                                          car behind his back.
Beggars can’t be choosers. One should              behind the eight ball in a difficult or
  not criticize something one gets for free.         awkward position. (Informal. Refers to
  (Proverb.) I don’t like the old hat that           billiards, a game played with numbered
  you gave me, but beggars can’t be choosers.        balls.) Bob broke his wife’s crystal vase
     It doesn’t matter whether people like the       and is really behind the eight ball. I ran
  free food or not. Beggars can’t be choosers.       over the neighbor’s lawn with my car, so
                                                     I’m really behind the eight ball.
begin to see daylight to begin to foresee
  the end of a long task. (Also literal. See       behind the scenes privately; out of pub-
  also see the light (at the end of the tun-         lic view. The people who worked behind
  nel).) I’ve been working on my thesis for          the scenes are the real heroes of this pro-
  two years, and at last I’m beginning to see        ject. I worked behind the scenes in the
  daylight. I’ve been so busy. Only in the           play. We don’t usually thank the people
  last week have I begun to see daylight.            who are behind the scenes.
begin to see the light to begin to under-          behind the times old-fashioned.       Sarah
  stand (something). (Also literal.) My              is a bit behind the times. Her clothes are
  algebra class is hard for me, but I’m be-          quite old-fashioned. Our legislature is
  ginning to see the light.     I was totally        a bit behind the times.
  confused, but I began to see the light after     Behind you! Watch out behind you!; There
  your explanation.                                  is danger behind you! Behind you! That
beginning of the end the start of the fi-            car almost hit you.   There are snakes
  nal phase of something or of someone’s             everywhere! Behind you! Look out!
  death. When he stopped coughing and              belabor the point to spend too much time
  remained still, I knew it was the beginning        on a point of discussion.     I don’t want

believe it or not

  to belabor the point, but the sooner we get      beside the point and beside the ques-
  these things settled, the better.      If the      tion irrelevant; of no importance.
  speaker would agree not to belabor the             That’s very interesting, but beside the
  point further, I will place it on the agenda       point.    That’s beside the point. You’re
  for the next meeting.                              evading the issue. Your observation is
                                                     beside the question.
believe it or not to choose to believe
  something or not. (Indicating that an as-        beside the question Go to beside the
  sertion may be hard to believe.) Believe           point.
  it or not, I just got home from work. I’m        best bib and tucker one’s best clothing.
  over fifty years old, believe it or not.           (Folksy.) I always wear my best bib and
bell, book, and candle symbols of witch-             tucker on Sundays. Put on your best bib
  craft. Look, I can’t work miracles! Do             and tucker, and let’s go to the city.
  you expect me to show up at your house           the best-laid plans of mice and men and
  with bell, book, and candle, and make              the best-laid schemes of mice and
  everything right? You have to take charge          men the best thought-out plans of any-
  of your own destiny! On the top shelf              one. If a little rain can ruin the best-laid
  of the tiny used-book store, Jim saw a bell,       plans of mice and men, think what an
  book, and candle sitting in a row, and he          earthquake might do!         The best-laid
  knew he was going to find some very in-            schemes of mice and men are often dis-
  teresting reading material.                        turbed by any small matter.
below average lower or worse than aver-            the best-laid schemes of mice and men
  age. Tom’s strength is below average for           Go to the best-laid plans of mice and
  a child his size.   Dad asked why my               men.
  grades are below average.
                                                   the best part of something almost all of
below par not as good as average or nor-             something; a large part of something; the
  mal.     I feel a little below par today. I        major part of something. The discus-
  think I am getting a cold. His work is             sion took the best part of an hour. The
  below par, and he is paid too much money.          best part of the meeting was taken up by
belt something out to sing or play a song            budgetary matters.
  loudly and with spirit. When she’s play-         bet one’s bottom dollar and bet one’s life
  ing the piano, she really belts the music out.     to be quite certain (about something).
  T She really knows how to belt out a song.         (Both are informal and folksy. A bottom
bend over backwards (to do something ) Go            dollar is the last dollar.) I’ll be there.
  to fall over backwards (to do something ).         You bet your bottom dollar.      I bet my
                                                     bottom dollar you can’t swim across the
bend someone’s ear to talk to someone, per-          pool. You bet your life I can’t swim that
  haps annoyingly.      Tom is over there,           far. I bet my life on it.
  bending Jane’s ear about something. I’m
  sorry. I didn’t mean to bend your ear for        bet one’s life Go to bet one’s bottom dollar.
  an hour.                                         [better half] Go to one’s better half.
bent on doing something determined to do           better late than never better to do some-
  something. Jane was bent on having her             thing late than not at all. I wish you had
  own apartment. Her mother was bent                 come here sooner, but better late than
  on keeping her at home.                            never. She bought a house when she was
beside oneself (with something ) in an ex-
                                                     quite old. Better late than never.
  treme state of some emotion. (Preceded           better off (doing something ) and better off
  by be or seem.) I was beside myself with           (if something were done) in a better po-
  joy. Sarah could not speak. She was be-            sition if something were done. She’d be
  side herself with anger.   I laughed so            better off selling her house.    They are
  hard I was beside myself.                          better off f lying to Detroit. They would

                                                        bid adieu to someone or something

  be better off if they f lew to Detroit.   I’m     was also found guilty beyond a reasonable
  better off now.                                   doubt.
better off (if one were somewhere else ) Go       beyond measure more than can be mea-
  to better off (somewhere ).                       sured; in a very large amount.       They
                                                    brought in hams, turkeys, and roasts, and
better off (if something were done) Go to           then they brought vegetables and salads
  better off (doing something ).
                                                    beyond measure. They thanked all of us
better off (somewhere ) and better off (if          beyond measure.
  one were somewhere else ) in a better posi-     beyond one’s depth 1. in water that is too
  tion somewhere else.      They would be           deep. (See also in over one’s head.)
  better off in Florida. We’d all be better         Sally swam out beyond her depth. Jane
  off if we were in Florida. I know I’d be          swam out to get her even though it was be-
  better off.                                       yond her depth, too. 2. beyond one’s un-
between a rock and a hard place and                 derstanding or capabilities. I’m work-
  between the devil and the deep blue               ing beyond my depth in algebra class.
  sea in a very difficult position; facing a        Poor John was involved in a problem that
  hard decision. (Informal.)     I couldn’t         seemed really beyond his depth.
  make up my mind. I was caught between           beyond one’s means more than one can af-
  a rock and a hard place.       He had a           ford. (See also live beyond one’s means.)
  dilemma on his hands. He was clearly be-             I’m sorry, but this house is beyond our
  tween the devil and the deep blue sea.            means. Please show us a cheaper one.
between life and death in a position                They felt that a Caribbean cruise is beyond
  where living or dying is an even possi-           their means.
  bility. (Especially with caught or hover-       beyond the call of duty Go to (above
  ing.) And there I was on the operating            and) beyond the call of duty.
  table, hovering between life and death.
  The mountain climber hung by his rope,          beyond the pale unacceptable; outlawed;
  caught between life and death.                    over the top.    Your behavior is simply be-
                                                    yond the pale. Because of Tom’s rude-
between the devil and the deep blue                 ness, he’s considered beyond the pale and
  sea Go to between a rock and a hard               is never asked to parties anymore.
                                                  beyond the shadow of a doubt com-
between you, me, and the lamppost                   pletely without doubt. (Said of a fact, not
  confidentially, just between you and me.          a person. See also beyond a reasonable
    Just between you, me, and the lamppost,         doubt.)     We accepted her story as true
  Fred is leaving school.     Now don’t tell        beyond the shadow of a doubt. Please
  anyone else. This is just between you, me,        assure us that you are certain of the facts
  and the lamppost.                                 beyond the shadow of a doubt.
betwixt and between 1. between (people            beyond words more than one can say. (Es-
  or things).      I liked the soup and the         pecially with grateful, shocked, and thank-
  dessert and all that came betwixt and be-         ful.) Sally was thankful beyond words.
  tween. I sat betwixt and between all the              I don’t know how to thank you. I’m
  actors who weren’t on stage. 2. undecided.        grateful beyond words.
     I wish she would choose. She has been
                                                  bid adieu to someone or something and bid
  betwixt and between for three weeks.
                                                    someone or something adieu to say good-bye
  Tom is so betwixt and between about get-
                                                    to someone or something. (This adieu is
  ting married. I don’t think he’s ready.
                                                    French for good-bye and should not be
beyond a reasonable doubt almost with-              confused with ado.) Now it’s time to
  out any doubt. (A legal phrase.) The              bid adieu to all of you gathered here. He
  jury decided beyond a reasonable doubt            silently bid adieu to his favorite hat as the
  that she had committed the crime. She             wind carried it down the street.

bid someone or something adieu

bid someone or something adieu Go to bid            in the hand is worth two in the bush. I
  adieu to someone or something .                   might be able to find a better price, but a
bide one’s time to wait patiently.         I’ve     bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  been biding my time for years, just wait-       the birds and the bees human reproduc-
  ing for a chance like this. He’s not the          tion. (A euphemistic way of referring to
  type just to sit there and bide his time. He      human sex and reproduction.) My fa-
  wants some action.                                ther tried to teach me about the birds and
big and bold [of things] large and capa-            the bees. He’s twenty years old and does-
  ble of getting attention. The lettering           n’t understand about the birds and the
  on the book’s cover was big and bold, and         bees.
  it got lots of attention, but the price was     a bird’s-eye view 1. a view seen from high
  too high.      She wore a brightly colored        above. (Refers to the height of a flying
  dress. The pattern was big and bold and           bird.) We got a bird’s-eye view of Cleve-
  the skirt was very full.                          land as the plane began its descent.
big as all outdoors Go to (as) big as all           From the top of the tower you get a splen-
  outdoors.                                         did bird’s-eye view of the village. 2. a brief
                                                    survey of something; a hasty look at
big as life Go to (as) big as life.                 something. (Refers to the smallness of a
big as life and twice as ugly Go to (as)            bird’s eye.) The course provides a bird’s-
  big as life.                                      eye view of the works of Mozart, but it
                                                    doesn’t deal with them in enough detail for
a big frog in a small pond an important
                                                    your purpose. All you need is a bird’s-
  person in the midst of a less important
                                                    eye view of the events of World War II to
  setting. (Preceded by be, become, seem
                                                    pass the test.
  like, or act like.) I’d rather be a big frog
  in a small pond than the opposite. The          Birds of a feather flock together. Peo-
  trouble with Tom is that he’s a big frog in       ple of the same type seem to gather to-
  a small pond. He needs more competition.          gether. (Proverb.) Bob and Tom are just
the big moment and the moment every-                alike. They like each other’s company be-
  one has been waiting for the special              cause birds of a feather f lock together.
  time that everyone has been waiting for.          When Mary joined a club for redheaded
     The big moment has come. I will now            people, she said, “Birds of a feather f lock
  announce the winner.      This is the big         together.”
  moment that you all have been waiting for!      bite off more than one can chew to take
big of someone generous of someone; kind            (on) more than one can deal with; to be
  or forgiving of someone. (Sometimes sar-          overconfident. (This is used literally for
  castic.) He gave me some of his apple.            food and figuratively for other things, es-
  That was very big of him. It was big of           pecially difficult projects.) Billy, stop
  Sally to come over and apologize like that.       biting off more than you can chew. You’re
                                                    going to choke on your food someday.
binge and purge to overeat and then                 Ann is exhausted again. She’s always bit-
  vomit, over and over. (A symptom of the           ing off more than she can chew.
  condition called bulimia.)        She had
  binged and purged a number of times be-         bite one’s nails to be nervous or anxious; to
  fore she finally sought help from a doctor.       bite one’s nails from nervousness or anx-
     Terry had been bingeing and purging for        iety. (Used both literally and figuratively.)
  a number of years and was very, very thin.           I spent all afternoon biting my nails,
                                                    worrying about you. We’ve all been bit-
A bird in the hand is worth two in the              ing our nails from worry.
  bush. Something you already have is bet-
  ter than something you might get. Bill          bite one’s tongue to struggle not to say
  has offered to buy my car for $4,000.             something that you really want to say.
  Someone else might pay more, but a bird           (Used literally only to refer to an acci-

                                                                   the blind leading the blind

  dental biting of one’s tongue.) I had to         black as one is painted Go to (as) black
  bite my tongue to keep from telling her            as one is painted.
  what I really thought. I sat through that        black as pitch Go to (as) black as pitch.
  whole conversation biting my tongue.
                                                   black as the ace of spades Go to (as)
bite someone’s head off to speak sharply             black as the ace of spades.
  and angrily to someone. There was no
  need to bite Mary’s head off just because        black out to faint or pass out.      Sally
  she was five minutes late. The boss has            blacked out just before the crash. I was
  been biting everybody’s head off since his         so frightened that I blacked out for a
  accident.                                          minute.
bite the bullet to put up with or endure           the black sheep of the family the worst
  (something). (Informal or slang.)            I     member of the family.        Mary is the
  didn’t want to go to the doctor, but I bit the     black sheep of the family. She’s always in
  bullet and went. John, you just have to            trouble with the police. He keeps mak-
  bite the bullet and do what you’re told.           ing a nuisance of himself. What do you ex-
                                                     pect from the black sheep of the family?
bite the dust to fall to defeat; to die. (Typ-     blast off [for a rocket] to shoot into the
  ically heard in movies about the old west-         sky. What time does the rocket blast off ?
  ern frontier.) A bullet hit the sheriff in            It won’t blast off today. It has been
  the chest, and he bit the dust. Poor old           canceled.
  Bill bit the dust while mowing the lawn.
  They buried him yesterday.                       blaze a trail (in something) to create and de-
                                                     velop a new area of study or develop-
bite the hand that feeds one to harm                 ment. (Literal in reference to creating and
  someone who does good things for you.              marking a trail.) In the area of conser-
  (Literal in reference to a dog, cat, or other      vation, Wright and Walters blazed a trail
  animal.) I’m your mother! How can you              in the use of technology to preserve topsoil.
  bite the hand that feeds you? She can                 Professor Williams blazed a trail in the
  hardly expect much when she bites the              study of physics.
  hand that feeds her.
                                                   bleep something out to replace a word or
a bitter pill to swallow an unpleasant fact          phrase in a radio or television broadcast
  that has to be accepted. It was a bitter           with some sort of musical tone. (This is
  pill for her brother to swallow when she           sometimes done to prevent a bad word or
  married his enemy. We found his de-                other information from being broadcast.)
  ception a bitter pill to swallow.                     He tried to say the word on television,
black-and-blue bruised; showing signs of             but they bleeped it out. T They tried to
  having been physically harmed. (Also lit-          bleep out the whole sentence.
  eral.) The child was black-and-blue af-          a blessing in disguise something that
  ter having been struck. She was black-             turns out to be fortunate and advanta-
  and-blue all over after falling out of the         geous after seeming to be the opposite at
  tree.                                              first. Our missing the train was a bless-
                                                     ing in disguise. It was involved in a crash.
black as a skillet Go to (as) black as a                It was a blessing in disguise that I did-
                                                     n’t get the job. I was offered a better one
black as a stack of black cats Go to (as)            the next day.
  black as a stack of black cats.                  blind as a bat Go to (as) blind as a bat.
black as a sweep Go to (as) black as a             the blind leading the blind having to do
  sweep.                                             with a situation where people who don’t
black as coal Go to (as) black as coal.              know how to do something try to explain
                                                     it to other people. Tom doesn’t know
black as night Go to (as) black as night.            anything about cars, but he’s trying to

Blood is thicker than water.

  teach Sally how to change the oil. It’s a case     The lawyer got the witness to give a blow-
  of the blind leading the blind. When I             by-blow description of the argument.
  tried to show Mary how to use a computer,        blow-by-blow description Go to blow-by-
  it was the blind leading the blind.                blow account.
Blood is thicker than water. Go to Blood           blow hot and cold to be changeable or un-
  runs thicker than water.                           certain (about something). He keeps
Blood runs thicker than water. and                   blowing hot and cold on the question of
  Blood is thicker than water. People                moving to the country. He blows hot and
  who are related have stronger obligations          cold about this. I wish he’d make up his
  to each other than to people outside the           mind.
  family and are expected to endure fam-           blow off steam Go to let off steam.
  ily problems. (Proverb.) My friends in-
  vited me to go camping on Saturday, but          blow one’s cookies Go to blow one’s lunch.
  I have to go to my cousin’s wedding instead.     blow one’s cool Go to lose one’s cool.
  Blood is thicker than water, after all. If
  you ever need help, don’t ask your friends.      blow one’s cork Go to blow a gasket.
  Come home and ask us, your family. Blood         blow one’s lines Go to fluff one’s lines.
  is thicker than water.                           blow one’s lunch and blow one’s cookies
blood, sweat, and tears the signs of great           to vomit. (Slang.) The accident was so
  personal effort.     There will be much            horrible I almost blew my lunch. Don’t
  blood, sweat, and tears before we have             run so hard, or you’ll blow your cookies.
  completed this project.    After years of        blow one’s nose to drive mucus and other
  blood, sweat, and tears, Timmy finally             material from the nose using air pressure
  earned a college degree.                           from the lungs. Excuse me, I have to
bloody but unbowed [one’s head] show-                blow my nose.     Bill blew his nose into
  ing signs of a struggle, but not bowed in          his handkerchief.
  defeat. Liz emerged from the struggle,           blow one’s own horn Go to toot one’s own
  her head bloody but unbowed. We are                horn.
  bloody but unbowed and will fight to the
  last.                                            blow one’s stack Go to blow a gasket.
blow a fuse 1. to burn out a fuse.     The         blow one’s top Go to blow a gasket.
  microwave oven blew a fuse, so we had no         blow over to go away without causing
  power. You’ll blow a fuse if you use too           harm.      If we are lucky, the storm will
  many appliances at once. 2. Go to blow a           blow over. Given time, all this contro-
  gasket.                                            versy will blow over.
blow a gasket and blow a fuse; blow                blow someone or something away 1. to kill or
  one’s cork; blow one’s top; blow one’s             destroy someone or something. (Also lit-
  stack to become very angry; to lose one’s          eral. Slang.) He drew his gun and blew
  temper. (Slang.) I was so mad I almost             the thief away. T His bad attitude blew
  blew a gasket. I’ve never heard such a             away the whole deal. 2. [with someone] to
  thing. I’m going to blow a fuse. I blew            overcome someone emotionally. The
  my cork when he hit me. I was so mad               bad news really blew me away.       Your
  I could have blown my top. I makes me              news just blew me away! How exciting!
  so mad I could blow my stack.
                                                   blow someone or something off 1. [with some-
blow-by-blow account and blow-by-                    thing] to neglect or bumble something.
  blow description a detailed description            (Slang.) He would do better in school
  (of an event) given as the event takes             if he didn’t blow his math class off. T He
  place. (This referred originally to boxing         blew off his homework. 2. [with someone]
  or other combat.) I want to listen to a            to deceive or cheat someone. (Slang.)
  blow-by-blow account of the prizefight.            She really blew me off on the question of

                                                                          bone of contention

  grades. She was really failing all the time.     someone. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to
  T She blew off the teacher by cheating on        blow up. You’d blow up, too, if you’d had
  the test.                                        a day like mine.
blow someone or something to smithereens         blow up in someone’s face 1. to blow up or
  to explode someone or something into             explode suddenly. (Also literal.) The
  tiny pieces. The bomb blew the ancient           bomb blew up in the terrorist’s face. The
  church to smithereens. The mortar blew           firecracker blew up in his face and injured
  the entire squad to smithereens.                 him. 2. [for something] to get ruined
blow someone’s cover to reveal someone’s
                                                   while someone is working on it. (Also lit-
  true identity or purpose. The spy was            eral.) All my plans blew up in my face.
  very careful not to blow her cover. I tried         It is terrible for your life to get ruined
  to disguise myself, but my dog recognized        and blow up in your face.
  me and blew my cover.                          blue around the gills Go to pale around
                                                   the gills.
blow someone’s mind 1. to destroy the func-
  tion of one’s brain. (Slang.) It was a         blue blood the blood [heredity] of a no-
  terrible experience. It nearly blew my           ble family; aristocratic ancestry. The
  mind. She blew her mind on drugs. 2.             earl refuses to allow anyone who is not of
  to overwhelm someone; to excite some-            blue blood to marry his son. Although
  one. (Slang.)     It was so beautiful, it        Mary’s family is poor, she has blue blood
  nearly blew my mind. The music was               in her veins.
  so wild. It blew my mind.
                                                 bog down to slow down; to become stuck.
blow something to ruin or waste something.            The project bogged down because of so
    I had a chance to do it, but I blew it.        much red tape. We bog down every year
  He blew the whole five dollars on candy.         at this time because many of our workers
blow something out of all proportion to
                                                   go on vacation.
  cause something to be unrealistically          boggle someone’s mind to confuse someone;
  proportioned relative to something else.         to overwhelm someone; to blow someone’s
  (The all can be left out.) The press has         mind.    The size of the house boggles my
  blown this issue out of all proportion.          mind. She said that his arrogance bog-
  Let’s be reasonable. Don’t blow this thing       gled her mind.
  out of proportion.
                                                 boil down to something to reduce to some-
blow the lid off (something ) to reveal some-      thing; to come down to something; to be
  thing, especially wrongdoing; to make            essentially something. (Also literal.) It
  wrongdoing public. The police blew the           all boils down to whether you wish to buy
  lid off the smuggling ring. The govern-          a car. It boils down to a question of good
  ment is glad that they blew the lid off.         health.
blow the whistle (on someone ) to report         boil something down to summarize some-
  someone’s wrongdoing to someone (such            thing; to make information more concise.
  as the police) who can stop the wrong-           (Also literal in reference to liquids.) I
  doing.     The citizens’ group blew the          don’t have time to listen to the whole story.
  whistle on the street gangs by calling the       Please boil it down for me. T Please boil
  police. The gangs were getting very bad.         down the report so I can read it on the
  It was definitely time to blow the whistle.      plane.
blow up to fall apart or get ruined.   The       bold as brass Go to (as) bold as brass.
  whole project blew up. It will have to be
                                                 bone of contention the subject or point of
  canceled. All my planning was blown up
                                                   an argument; an unsettled point of dis-
  this afternoon.
                                                   agreement. We’ve fought for so long that
blow up (at someone ) to get angry at some-        we’ve forgotten what the bone of con-
  one; to lose one’s temper and yell at            tention is.    The question of a fence

bone up (on something)

  between the houses has become quite a           much about death is just borrowing trou-
  bone of contention.                             ble. Do not get involved with politics.
bone up (on something ) to study something
                                                  That’s borrowing trouble.
  thoroughly; to review the facts about         boss someone around to give orders to
  something.      I have to bone up on the        someone; to keep telling someone what
  state driving laws because I have to take       to do. Stop bossing me around. I’m not
  my driving test tomorrow. I take mine           your employee. T Captain Smith bosses
  next month, so I’ll have to bone up, too.       around the whole crew. That’s his job.
boot someone out Go to kick someone out.        bottle something up 1. to constrict some-
bore someone stiff and bore someone to            thing as if it were put in a bottle. The
  death to bore someone very much. (Stiff         patrol boats bottled the other boats up at
  is an old slang word meaning “dead.”)           the locks on the river. T The police bot-
  The play bored me stiff.    The lecture         tled up the traffic while they searched the
  bored everyone to death.                        cars for the thieves. 2. to hold one’s feel-
                                                  ings within; to keep from saying some-
bore someone to death Go to bore someone          thing that one feels strongly about.
  stiff.                                          Let’s talk about it, John. You shouldn’t bot-
bored silly and bored stiff; bored to dis-        tle it up. T Don’t bottle up your problems.
  traction; bored to tears very bored;            It’s better to talk them out.
  completely bored. (Usually an exaggera-       the bottom line 1. the last figure on a fi-
  tion.) I was bored silly at the lecture.        nancial balance sheet representing net
  The dull speaker left me bored to distrac-      profit or loss. What’s the bottom line?
  tion. I am bored to tears. Let’s go home.       How much do I owe you? Don’t tell me
bored stiff Go to bored silly.                    all those figures! Just tell me the bottom
                                                  line. 2. the result; the final outcome. I
bored to death very bored.   The children         know about all the problems, but what is
  were bored to death. I’ve never been so         the bottom line? What will happen? The
  bored to death in my life.                      bottom line is that you have to go to the
bored to distraction Go to bored silly.           meeting because no one else can.
bored to tears Go to bored silly.               bottom out to reach the lowest point.
born and bred Go to born and raised.              The price of wheat bottomed out last week.
                                                  Now it’s rising again.    My interest in
born and raised and born and bred born            school bottomed out in my junior year, so
  and nurtured through childhood, usually         I quit and got a job.
  in a specific place. She was born and
  raised in a small town in western Mon-        Bottoms up! Everyone should drink now!
  tana. Freddy was born and bred on a             (Said at the end of a drinking toast.)
  farm and had no love for city life.             Here’s to the bride and groom. Bottoms up!
                                                    Bottoms up! Drink hearty!
born out of wedlock born to an unmar-
  ried mother. The child was born out of        bound and determined determined.
  wedlock. In the city many children are          We were bound and determined to get
  born out of wedlock.                            there on time.    I’m bound and deter-
                                                  mined that this won’t happen again.
born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth
  born with many advantages; born to a          bound for somewhere on the way to some-
  wealthy family. Sally was born with a           where; planning to go to somewhere.
  silver spoon in her mouth.   I’m glad I         I’m bound for Mexico. In fact, I’m leaving
  was not born with a silver spoon in my          this afternoon. I’m bound for the bank.
  mouth.                                          Do you want to go, too?
borrow trouble to worry needlessly; to          bound hand and foot with hands and feet
  make trouble for oneself.      Worrying too     tied up.   The robbers left us bound hand

                                                             break ground (for something)

  and foot. We remained bound hand and          break a code to figure out a code; to de-
  foot until the maid found us and untied us.     cipher a code. The intelligence agents
                                                  finally broke the enemy’s code. When
bound to (do something ) to be certain to do      they broke the code, they were able to
  something.    They are bound to come            decipher messages.
  home soon. They always come home early.
    Oh, yes. They are bound to.                 break a habit and break the habit;
                                                  break one’s habit to end a habit. I was
bow and scrape to be very humble and              not able to break the habit of snoring.
  subservient.       Please don’t bow and         It’s hard to break a habit that you have had
  scrape. We are all equal here. The sales-       for a long time.
  clerk came in, bowing and scraping, and
  asked if he could help us.                    break a law and break the law to fail to
                                                  obey a law; to act contrary to a law.
bow out to quit and depart; to resign; to         Lisa broke the law when she drove the
  retire. I’ve done all that I can do. Now        wrong way on a one-way street. If you
  is the time to bow out.    Most workers         never break the law, you will never get
  bow out at the normal retirement age.           arrested.
bowl someone over to surprise or over-          Break a leg! Good luck! (Also literal. The-
  whelm someone. (Also literal.)      The         atrical slang. This is said to actors before
  news bowled me over. The details of the         a performance instead of Good luck.)
  proposed project bowled everyone over.          Before the play, John said to Mary, “Break
                                                  a leg!” Saying “Break a leg!” before a
Boys will be boys. That’s the kind of thing       performance is an old theatrical tradition.
  that boys seem to do.; That’s the kind of
  silly behavior that boys and men exhibit.     break a record to surpass a previously set
  (Proverb.) They really messed up the            high record of achievement by setting a
  living room, but boys will be boys. Boys        new one. The athlete broke all the school
  will be boys, but they can be trained.          records in swimming. The record was
                                                  broken after thirty years.
brain someone to strike a person on the skull
                                                break camp to close down a campsite; to
  as if to knock out the person’s brains.
                                                  pack up and move on. Early this morn-
  I thought he was going to brain me, but he
                                                  ing we broke camp and moved on north-
  only hit me on the shoulder. If you don’t
                                                  ward. Okay, everyone. It’s time to break
  do it, I’ll brain you.
                                                  camp. Take those tents down and fold them
[bread and butter] Go to someone’s bread          neatly.
  and butter.                                   break down 1. [for something] to fall
bread-and-butter letter a letter or note          apart; [for something] to stop operating.
  written to follow up on a visit; a thank-       (See also break someone or something down.)
  you note.     When I got back from the             The air-conditioning broke down, and
  sales meeting, I took two days to write         we got very warm. The car broke down
  bread-and-butter letters to the people I        in the parking lot. 2. [for one] to lose con-
  met. I got sort of a bread-and-butter let-      trol of one’s emotions; [for one] to have
  ter from my nephew, who wants to visit me       a nervous collapse. He couldn’t keep go-
  next summer.                                    ing. He finally broke down and wept. I
                                                  was afraid I’d break down.
bread and water the most minimal meal
  possible; a prison meal. (Also literal.       break even for income to equal expenses.
  Refers to the stereotypical prison meal.)       (This implies that money was not earned
     Max knew that if he got in trouble again     or lost.) Unfortunately my business just
  it would be at least a year on bread and        managed to break even last year. I made
  water. This dinner is terrible again. I         a bad investment, but I broke even.
  would rather have bread and water! Why        break ground (for something ) to start dig-
  don’t we ever have pizza?                       ging the foundation for a building.     The

Break it up!

  president of the company came to break               A fire broke out in the belfry. A round
  ground for the new building. This was             of giggling broke out when the teacher
  the third building this year for which this       tripped. A riot almost broke out when
  company has broken ground. When will              the police came. 2. [for one’s face] to
  they break ground?                                erupt in pimples. Bob’s face has started
Break it up! Stop fighting!; Stop it! (Said
                                                    breaking out badly. My face breaks out
  to two or more people causing a distur-           when I eat a lot of chocolate.
  bance.) All right! Break it up, you guys!       break out in a cold sweat to perspire
     Stop your talking! Break it up and get         from fever, fear, or anxiety; to begin to
  back to work.                                     sweat profusely or suddenly. I was so
break loose (from someone or something ) to         frightened I broke out in a cold sweat.
  get away from a person or a thing that is         The patient broke out in a cold sweat.
  holding one. (Compare this with cut             break out (in something ) to erupt with
  loose (from someone or something) .)  The         something such as a rash, a cold sweat, or
  criminal broke loose from the police offi-        pimples.      After being in the woods, I
  cer. It’s hard to break loose from home.          broke out in a rash. I think it’s poison ivy.
     I was twenty years old before I could             I hate to break out like that. When I
  break loose.                                      eat chocolate, I break out in pimples. I
break new ground to begin to do some-               was so frightened I broke out in a cold
  thing that no one else has done; to pio-          sweat. The patient broke out in a cold
  neer (in an enterprise). (See also break          sweat.
  ground (for something ).)  Dr. Anderson         break (out) in(to) tears to start crying
  was breaking new ground in cancer re-             suddenly. I was so sad that I broke out
  search. They were breaking new ground             into tears. I always break into tears at
  in consumer electronics.                          a funeral. It’s hard not to break out in
break off (with someone ) to end a friend-          tears under those circumstances.
  ship with someone, especially a boy-            break out (of something ) to escape from
  friend or a girlfriend. Tom has finally           something, often by destructive means.
  broken off with Mary. I knew it could-            (Especially from prison, but also in fig-
  n’t last. He was bound to break off.              urative senses.) The convicts plotted to
break one’s back (to do something ) Go to           break out of prison. You don’t have the
  break one’s neck (to do something ).              guts to break out of jail!    Don finally
                                                    broke out of the depression that had held
break one’s habit Go to break a habit.              him captive for so long. The lion broke
break one’s neck (to do something ) and             out of its cage.
  break one’s back (to do something) to work      break someone or something down 1. [with
  very hard to do something. I broke my             someone] to force someone to give up and
  neck to get here on time. That’s the last         tell secrets or agree to do something.
  time I’ll break my neck to help you.              After threats of torture, they broke the spy
  There is no point in breaking your back.          down. T They broke down the agent by
  Take your time.                                   threatening violence. 2. [with something]
break one’s word not to do what one said            to tear something down; to destroy
  one would do; not to keep one’s promise.          something. They used an ax to break
  (The opposite of keep one’s word.)                the door down. T We broke down the wall
  Don’t say you’ll visit your grandmother if        with big hammers.
  you can’t go. She hates people who break
                                                  break someone or something in 1. [with some-
  their word. If you break your word, she
                                                    one] to train someone to do a job; to su-
  won’t trust you again.
                                                    pervise a new person learning a new job.
break out 1. to burst forth suddenly, as              It takes time to break a new worker in.
  with a fire, a riot, giggling, shouting, etc.     T Are they hard to break in? T I have to

                                                                      breaking and entering

  break in a new worker. 2. [with some-          break something to someone to tell bad news
  thing] to make something fit by wearing          to someone. I hated to break the news
  or using it. T I’ll be glad when I’ve fin-       to Dad about his car. Bill broke it to his
  ished breaking in these shoes.     Yes, it       employees gently.
  takes time to break them in. T They are
                                                 break the back of something to end the
  easy to break in, though. The car will
                                                   domination of something; to reduce the
  run better after I break it in.
                                                   power of something. The government
break someone or something up 1. [with some-       has worked for years to break the back of
  one] to cause a person to laugh, perhaps         organized crime.     This new medicine
  at an inappropriate time. (Informal.)            should break the back of the epidemic.
  John told a joke that really broke Mary up.    break the bank to use up all one’s money.
  T The comedian’s job was to break up the         (As in casino gambling where a gambler
  audience by telling jokes. 2. [with some-        wins more money than the house has on
  thing] to destroy something. The storm           hand.) It will hardly break the bank if
  broke the docks up on the lake. T The po-        we go out to dinner just once. Buying a
  lice broke up the gambling ring. 3. [with        new dress at that price won’t break the
  something] to put an end to something.           bank.
      The police broke the fight up. T Wal-
  ter’s parents broke up the party at three in   break the habit Go to break a habit.
  the morning.                                   break the ice to initiate social interchanges
break someone’s fall to cushion a falling per-     and conversation; to get something
  son; to lessen the impact of a falling per-      started. (Also literal.) Tom is so outgo-
  son. When the little boy fell out of the         ing. He’s always the first one to break the
  window, the bushes broke his fall. The           ice at parties. It’s hard to break the ice
  old lady slipped on the ice, but a snowbank      at formal events. Sally broke the ice by
  broke her fall.                                  bidding $20,000 for the painting.
break someone’s heart to cause someone           break the law Go to break a law.
  emotional pain. It just broke my heart         break the news (to someone ) to tell some-
  when Tom ran away from home. Sally               one some important news, usually bad
  broke John’s heart when she refused to           news. The doctor had to break the news
  marry him.                                       to Jane about her husband’s cancer.       I
break something down (for someone ) to ex-         hope that the doctor broke the news gently.
  plain something to someone in simple           break through (something ) to overcome
  terms or in an orderly fashion.         She      something nonphysical, such as a barrier
  doesn’t understand. You will have to break       caused by law, regulation, prejudice, at-
  it down for her. I can help. This is a con-      titude, etc. (Also literal.) Tom was able
  fusing question. Let me break it down for        to break through racial barriers.    The
  you.                                             scientists broke through the mystery sur-
break something down (into something) to di-       rounding the disease and found the cause.
  vide something into smaller parts; to di-      break up (with someone ) to end a love af-
  vide something into its component parts.         fair or a romance. Tom finally broke up
     Please break this paragraph down into         with Mary. I thought they would break
  sentences. T The chemist broke down the          up. He has been so moody lately.
  compound into a number of elements.
  Walter broke the project down into five        breaking and entering the crime of forc-
  tasks and assigned them to various people.       ing one’s way into a place. (A criminal
                                                   charge.)      Max was charged with four
break something to pieces to shatter some-         counts of breaking and entering. It was
  thing. (Informal.) I broke my crystal            not an act of breaking and entering. The
  vase to pieces.     I dropped a glass and        thief just opened the door and walked right
  broke it to pieces.                              in.

a breath of fresh air

a breath of fresh air 1. air that is not stale       members rather than bricks and mortar.
  or smelly. (This is the literal sense.) I          Sometimes people are happy to donate mil-
  feel faint. I think I need a breath of fresh       lions of dollars for bricks and mortar, but
  air. You look ill, John. What you need             they never think of the additional cost of
  is a breath of fresh air. 2. air that is not       annual maintenance.
  (figuratively) contaminated with un-             bright and early very early.    Yes, I’ll be
  pleasant people or situations. (This is a          there bright and early. I want to see you
  sarcastic version of sense 1.) You peo-            here on time tomorrow, bright and early,
  ple are disgusting. I have to get out of here      or you’re fired!
  and get a breath of fresh air. I believe I’ll
  go get a breath of fresh air. The intellectual   bright as a button Go to (as) bright as a
  atmosphere in here is stif ling. 3. a new,         button.
  fresh, and imaginative approach (to              bright as a new pin Go to (as) bright as
  something). (Usually with like.) Sally,            a new pin.
  with all her wonderful ideas, is a breath
  of fresh air. New furniture in this room         bright-eyed and bushy-tailed very cheer-
  is like a breath of fresh air.                     ful and eager. (Refers to the twinkling
                                                     eyes and quick, energetic movements of
breathe down someone’s neck 1. to keep               a squirrel.) She appeared at the top of
  close watch on someone; to watch some-             the stairs, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,
  one’s activities. (Also literal. Refers to         ready to start the day. I am awake, but
  standing very close behind a person.)              I am hardly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
  I can’t work with you breathing down my
  neck all the time. Go away. I will get           brimming with something 1. full of some
  through my life without your help. Stop            kind of happy behavior. The volunteer
  breathing down my neck. 2. to try to               worker was brimming with goodwill.
  hurry someone along; to make someone               The giggling children were brimming with
  get something done on time. (The sub-              joy. 2. full to the point of overflowing.
  ject does not have to be a person. See the            Tom’s glass was brimming with milk.
  second example.) I have to finish my               The pool was brimming with water.
  taxes today. The tax collector is breathing      bring down the curtain (on something ) Go
  down my neck. I have a deadline breath-            to ring down the curtain (on something ).
  ing down my neck.
                                                   bring down the house to excite a theatri-
breathe easy to assume a relaxed state af-           cal audience to laughter or applause or
  ter a stressful period. (Also literal.) Af-        both.     Her performance didn’t bring
  ter all this is over, I’ll be able to breathe      down the house—it emptied it. T This is
  easy again. He won’t be able to breathe            a great joke. The last time I told it, it
  easy until he pays off his debts.                  brought the house down.
breathe one’s last to die; to breathe one’s        bring home the bacon to earn a salary.
  last breath in the process of dying.               (Folksy.) I’ve got to get to work if I’m
  Mrs. Smith breathed her last this morning.         going to bring home the bacon. Go out
      I’ll keep running every day until I            and get a job so you can bring home the
  breathe my last.                                   bacon.
brew a plot to plot something; to make a           bring people or other creatures out in droves
  plot. The children brewed an evil plot to          to lure or draw out someone or some
  get revenge on their teacher. We brewed            creature in great number. The avail-
  a plot so that we would not have to help           ability of free drinks brought people out in
  with dinner.                                       droves. The fresh grass sprouts brought
bricks and mortar buildings. (The build-             the deer out in droves.
  ings referred to can be constructed out of       bring someone around 1. to bring someone
  anything.) The new president of the col-           for a visit; to bring someone for someone
  lege preferred to invest in new faculty            (else) to meet. Please bring your wife

                                                                       broad as a barn door

  around sometime. I’d love to meet her.           Bob’s low grade in English brought every-
  You’ve just got to bring the doctor around       thing crashing down when his parents
  for dinner. 2. to bring someone to con-          grounded him.
  sciousness.      The doctor brought Tom
                                                 bring something home to someone to cause
  around with smelling salts. The boxer
  was knocked out, but the doctor brought          someone to realize the truth of some-
  him around. 3. to persuade someone (to           thing. Seeing the starving refugees on
  accept something); to manage to get              television really brings home the tragedy of
  someone to agree (to something). The             their situation. It wasn’t until she failed
  last debate brought a lot of voters around       her test that the importance of studying
  to our candidate. I knew I could bring           was brought home to her.
  her around if I just had enough time to        bring something into question to question
  talk to her.                                     something; to raise a question about
                                                   something.       It was necessary to bring
bring someone or something up 1. to mention
                                                   your part in this matter into question.
  a person or a thing. I’m sorry. I won’t
                                                   The city council brought the building pro-
  bring him up again. T Please don’t bring
                                                   ject into question.
  up that matter again. T Please don’t bring
  up John Jones’s name again. 2. to raise a      bring something off to make something hap-
  child or an animal. Her uncle brought            pen; to produce a great event.         She
  her up. T It’s difficult to bring up a pet       managed to bring the party off with no dif-
  monkey.                                          ficulty. T She brought off a similar party
                                                   last season.
bring someone or something up-to-date to
  make someone or something more mod-            bring something to a head to cause some-
  ern. (See also bring someone up-to-date          thing to come to the point when a deci-
  (on someone or something ).) Let’s buy some      sion has to be made or an action taken.
  new furniture and bring this room up-to-            The latest disagreement between man-
  date. John tried to bring himself up-to-         agement and the union has brought mat-
  date by changing his hairstyle, but he still     ters to a head. There will be an all-out
  looked like the same old John.                   strike now. It’s a relief that things have
                                                   been brought to a head. The disputes have
bring someone to to bring someone to con-
                                                   been going on for months.
  sciousness; to wake someone up. (See
  also bring someone around; come to.)           bring something to light to make something
  The nurse brought the patient to. She’s          known; to discover something.            The
  hurt! Come on, help me bring her to.             scientists brought their findings to light.
                                                   We must bring this new evidence to light.
bring someone up-to-date (on someone or
  something) to tell someone the news about      bring something to someone’s attention to
  something. Please bring me up-to-date            make someone aware of something; to
  on the Middle East situation.   Please           mention or show something to someone.
  bring me up-to-date on John. I want to              I would like to bring this problem to
  hear all the news. And bring me up-to-           your attention. If there is something I
  date, too.                                       should know about, please bring it to my
bring something about to make something
  happen. Is she clever enough to bring it       bring up the rear to move along behind
  about? T Oh, yes, she can bring about any-       everyone else; to be at the end of the line.
  thing she wants.                                 (Originally referred to marching sol-
                                                   diers.) Here comes John, bringing up the
bring something crashing down (around
                                                   rear. Hurry up, Tom! Why are you al-
  one ) to destroy something that one has
                                                   ways bringing up the rear?
  built; to destroy something that one has
  a special interest in. She brought her         broad as a barn door Go to (as) broad as
  whole life crashing down around her.             a barn door.

broad in the beam

broad in the beam with wide hips or large          under Bill, so he finally went out and got
  buttocks. (From a nautical expression for        a job.
  a wide ship.) I am getting a little broad      build castles in Spain Go to build castles
  in the beam. It’s time to go on a diet.          in the air.
  John is just naturally broad in the beam.
                                                 build castles in the air and build castles
[brother ’s keeper] Go to one’s brother’s          in Spain to daydream; to make plans that
  keeper.                                          can never come true. Ann spends most
brush up (on something ) to review some-           of her time building castles in Spain. I
  thing, especially a school subject.     I        really like to sit on the porch in the evening,
  think I should brush up on my Spanish be-        just building castles in the air.
  fore I go to Mexico. I’ve heard you speak      build (someone or something ) up 1. to make
  Spanish. You need to do more than brush          someone or something stronger or big-
  up.                                              ger. Tom is eating lots of fresh fruits and
                                                   vegetables to build himself up for basket-
buck for something to aim, try, or strike for
                                                   ball.     Tom needs to build up.       Tom
  a goal. (Originally referred to trying to        needs to build himself up. T The farmer
  get a higher military rank.)       Bill acts     built up his stone fences where they had
  that way because he’s bucking for corporal.      weakened. 2. to advertise, praise, or pro-
     Tom is bucking for a larger office.           mote someone or something. T Theatri-
buck up cheer up.      Buck up, old friend!        cal agents work very hard to build up their
  Things can’t be all that bad. I know I           clients. T An advertising agency can build
  have to buck up. Life must go on.                up a product so much that everyone will
                                                   want it.
buckle down (to something ) to settle down
  to something; to begin to work seriously       build something to order to build something
  at something. If you don’t buckle down           especially for the customer who ordered
  to your job, you’ll be fired. You had bet-       it. (See also make something to order.)
  ter buckle down and get busy.                    Our new car was built to order just for us.
                                                       My company builds computers to order.
bug out to leave; to pack up and get out.          No two are alike.
  (Slang.) It’s time to bug out. Let’s get out
                                                 build up to something to lead up to some-
  of here. I just got a call from headquar-
  ters. They say to bug out immediately.           thing; to work up to something. You
                                                   could tell by the way she was talking that
bug someone to irritate someone; to bother         she was building up to something. The
  someone. (Slang.) Go away! Stop bug-             sky was building up to a storm.
  ging me! Leave me alone. Go bug some-          a bull in a china shop a very clumsy or
  one else.                                        wild person around breakable things; a
build a case (against someone ) and as-            thoughtless or tactless person. (China is
  semble a case (against someone );                fine crockery.) Look at Bill, as awkward
  gather a case (against someone ) to put          as a bull in a china shop. Get that big
  together the evidence needed to make a           dog out of my garden. It’s like a bull in a
  legal or disciplinary case against some-         china shop. Bob is so rude, a regular bull
  one.      The police easily built a case         in a china shop.
  against the drunken driver. As soon as         bump into someone and run into someone
  we gather the case against her, we will ar-      to chance on someone; to meet someone
  rest her.                                        by chance. (Also literal.) Guess who I
build a fire under someone to do something         bumped into downtown today?      I ran
  to make someone else start doing some-           into Bob Jones yesterday.
  thing. (Informal.) The teacher built a         bump someone off and knock someone off
  fire under the students, and they really         to kill someone. (Slang, especially crim-
  started working. Somebody built a fire           inal slang.) They tried to bump her off,

                                                                           burned to a cinder

  but she was too clever and got away. T The        the stake. Look, officer, I only ran a stop
  crooks bumped off the witness to the crime.       sign. What are you going to do, burn me at
     They tried to knock them all off.              the stake? 2. to chastise or denounce
                                                    someone severely, but without violence.
a bundle of nerves someone who is very                 Stop yelling. I made a simple mistake,
  nervous and anxious. Mary was a bun-              and you’re burning me at the stake for it.
  dle of nerves until she heard that she               Sally only spilled her milk. There is no
  passed the test. You always seem to be            need to shout. Don’t burn her at the stake
  such a bundle of nerves.                          for it.
burn one’s bridges (behind one) 1. to make        burn someone in effigy to burn a dummy
  decisions that cannot be changed in the           or other figure that represents a hated
  future. If you drop out of school now,            person. (See also hang someone in effigy.)
  you’ll be burning your bridges behind you.           For the third day in a row, they burned
     You’re too young to burn your bridges          the king in effigy.       Until they have
  that way. 2. to be unpleasant in a situa-         burned you in effigy, you can’t really be
  tion that you are leaving, ensuring that          considered a famous leader.
  you’ll never be welcome to return. If
  you get mad and quit your job, you’ll be        burn someone or something to a crisp to burn
  burning your bridges behind you.         No       someone or something totally or very
  sense burning your bridges. Be polite and         badly. The flames burned him to a crisp.
  leave quietly. 3. to cut off the way back to        The cook burned the meat to a crisp.
  where you came from, making it impos-           burn someone up to make someone very an-
  sible to retreat. The army, which had             gry. (Informal.)     People like that just
  burned its bridges behind it, couldn’t go         burn me up! It burns me up to hear you
  back. By blowing up the road, the spies           talk that way. T His answers really burned
  had burned their bridges behind them.             up the committee members.
burn one’s bridges in front of one to cre-        burn the candle at both ends to work
  ate future problems for oneself. (A play          very hard and stay up very late at night.
  on burn one’s bridges (behind one ).) I              No wonder Mary is ill. She has been
  made a mistake again. I always seem to            burning the candle at both ends for a long
  burn my bridges in front of me. I acci-           time. You can’t keep on burning the can-
  dentally insulted a math teacher whom I           dle at both ends.
  will have to take a course from next se-
  mester. I am burning my bridges in front        burn the midnight oil to stay up working,
  of me.                                            especially studying, late at night. (Refers
                                                    to working by the light of an oil lamp.)
burn (oneself ) out to do something so long            I have to go home and burn the mid-
  and so intensely that one gets sick and           night oil tonight. If you burn the mid-
  tired of doing it and can no longer do it         night oil night after night, you’ll probably
  well. I burned myself out as an opera             become ill.
  singer. I just cannot do it anymore. Tom
  burned himself out playing golf. He can’t       burn with a low blue flame to be very an-
  stand it anymore. Tom burned out too              gry. (Refers to the imaginary heat caused
  young.                                            by extreme anger. A blue flame is a hot
                                                    flame.) By the time she showed up three
burn out [for electrical or mechanical de-          hours late, I was burning with a low blue
  vices] to break down and become useless.          flame. Whenever Ann gets mad, she just
     I hope the light bulb in the ceiling does-     presses her lips together and burns with a
  n’t burn out. I can’t reach it. T The mo-         low blue f lame.
  tor burned out.
                                                  burned to a cinder burned very badly.
burn someone at the stake 1. to set fire to         (Not necessarily literal.) I stayed out
  a person tied to a post (as a form of ex-         in the sun too long, and I am burned to a
  ecution). They used to burn witches at            cinder. This toast is burnt to a cinder.

burned up

burned up very angry.          I’ve never been    burst with joy to be full to the bursting
  so burned up in my life.           I’m really     point with happiness. (See also burst at
  burned up at Bob.                                 the seams.)     When I got my grades, I
burst at the seams [for someone] to “ex-
                                                    could have burst with joy. Joe was not
  plode” (figuratively) with pride or laugh-        exactly bursting with joy when he got the
  ter. (Also literal with things.)         Tom      news.
  nearly burst at the seams with pride. We        burst with pride to be full to the bursting
  laughed so hard we just about burst at the        point with pride. (See also burst at the
  seams.                                            seams.) My parents were bursting with
burst in on someone or something [for some-         pride when I graduated from college. I
  one] to enter a room, interrupting some-          almost burst with pride when I was chosen
  one or some activity. (Often without              to go up in the space shuttle.
  knocking or seeking permission to en-           bury one’s head in the sand and hide one’s
  ter.) Tom burst in on his sister and her          head in the sand to ignore or hide from
  boyfriend while they were kissing.          I     obvious signs of danger. (Refers to an os-
  must ask you not to burst in on a board           trich, which we picture with its head
  meeting again. Whatever it is can wait.           stuck into the sand or the ground.)
burst into flames to catch fire suddenly;           Stop burying your head in the sand. Look
  to ignite all at once. Suddenly, the car          at the statistics on smoking and cancer.
  burst into f lames. It was so hot in the          And stop hiding your head in the sand. All
  forest fire that a few trees literally burst      of us will die somehow, whether we smoke
  into f lames.                                     or not.
burst into tears and burst out crying to          bury the hatchet to stop fighting or argu-
  begin to cry suddenly. (See also break            ing; to end old resentments. All right,
  (out) in(to) tears.)    After the last notes      you two. Calm down and bury the hatchet.
  of her song, the audience burst into tears,          I wish Mr. and Mrs. Franklin would
  such was its beauty and tenderness. The           bury the hatchet. They argue all the time.
  brother and sister burst into tears on hear-    business as usual having things go along
  ing of the death of their dog. Some peo-          as usual. Right after the f lood, it was
  ple find themselves bursting out crying for       business as usual in all the stores. Please,
  no reason at all.                                 everyone, business as usual. Let’s get back
burst onto the scene to appear suddenly             to work.
  in a location. When Charles burst onto          the business end of something the part or
  the scene, no one was prepared for the news       end of something that actually does the
  he brought. The police suddenly burst             work or carries out the procedure.
  onto the scene and arrested everyone              Keep away from the business end of the
  present.                                          electric drill to avoid getting hurt. Don’t
burst out crying Go to burst into tears.            point the business end of that gun at any-
                                                    one. It might go off.
burst out laughing to begin to laugh sud-
  denly.     The entire audience burst out        a busman’s holiday leisure time spent do-
  laughing at exactly the wrong time, and so        ing something similar to what one does
  did the actors. Every time I think of you         at work. Tutoring students in the eve-
  sitting there with a lap full of noodle soup,     ning is too much of a busman’s holiday for
  I burst out laughing.                             our English teacher. It’s a bit of a bus-
                                                    man’s holiday to ask her to be wardrobe
burst someone’s bubble to destroy some-
                                                    mistress for our amateur production in the
  one’s illusion or delusion; to destroy
                                                    summer. She’s a professional dressmaker.
  someone’s fantasy. I hate to burst your
  bubble, but Columbus did not discover           bust a gut (to do something ) to work very
  Canada. Even if I am completely wrong,            hard; to strain oneself to do something.
  please don’t burst my bubble.                     (Slang. Gut is considered impolite in

                                                                                  by all accounts

  some circumstances. Bust is an informal             this with buy something sight unseen.)
  form of burst.) I don’t intend to bust a            Buying a car without test-driving it is like
  gut to get there on time. I busted a gut            buying a pig in a poke. He bought a pig
  to get there the last time, and I was the first     in a poke when he ordered a diamond ring
  one there.                                          by mail.
busy as a beaver Go to (as) busy as a               buy someone off to bribe someone; to win
  beaver.                                             someone over by gifts or favors. It’s not
busy as a beaver (building a new dam)                 hard to buy politicians off. T They bought
  Go to (as) busy as a beaver (building a             off the whole city council with campaign
  new dam).                                           contributions.
busy as a bee Go to (as) busy as a beaver.          buy something to believe someone; to accept
                                                      something to be a fact. (Also literal. In-
busy as a cat on a hot tin roof Go to (as)            formal.) It may be true, but I don’t buy
  busy as a cat on a hot tin roof.                    it. I just don’t buy the idea that you can
busy as a hibernating bear Go to (as)                 swim that far.
  busy as a hibernating bear.                       buy something for a song to buy something
busy as a one-armed paperhanger Go to                 cheaply.      No one else wanted it, so I
  (as) busy as a one-armed paperhanger.               bought it for a song.      I could buy this
                                                      house for a song, because it’s so ugly.
busy as Grand Central Station Go to (as)
  busy as Grand Central Station.                    buy something on credit to purchase some-
                                                      thing now and pay for it later (plus in-
busy as popcorn on a skillet Go to (as)               terest). (See also sell something on credit.)
  busy as popcorn on a skillet.                          Almost everyone who buys a house buys
but for someone or something if it were not for       it on credit. I didn’t have any cash with
  someone or something. But for the rail-             me, so I used my credit card and bought a
  ing, I’d have fallen down the stairs. But           new coat on credit.
  for the children, Mrs. Smith would have           buy something sight unseen to buy some-
  left her husband years ago.                         thing without seeing it first. (Compare
butt in (on someone or something) to interrupt        this with buy a pig in a poke.) I bought
  someone or something. Pardon me for                 this land sight unseen. I didn’t know it was
  butting in on your conversation, but this is        so rocky.     It isn’t usually safe to buy
  important. John butted in on Tom and                something sight unseen.
  Jane to tell them that the mail had come.         buy something to go and get something to go;
     That’s a strange reason to butt in. What         have something to go; order something to
  was in the mail?                                    go to purchase food to take out; to make
butter someone up to praise and flatter               a purchase of cooked food to be taken
  someone, usually with the intention of              elsewhere to be eaten. Let’s stop here
  requesting a favor. I believe my land-              and buy six hamburgers to go. I didn’t
  lady prefers for me to butter her up rather         thaw anything for dinner. Let’s stop off on
  than getting the rent on time. T If I but-          the way home and get something to go.
  ter up the teacher, will he give me a good          No, I don’t want to sit at a table. I’ll just
  grade?                                              have a cup of coffee to go.
button one’s lip to get quiet and stay quiet.       by a hair(‘s breadth) and by a whisker
  (Often used with children.) All right               just barely; by a very small distance. (The
  now, let’s button our lips and listen to the        whisker phrase is folksy.) I just missed
  story. Button your lip, Tom! I’ll tell you          getting on the plane by a hair’s breadth.
  when you can talk.                                     I made it by a hair! The arrow missed
buy a pig in a poke to purchase or accept             the deer by a whisker.
  something without having seen or ex-              by all accounts Go to according to all
  amined it. (Poke means “bag.” Compare               accounts.

by all appearances

by all appearances apparently; according         by check by using a check.          He paid for
  to what one sees. She is, by all appear-         the book by check. You will be paid by
  ances, ready to resume work. By all ap-          check.
  pearances, we ought to be approaching the      by choice due to conscious choice; on pur-
  airport.                                         pose. I do this kind of thing by choice.
by all means certainly; yes; absolutely.           No one makes me do it. I didn’t go to
  (Compare this with by any means.) I              this college by choice. It was the closest one
  will attempt to get there by all means.          to home.
  BOB: Can you come to dinner tomorrow?          by coincidence by an accidental and
  JANE: By all means. I’d love to.                 strange similarity; by an unplanned pair
                                                   of similar events or occurrences. We
by all means of something using every pos-
                                                   just happened to be in the same place at the
  sible manner of something to do some-            same time by coincidence.          By coinci-
  thing.   People will be arriving by all          dence, the circus was in town when I was
  means of transportation. The surgeon             there. I’m glad because I love circuses.
  performed the operation by all means of
  instruments.                                   by day and by night during the day; dur-
                                                   ing the night. By day, Mary worked in
by a mile by a great distance. (Also literal.      an office; by night, she took classes. Dave
  An exaggeration in this case.)      You          slept by day and worked by night.
  missed the target by a mile. Your esti-
  mate of the budget deficit was off by a        by dint of something because of something;
  mile.                                            due to the efforts of something. (Dint is
                                                   an old word meaning “force,” and it is
by and by after a period of time has passed.       never used except in this phrase.) They
  (Most often seen in children’s stories.)         got the building finished on time by dint of
  By and by the bears returned home, and           hard work and good organization. By
  can you guess what they found? And by            dint of much studying, John got through
  and by the little boy became a tall and          college.
  handsome prince.                               by fits and starts irregularly; unevenly;
by and large generally; usually. (Originally       with much stopping and starting.
  a nautical expression.) I find that, by          Somehow, they got the job done by fits and
  and large, people tend to do what they are       starts. By fits and starts, the old car fi-
  told to do. By and large, rosebushes need        nally got us to town.
  lots of care.                                  by guess and by golly by luck; with the
                                                   help of God. (Folksy. Golly is a disguise
by any means by any way possible.           I      of God.) They managed to get the shed
  need to get there soon by any means. I           built by guess and by golly.        I lost my
  must win this contest by any means, fair or      ruler and had to install the new f loor tile
  unfair. It cannot be done by any means.          by guess and by golly.
by a show of hands a vote expressed by           by herself 1. with no one else present;
  people raising their hands.        We were       alone. She hates to go to strange places
  asked to vote for the candidates for captain     by herself. She sat by herself at a table
  by a show of hands. Bob wanted us to             big enough for six people. 2. with the help
  vote on paper, not by a show of hands, so        of no one else. She can do it by herself.
  that we could have a secret ballot.                 Susan is unable to get there by herself.
by a whisker Go to by a hair(‘s breadth).        by himself 1. alone; with no one else pre-
                                                   sent. He is home by himself tonight.
by chance accidentally; randomly; without          He hates to eat by himself. It makes him
  planning. I found this book by chance            feel lonely. 2. with the help of no one else.
  at a book sale. We met by chance in a               Can he do it by himself ? The two-
  class in college.                                year-old boy can get dressed by himself.

                                                                                by themselves

by hook or (by) crook by any means, le-          by return mail by a subsequent mailing
  gal or illegal. (Folksy.) I’ll get the job       (back to the sender). (A phrase indicat-
  done by hook or by crook. I must have            ing that an answer is expected soon, by
  that house. I intend to get it by hook or        mail.) Since this bill is overdue, would
  crook.                                           you kindly send us your check by return
                                                   mail? I answered your request by return
by itself with the help of nothing else;           mail over a year ago. Please check your
  without the addition of anything else.           records.
  Will this be enough by itself ? Can the
  dog get out of the house by itself ?           by shank’s mare by foot. (Shank refers to
                                                   the shank of the leg. Folksy. See also go
by leaps and bounds rapidly; by large              (somewhere ) by shank’s mare.) My car is-
  movements forward.        Our garden is          n’t working, so I’ll have to travel by shank’s
  growing by leaps and bounds. The prof-           mare. I’m sore because I’ve been getting
  its of my company are increasing by leaps        around by shank’s mare.
  and bounds.
                                                 by the each; per. (Used to show a unit of
by means of something using something;             measure, but not the rate of a measure.)
  with the use of something. I opened the            Lettuce is sold by the head. Gas is sold
  bottle by means of a bottle opener. I was        by the gallon.
  able to afford a car by means of a loan.
                                                 by the book Go to by the numbers.
by mistake in error; accidentally.     I’m       by the day one day at a time.         I don’t
  sorry. I came into the wrong room by mis-        know when I’ll have to leave town, so I rent
  take. I chose the wrong road by mistake.         this room by the day. Sally is in such dis-
  Now we are lost.                                 tress. She manages to live only by the day.
by myself 1. with no one else present;           by the dozen twelve at a time; in a group
  alone. I sat at the table by myself. I           of twelve. (Almost the same as the fol-
  will not be at the party. I will be at home      lowing entry.) I purchase socks by the
  by myself tonight. 2. without the help of        dozen.     Eggs are usually sold by the
  anyone else. I did it all by myself. Do          dozen. Around here we have problems
  you think I can eat this whole pie by            by the dozen.
  myself ?
                                                 by the dozens many; by some large, in-
by night Go to by day.                             definite number. (Similar to but less than
                                                   hundreds. Almost the same as the previ-
by no means absolutely not; certainly not.
                                                   ous entry.) Just then people began show-
     I’m by no means angry with you.               ing up by the dozens. I baked cakes and
  BOB: Did you put this box here? TOM: By          pies by the dozens.
  no means. I didn’t do it, I’m sure.
                                                 by the handful in measurements equal to
by oneself 1. with no one else present; alone.     a handful; lots. Billy is eating candy by
     Must one sit by oneself or may one join       the handful. People began leaving by the
  another group? One just hates eating by          handful at midnight.
  oneself, doesn’t one? 2. with the help of no
  one else. One is expected to do it by one-     by the hour at each hour; after each hour.
  self. Can one do this by oneself ?                 It kept growing darker by the hour. I
                                                   have to take this medicine by the hour.
by ourselves 1. with no one else present;          The illness is getting worse by the hour.
  alone. Do we have to sit here by our-
                                                 by the month one month at a time.      Not
  selves? Can’t we sit with Mary and Max?
     We like to eat by ourselves, so we can        many apartments are rented by the month.
  talk about private matters. 2. with the             I needed a car for a short while, so I
  help of no one else.      We can do it by        rented one by the month.
  ourselves. Can we lift this by ourselves,      by themselves 1. with help from no one
  or do we need some help?                         else.    Do you think they can do it by

by the nape of the neck

  themselves? Mike and Max cannot lift             vegetables by the sweat of his brow. Sally
  the piano by themselves. 2. with no one          polished the car by the sweat of her brow.
  else present; alone.      They are sitting     by the way incidentally; in addition; while
  there by themselves. Let’s sit with them.        I think of it. By the way, I’m not going
  They enjoy spending the evening at home          to the bank today. Oh, by the way, your
  by themselves.                                   shoes need polishing.
by the nape of the neck by the back of           by the week one week at a time. I plan
  the neck. (Mostly found in real or mock          my schedules by the week. Where can I
  threats.) He grabbed me by the nape of           rent a room by the week?
  the neck and told me not to turn around
  if I valued my life. I stood very still. If    by the year one year at a time.          Most
  you do that again, I’ll pick you up by the       apartments are available by the year.
  nape of the neck and throw you out the           We budget by the year.
  door.                                          by virtue of something because of some-
by the numbers and by the book ac-
                                                   thing; due to something. She’s permit-
  cording to the rules. (Informal.) He al-         ted to vote by virtue of her age. They are
  ways plays the game by the numbers. He           members of the club by virtue of their great
  never cheats. I want all my people to go         wealth.
  by the numbers. This place is totally hon-     by way of something 1. passing through
  est. We always go by the book in matters         something; via something.          He came
  like this.                                       home by way of Toledo. She went to the
                                                   bank by way of the drugstore. 2. in illus-
by the same token in the same way; recip-          tration; as an example. By way of il-
  rocally.    Tom must be good when he             lustration, the professor drew a picture on
  comes here, and, by the same token, I ex-        the board. He read them a passage from
  pect you to behave properly when you go          Shakespeare by way of example.
  to his house.     The mayor votes for his
  friend’s causes. By the same token, the        by word of mouth by speaking rather than
  friend votes for the mayor’s causes.             writing. I learned about it by word of
                                                   mouth. I need it in writing. I don’t trust
by the seat of one’s pants by sheer luck           things I hear about by word of mouth.
  and very little skill. (Informal. Especially
  with to f ly.) I got through school by the     by yourself 1. with no one else present;
  seat of my pants. The jungle pilot spent         alone. Do you want to sit here by your-
  most of his days f lying by the seat of his      self, or can I sit here too? Don’t sit at
  pants.                                           home by yourself. Come to the movie with
                                                   me. 2. with the help of no one else.
by the skin of one’s teeth just barely; by an      Can you really do this by yourself ? Bill,
  amount equal to the thickness of the             can you lift this by yourself ?
  (imaginary) skin on one’s teeth. (Infor-
                                                 by yourselves 1. with no one else present;
  mal or slang.) I got through that class
  by the skin of my teeth. I got to the air-       alone. Are you two going to sit here by
  port late and missed the plane by the skin       yourselves all evening? Don’t sit home
  of my teeth.                                     by yourselves. Come to the party. 2. with
                                                   the help of no one else. Can you do this
by the sweat of one’s brow by one’s efforts;       by yourselves? Can all of you get to the
  by one’s hard work.      Tom raised these        meeting by yourselves?

call a meeting to ask that people assem-
  ble for a meeting; to request that a meet-
                                                 call of nature the need to go to the lava-
                                                   tory. (Humorous.) Stop the car here! I
  ing be held. The mayor called a meet-            have to answer the call of nature. There
  ing to discuss the problem. I’ll be calling      was no break in the agenda to take account
  a meeting of the town council to discuss the     of the call of nature.
  new building project.
                                                 call on someone to visit someone.      I have
call a spade a spade to call something by          to call on my aunt this Sunday.         Bill
  its right name; to speak frankly about           called on his brother in the hospital.
  something, even if it is unpleasant.           call out (to someone ) to shout to someone.
  Well, I believe it’s time to call a spade a         Mike called out to Tom that there was
  spade. We are just avoiding the issue.           a telephone call for him. I heard some-
  Let’s call a spade a spade. The man is a         one call out, but I could see no one.
                                                 call someone down to reprimand a person;
call for someone or something 1. to arrive to      to bawl someone out.   The teacher had
  collect or pick up a person or a thing.          to call Sally down in front of everybody.
  (Used especially when you are to pick               “I wish you wouldn’t call me down in
  someone up and are acting as an escort.)         public,” cried Sally.
     I will call for you about eight this eve-
  ning. The messenger will call for your         call someone names to call a person un-
  reply in the morning. 2. to need, require,       pleasant or insulting names. (Usually
  or demand something or the services of           viewed as a juvenile act.) Mommy! John
  someone. The recipe calls for two cups           is calling me names again! We’ll never
  of f lour. This job calls for someone with       get anywhere by calling one another
  good eyesight.                                   names.
                                                 call someone on the carpet to reprimand a
call it a day to quit work and go home; to         person. (The phrase presents images of
  say that a day’s work has been completed.        a person called into the boss’s carpeted
     I’m tired. Let’s call it a day. The boss      office for a reprimand.) One more error
  was mad because Tom called it a day at           like that and the boss will call you on the
  noon and went home.                              carpet. I’m sorry it went wrong. I really
call it a night to end what one is doing at        hope he doesn’t call me on the carpet again.
  night and go [home] to bed. At mid-            call someone or something in to call on the spe-
  night, I called it a night and went to bed.      cial talents, abilities, or power of some-
     Guest after guest called it a night, and      one or something. They had to call a
  at last we were alone.                           new doctor in. T Yes, they had to call in a
                                                   specialist. T They had to call in a huge
call it quits to quit; to resign from some-
                                                   tractor to move the boulder.
  thing; to announce that one is quitting.
  (Informal.) Okay! I’ve had enough! I’m         call someone or something into question to
  calling it quits. Time to go home, John.         cause someone or something to be eval-
  Let’s call it quits.                             uated; to examine or reexamine the

call someone or something off

  qualifications or value of someone or            call (the) roll and take (the) roll to call
  something. Because of her poor record,             the names of people on the rolls, expect-
  we were forced to call Dr. Jones into ques-        ing them to reply if they are present.
  tion. We called Dr. Jones’s qualifications         After I call the roll, please open your books
  into question.     They called the whole           to page 12. I will take roll, and then we
  project into question. T I cannot call into        will do arithmetic.
  question the entire medical profession.
                                                   call the shots and call the tune to make
call someone or something off 1. to call a halt      the decisions; to decide what is to be
  to an attack by someone or something.              done. (Informal.) Sally always wants to
  Please call your dog off. It’s trying to bite      call the shots, and Mary doesn’t like to be
  me! T Okay, you can call off the police. I         bossed around. They don’t get along well.
  surrender. T It’s time to call off the man-           Sally always wants to call the tune.
  hunt. The criminal has given himself up.           Look here, friend, I’m calling the shots. You
  2. [with something] to cancel an event.            just be quiet.
  It’s too late to call the party off. The first   call the tune Go to call the shots.
  guests have already arrived. T Because of
  rain, they called off the baseball game.         calm as a toad in the sun Go to (as) calm
                                                     as a toad in the sun.
call someone or something up 1. to call a per-     the calm before the storm Go to the lull
  son, business, or office on the telephone.         before the storm.
     Mary called the company up and or-
  dered a new supply of medicine. T Tom            can take it to the bank able to depend on
  called up Mary. 2. [with something] to             the truthfulness of my statement: it is not
  summon information from a computer.                counterfeit or bogus; to be able to bank
  T John used a computer to call up the in-          on something.     Believe me. What I am
  formation. T With a few strokes on the             telling you is the truth. You can take it to
  computer keyboard, Sally called up the fig-        the bank. This information is as good as
  ures she was looking for.                          gold. You can take it to the bank.
                                                   Can you imagine? Can you believe that?;
call someone’s bluff to demonstrate that a           Imagine that!     She wore jeans to the
  person is or is not being deceptive, usu-          dance. Can you imagine? Billy was eat-
  ally by demanding that the person prove            ing the houseplant! Can you imagine?
  a claim or carry out a threat. All right,
  I’ll call your bluff. Show me you can do it!     cancel something out to destroy the effect of
      Tom said, “I’ve got a gun here in my           something; to balance something. T This
  pocket, and I’ll shoot if you come any             last payment cancels out my debt. Yes,
  closer!” “Go ahead,” said Bill, calling his        your last payment cancels it out. T Bob’s
  bluff.                                             two good grades canceled out his two fail-
                                                     ing grades.
call the dogs off to stop threatening, chas-       cannot help doing something not able to re-
  ing, or hounding (a person). (Also literal.        frain from doing something; not able not
  Informal. Note the variation in the ex-            to do something. Anne is such a good
  amples.) All right, I surrender. You can           cook, I can’t help eating everything she
  call your dogs off. T Tell the sheriff to call     makes. Since John loves to shop, he can’t
  off the dogs. We caught the robber. T              help spending money.
  Please call off your dogs!
                                                   cannot stomach someone or something Go to
call the meeting to order to start a meet-           not able to stomach someone or something .
  ing officially; to announce that the meet-
                                                   [can’t] Go to the expressions listed at not
  ing has started. The president called the
                                                     able, as well as those listed below.
  meeting to order shortly after noon. We
  cannot do anything until someone calls the       can’t carry a tune [to be] unable to sing
  meeting to order.                                  a simple melody; lacking musical ability.

                                                                                  carried away

  (Almost always negative. Also with can-              Mr. Jones can’t stand the sight of blood.
  not.) I wish that Tom wouldn’t try to                None of us can stand this place. No-
  sing. He can’t carry a tune.  Listen to           body can stand Tom when he smokes a
  poor old John. He really cannot carry a           cigar.    I can’t stomach your foul lan-
  tune.                                             guage. I just can’t stomach Mr. Smith.
can’t do anything with someone or something       can’t stomach someone or something Go to
  not [to be] able to manage or control             can’t stand (the sight of) someone or some-
  someone or something. (Also with can-             thing .
  not.) Bill is such a problem. I can’t do
  anything with him. My hair is such a            can’t wait (for something to happen) [to be
  mess. I just can’t do anything with it.           very eager and] to be unable to endure
                                                    the wait for something to happen. I am
can’t help but do something [to be] unable          so anxious for my birthday to come. I just
  to choose any but one course of action.           can’t wait. Tom can’t wait for Mary to
  (Also with cannot.)      Her parents live         arrive.
  nearby, so she can’t help but go there on
  holidays. Bob is a tennis fan and can’t         can’t wait (to do something ) [to be very ea-
  help but travel to Wimbledon each year.           ger and] unable to endure the wait until
                                                    it is possible to do something. I’m glad
can’t hold a candle to someone not [to be]          it’s almost summertime—I just can’t wait
  equal to someone; unable to measure up            to go swimming! Jimmy can’t wait to go
  to someone. (Also with cannot.) Mary              to school tomorrow.
  can’t hold a candle to Ann when it comes
  to auto racing. As for singing, John can’t      cap and gown the academic cap or mor-
  hold a candle to Jane.                            tarboard and the robe worn in academic
                                                    ceremonies. We all had to rent cap and
can’t make heads or tails (out) of some-            gown for graduation. I appeared wear-
  one or something [to be] unable to under-         ing my cap and gown, but I had shorts on
  stand someone or something. (Also with            underneath because it gets so hot at that
  cannot.) John is so strange. I can’t make         time of year.
  heads or tails of him.     Do this report
  again. I can’t make heads or tails out of it.   capable of doing something having the abil-
                                                    ity to do something. Do you think Tom
can’t see beyond the end of one’s nose              is capable of lifting 200 pounds? No one
  [to be] unaware of the things that might          I know is capable of such a crime!
  happen in the future; not farsighted; self-
  centered. (Also with cannot.) John is           a card an entertaining and clever person
  a very poor planner. He can’t see beyond          who says or does funny things. (Preceded
  the end of his nose. Ann can’t see beyond         by be, become, seem like, or act like.) He
  the end of her nose. She is very self-            is such a card. Always making jokes.
  centered.                                         Mary is a card, and someone is going to
                                                    have to deal with her!
can’t see one’s hand in front of one’s face
  [to be] unable to see very far, usually due     the cards are stacked against one luck is
  to darkness or fog. (Also with cannot.)           against one. (Informal. Refers to playing
  It was so dark that I couldn’t see my hand        cards. See also have the cards stacked
  in front of my face. Bob said that the fog        against one ; stack the cards (against some-
  was so thick he couldn’t see his hand in          one or something ).) I have the worst luck.
  front of his face.                                The cards are stacked against me all the
                                                    time. How can I accomplish anything
can’t stand (the sight of ) someone or some-
                                                    when the cards are stacked against me?
  thing and can’t stomach someone or some-
  thing [to be] unable to tolerate someone        carried away excited or moved to (ex-
  or something; disliking someone or                treme) action (by someone or some-
  something extremely. (Also with cannot.)          thing). The crowd got carried away and
    I can’t stand the sight of cooked carrots.      did a lot of damage to the park. I know

carry (a lot of) weight (with someone or something)

  that planning a party is fun, but don’t get      haven’t been carrying your weight.        If
  carried away.                                    you would just pull your weight, we would
carry (a lot of ) weight (with someone or          finish this by noon.
  something ) to be very influential with        carry on somehow to manage to continue
  someone or some group of people.                 somehow, in spite of problems. Even
  Your argument does not carry a lot of            though we did not have a lot of money, we
  weight with me. The senator’s testimony          managed to carry on somehow. Don’t
  carried a lot of weight with the council.        worry about us. We will carry on somehow.
  Her opinion carries weight with most of        carry on without someone or something to
  the members.                                     manage to continue without someone or
carry a secret to one’s grave Go to carry          something. I don’t know how we will be
  a secret to the grave.                           able to carry on without you. We can’t
carry a secret to the grave and carry a            carry on without a leader!
  secret to one’s grave to avoid telling a se-   carry on (with someone or something) 1. [with
  cret, even to the day of one’s death.            something] to continue with something.
  John carried our secret to his grave.               Can I please carry on with my work
  Trust me, I will carry your secret to the        now?       Yes, please carry on. 2. [with
  grave!                                           someone] to behave improperly with
carry a torch (for someone ) to be in love         someone; to be affectionate in public.
  with someone who is not in love with             Look at Jane carrying on with Tom. They
  you; to brood over a hopeless love affair.       ought to be ashamed. Jane, stop carry-
  (Also with the.) John is carrying a torch        ing on like that!
  for Jane. Is John still carrying a torch?      carry over to extend into another time pe-
     Yes, he’ll carry the torch for months.        riod or location. I don’t like for bills to
carry coals to Newcastle to do something           carry over into the next month. Please
  unnecessary; to do something that is re-         do not let the paragraph carry over.
  dundant or duplicative. (Newcastle is an       carry something off to make a planned
  English town from which coal was                 event—especially a joke or deception—
  shipped to other parts of England.)              work out successfully. (Also literal,
  Taking food to a farmer is like carrying         meaning to take something away. See also
  coals to Newcastle. Mr. Smith is so rich         pull something off.)    It was a huge party,
  he doesn’t need any more money. To give          but the hostess carried it off beautifully.
  him money is like carrying coals to              T The magician carried off the trick with
  Newcastle.                                       great skill.
carry on (about someone or something ) to        carry something out to perform a task; to
  make a great fuss over someone or some-          perform an assignment. (Also literal
  thing; to cry and become out of control          meaning to remove something.) “This
  about someone or something. (Note the            is a very important job,” said Jane. “Do
  variation in the examples below.) Billy,         you think you can carry it out?” T The stu-
  stop carrying on about your tummy ache           dents didn’t carry out their assignments.
  like that. Billy, you must stop carrying       carry something over to let something like a
  on so.     The child carried on endlessly        bill extend into another period of time;
  about his mother.                                to extend to another location.         We’ll
carry one’s cross Go to bear one’s cross.          carry the amount of money due over into
carry one’s (own) weight and pull one’s            the next month. T Yes, please carry over
  (own) weight to do one’s share; to earn          the balance.      We’ll have to carry this
  one’s keep.     Tom, you must be more            paragraph over to the next page.
  helpful around the house. We all have to       carry the ball 1. to be the player holding
  carry our own weight. Bill, I’m afraid           the ball, especially in football when a goal
  that you can’t work here anymore. You just       is made. (Sports.) It was the fullback

                                                               cast aspersions on someone

  carrying the ball. Yes, Tom always car-          chair cash-and-carry before I realized that
  ries the ball. 2. to be in charge; to make       there was no way to get it home.
  sure that a job gets done. (See also drop      cash in one’s chips to die. (Also literal.
  the ball.)    We need someone who knows          Slang. From an expression used in gam-
  how to get the job done. Hey, Sally! Why         bling, chiefly poker.) Bob cashed in his
  don’t you carry the ball for us?      John       chips yesterday. I’m too young to cash in
  can’t carry the ball. He isn’t organized         my chips.
                                                 cash in (on something ) to earn a lot of
carry the day and win the day to be suc-           money at something; to make a profit at
  cessful; to win a competition, argument,         something. (See also cash something in.)
  etc. (Originally meaning to win a battle.)       This is a good year for farming, and you
     Our team didn’t play well at first, but       can cash in on it if you’re smart. It’s too
  we won the day in the end. Hard work             late to cash in on that particular clothing
  won the day and James passed his exams.          fad.
carry the torch 1. to uphold a set of goals;     cash on the barrelhead money paid for
  to lead or participate in a (figurative)         something when it is purchased; money
  crusade. The battle was over, but John           paid at the time of sale. (Folksy. See also
  continued to carry the torch.     If Jane        cash-and-carry.)     I don’t extend credit.
  hadn’t carried the torch, no one would           It’s cash on the barrelhead only. I paid
  have followed, and the whole thing would         $12,000 for this car—cash on the
  have failed. 2. Go to carry a torch (for         barrelhead.
  someone ).                                     cash or credit [a purchase made] either by
carry the weight of the world on one’s             paying cash or by putting the charges on
  shoulders to appear to be burdened by            a credit account. When Fred had all his
  all the problems in the whole world.             purchases assembled on the counter, the
  Look at Tom. He appears to be carrying the       clerk asked, “Cash or credit?” That store
  weight of the world on his shoulders.            does not give you a choice of cash or credit.
  Cheer up, Tom! You don’t need to carry the       They want cash only.
  weight of the world on your shoulders.         cash something in to exchange something
carry through (on something ) Go to follow         with cash value for the amount of money
  through (on something ).                         it is worth.    I should have cashed my
                                                   bonds in years ago. T It’s time to cash in
a case in point an example of what one is          your U.S. savings bonds. T I need to cash
  talking about. Now, as a case in point,          in an insurance policy.
  let’s look at nineteenth-century England.      cast about for someone or something Go to
     Fireworks can be dangerous. For a case        cast around for someone or something .
  in point, look what happened to Bob Smith
  last week.                                     cast around for someone or something and
                                                   cast about for someone or something to
a case of mistaken identity the incorrect          seek someone or something; to seek a
   identification of someone. It is simply         thought or an idea. (Refers to a type of
   a case of mistaken identity. I am not the       person rather than a specific person.)
   criminal you want to arrest. This is a case     John is casting around for a new cook. The
   of mistaken identity.                           old one quit. Bob is casting about for a
cash-and-carry a method of buying and              new car. Mary cast about for a way to
  selling goods at the retail level where the      win the contest.
  buyer pays cash for the goods and carries      cast aspersions on someone to make a rude
  the goods away. (As opposed to paying            and insulting remark.       I resent your
  on credit or having something delivered.)        casting aspersions on my brother and his
     Sorry, we don’t accept credit cards. This     ability! It is rude to cast aspersions on
  is strictly cash-and-carry. I bought the         people in general.

cast doubt(s) (on someone or something)

cast doubt(s) (on someone or something ) to           dow, or we’ll all catch cold.    I take cold
  cause someone or something to be                    every year at this time.
  doubted. The police cast doubt on my
  story. How can they cast doubt? They              catch fire to begin to burn; to ignite.    If
  haven’t looked into it yet. The city coun-          the wood were not so wet, it would catch
  cil cast doubt on John and his plan.                fire more easily.       The curtains blew
  They are always casting doubts.                     against the f lame of the candle and caught
cast in the same mold very similar.     The
  two sisters are cast in the same mold—            catch forty winks and catch some Zs;
  equally mean. All the members of the                take forty winks to take a nap; to get
  family are cast in the same mold and they           some sleep. (Informal. See also forty
  all end up in prison.                               winks.) I’ll just catch forty winks before
                                                      getting ready for the party. Tom always
cast one’s lot in with someone to join in with        tries to catch some Zs before going out for
  someone and accept whatever happens.                a late evening. I think I’ll go to bed and
     Mary cast her lot with the group going           take forty winks. See you in the morning.
  to Spain. They had a wonderful time. T I               Why don’t you go take forty winks and
  decided to cast in my lot with the home             call me in about an hour?
  team this year.
                                                    catch hell Go to get the devil.
cast (one’s ) pearls before swine to waste
  something good on someone who does-               catch it to get into trouble and receive pun-
  n’t care about it. (From a biblical quota-          ishment. (Informal. See also get the
  tion.) To sing for them is to cast pearls           devil.)   I know I’m going to catch it when
  before swine. To serve them French cui-             I get home. Bob hit Billy in the face. He
  sine is like casting one’s pearls before swine.     really caught it from the teacher.
cast one’s vote to vote; to place one’s bal-        catch one off one’s guard Go to catch some-
  lot in the ballot box. The citizens cast            one off guard.
  their votes for president. The wait in line       catch one’s breath to resume one’s normal
  to cast one’s vote was almost an hour.              breathing after exertion; to return to nor-
cast the first stone to make the first crit-          mal after being busy or very active. I
  icism; to be the first to attack. (From a           don’t have time to catch my breath. I ran
  biblical quotation.) Well, I don’t want             so fast that it took ten minutes to catch my
  to be the one to cast the first stone, but she      breath.
  sang horribly. John always casts the first        catch one’s death (of cold) and take one’s
  stone. Does he think he’s perfect?                  death of cold to contract a cold; to catch
Cat got your tongue? Why do you not                   a serious cold. (See also catch cold.) If
  speak?; Speak up and answer my ques-                I go out in this weather, I’ll catch my death
  tion! (Folksy.) Answer me! What’s the               of cold. Dress up warm or you’ll take
  matter, cat got your tongue? Why don’t              your death of cold. Put on your rain-
  you speak up? Cat got your tongue?                  coat or you’ll catch your death.
catch-as-catch-can the best one can do              catch one with one’s pants down to catch
  with whatever is available.      We went            someone doing something, especially
  hitchhiking for a week and lived catch-as-          something that ought to be done in se-
  catch-can. There were ten children in               cret or in private. (Informal. Use with
  our family, and every meal was catch-as-            caution. This refers to having one’s pants
  catch-can.                                          down in the bathroom.) John couldn’t
                                                      convince them he was innocent. They
catch a whiff of something Go to get a whiff
                                                      caught him with his pants down. Did
  of something.
                                                      you hear that John took the camera? The
catch cold and take cold to contract a                store owner caught him with his pants
  cold (the disease).     Please close the win-       down.

                                                                            caught unaware(s)

catch (on) fire to ignite and burn with               (Also with have, as in the example.)
  flames. Keep your coat away from the                Tom got Mary’s eye and waved to her.
  f lames, or it will catch fire. Lightning           When Tom had her eye, he smiled at her.
  struck the prairie, and the grass caught on         2. to appear and attract someone’s inter-
  fire.                                               est. A small red car passing by caught
catch on (to someone or something ) to figure         my eye. One of the books on the top shelf
  someone or something out; to solve a                caught my eye, and I took it down to look
  puzzle; to see through an act of decep-             at it.
  tion.     Mary caught on to Bob and his           catch some Zs Go to catch forty winks.
  tricks. Ann caught on to the woman’s
                                                    catch the devil Go to get the devil.
  dishonest plan.       The woman thought
  that Ann wouldn’t catch on.                       catch up (to someone or something ) and
                                                      catch up (with someone or something ) to
catch sight of someone or something to see
                                                      move faster in order to reach someone
  someone or something briefly; to get a
                                                      or something ahead, moving in the same
  glimpse of someone or something. I
                                                      direction. The red car caught up with
  caught sight of the rocket just before it f lew
                                                      the blue one. Bill caught up with Ann,
  out of sight. Ann caught sight of the rob-
                                                      and they walked to the bank together.
  ber as he ran out of the bank.
                                                      He had to run to catch up to her.
catch someone in the act (of doing something )
                                                    catch up (with someone or something ) Go to
  to catch a person doing something illegal
                                                      catch up (to someone or something ).
  or private. (See also in the act (of doing
  something ).) They know who set the fire.         caught in the act seen doing something il-
  They caught someone in the act.          I          legal or private. Tom was caught in the
  caught Tom in the act of stealing a car.            act. She’s guilty. She was caught in the
catch someone napping to find someone
  unprepared. (Informal. Literally, to dis-         caught in the cross fire Go to caught in
  cover someone “asleep.”) The enemy                  the middle.
  soldiers caught our army napping. The             caught in the middle and caught in the
  thieves caught the security guard napping.          cross fire caught between two arguing
catch someone off balance to catch a per-             people or groups, making it difficult to
  son who is not prepared; to surprise                remain neutral. (Both are also literal.)
  someone. Sorry I acted so flustered. You            The cook and the dishwasher were having
  caught me off balance.       The robbers            an argument, and Tom got caught in the
  caught Ann off balance and stole her purse.         middle. All he wanted was his dinner.
catch someone off guard and catch one off
                                                      Mr. and Mrs. Smith tried to draw me into
  one’s guard to catch a person at a time of
                                                      their argument. I don’t like being caught
  carelessness. (Compare this with catch              in the middle. Bill and Ann were argu-
  someone off-balance.)    Tom caught Ann             ing, and poor Bobby, their son, was caught
  off guard and frightened her. She caught            in the cross fire.
  me off my guard, and I told the location          caught red-handed caught in the act of
  of the jewels.                                      doing something wrong.   Tom was
catch someone red-handed to catch a per-
                                                      caught red-handed. Many car thieves
  son in the act of doing something wrong.            are caught red-handed.
  (See also caught red-handed.) Tom was             caught short to be without something you
  stealing the car when the police drove by           need, especially money. I needed eggs
  and caught him red-handed. Mary tried               for my cake, but I was caught short. Bob
  to cash a forged check at the bank, and the         had to borrow money from John to pay for
  teller caught her red-handed.                       the meal. Bob is caught short quite often.
catch someone’s eye and get someone’s eye           caught unaware(s) surprised and unpre-
  1. to establish eye contact with someone.           pared.   Sorry. You startled me when you

cause a commotion

  came up behind me. I was caught un-              kids were champing at the bit to get into
  aware. The clerk was caught unawares,            the swimming pool.        The dogs were
  and the robber emptied out the cash reg-         champing at the bit to begin the hunt.
  ister before the clerk could sound the         chance something to risk doing something;
  alarm.                                           to try doing something. I don’t usually
cause a commotion Go to cause a stir.              ride horses, but this time I will chance it.
cause a stir and cause a commotion to                  Bob didn’t have reservations, but he
  cause people to become agitated; to cause        went to the airport anyway, chancing a
  trouble in a group of people; to shock or        cancellation.
  alarm people. (Notice the example with         chance (up)on someone or something to find
  quite.) When Bob appeared without his            someone or something by chance.            I
  evening jacket, it caused a stir in the din-     just happened to chance upon this excel-
  ing room.      The dog ran through the           lent restaurant down by the river. The food
  church and caused quite a commotion.             is superb.    We were exploring a small
cause (some) eyebrows to raise to shock            Kentucky town when we chanced on an old
  people; to surprise and dismay people.           man who turned out to be my great-uncle.
  (See also raise some eyebrows.) John           change hands [for something] to be sold
  caused eyebrows to raise when he married         or passed from owner to owner. How
  a poor girl from Toledo. If you want to          many times has this house changed hands
  cause some eyebrows to raise, just start         in the last ten years? We built this house
  singing as you walk down the street.             in 1920, and it has never changed hands.
cause (some) tongues to wag to cause             change horses in the middle of the
  people to gossip; to give people some-           stream to make major changes in an ac-
  thing to gossip about.      The way John         tivity that has already begun; to choose
  was looking at Mary will surely cause some       someone or something else after it is too
  tongues to wag.       The way Mary was           late. I’m already baking a cherry pie. I
  dressed will also cause tongues to wag.          can’t bake an apple pie. It’s too late to
cave in (to someone or something ) [for some-      change horses in the middle of the stream.
  one] to yield and give in to someone else           The house is half-built. It’s too late to
  or to something. (Also literal in reference      hire a different architect. You can’t change
  to the collapse of caves, tunnels, ceilings,     horses in the middle of the stream.
  etc.)     Mr. Franklin always caves in to      a change of pace an addition of some va-
  Mrs. Franklin. It’s easier to cave in than       riety in one’s life. Going to the beach on
  to go on fighting. Tom caved in to the           the weekend will be a change of pace.
  pressure of work.                                The doctor says I need a change of pace.
cease and desist to stop doing something         a change of scenery a move to a differ-
  and stay stopped. (A legal phrase.) The          ent place, where the scenery is different
  judge ordered the merchant to cease and          or where things in general are different.
  desist the deceptive practices. When they           I thought I would go to the country for
  were ordered to cease and desist, they fi-       a change of scenery. A change of scenery
  nally stopped.                                   would help me relax and organize my life.
chalk something up to something to recognize     change someone’s mind to cause a person to
  something as the cause of something else.        think differently (about someone or
     We chalked her bad behavior up to her         something).      Tom thought Mary was
  recent illness. T I had to chalk up the loss     unkind, but an evening out with her
  to experience. T I chalked up my defeat          changed his mind.         I can change my
  to my impatience.                                mind if I want to. I don’t have to stick with
champ at the bit and chomp at the bit              an idea.
  to be ready and anxious to do something.       change someone’s tune to change the man-
  (Originally said about horses.)     The          ner of a person, usually from bad to

                                                                           chew someone out

  good, or from rude to pleasant. The             check in (on someone or something ) Go to
  teller was most unpleasant until she              look in (on someone or something ).
  learned that I’m a bank director. Then she      check into something Go to look into some-
  changed her tune. “I will help change             thing .
  your tune by fining you $150,” said the
  judge to the rude defendant.                    check out to be verified or authenticated.
                                                       I spent all afternoon working with my
change the subject to begin talking about           checkbook, trying to get the figures to check
  something different. They changed the             out. The police wouldn’t believe that I
  subject suddenly when the person whom             am who I say I am until they made a few
  they had been discussing entered the room.        telephone calls to see if my story checked
     We’ll change the subject if we are em-         out.
  barrassing you.
                                                  checks and balances a system where
chapter and verse detailed, in reference to         power is kept in control and balance
  sources of information. (A reference to           among the various branches of govern-
  the method of referring to biblical text.)        ment.      The newspaper editor claimed
     He gave chapter and verse for his rea-         that the system of checks and balances
  sons for disputing that Shakespeare had           built into our Constitution has been sub-
  written the play. The suspect gave chap-          verted by party politics. We depend on
  ter and verse of his associate’s activities.      checks and balances in government to keep
charge someone or something up 1. [with             despots from seizing control of the
  someone] to get someone excited and en-           government.
  thusiastic. T The speaker charged up the        cheek by jowl side by side; close together.
  crowd to go out and raise money. Mrs.                The pedestrians had to walk cheek by
  Smith tried to charge her husband up              jowl along the narrow streets. The two
  about getting a job. 2. [with something]          families lived cheek by jowl in one house.
  to restore a charge to an electrical stor-
  age battery. (Also without up.) T They          cheer someone on to give words or shouts of
  charged up the battery overnight. My              encouragement to someone who is trying
  car charges the battery whenever the en-          to do something. John was leading in
  gine runs.                                        the race, and the whole crowd was cheer-
                                                    ing him on. Sally was doing so well in
charged up 1. [of someone] excited; en-             her performance that I wanted to cheer her
  thusiastic The crowd was really charged           on.
  up. Tom is so tired that he cannot get
  charged up about anything. 2. [of some-         cheer someone up to make a sad person
  thing] full of electrical power. (Also            happy. When Bill was sick, Ann tried
  without up.) The battery is completely            to cheer him up by reading to him. T In-
  charged up. If the battery isn’t charged,         terest rates went up, and that cheered up
  the car won’t start.                              all the bankers.

charm the pants off (of ) someone to use          cheer up to become more happy.      Things
  charming behavior to persuade someone             are bad for you now, but you’ll cheer up
  to do something. (Use with caution.)              when they get better. Cheer up, Tom!
  She is so nice. She just charms the pants off     Things can’t be that bad.
  of you. He will try to charm the pants          cheesed off bored; depressed; annoyed.
  off you, but you can still refuse to take the     He was cheesed off with his job. She was
  job if you don’t want to do it.                   cheesed off when she missed the bus.
cheat on someone to commit adultery; to be        chew someone out and eat someone out to
  unfaithful to one’s lover.   “Have you            scold someone; to bawl someone out
  been cheating on me?” cried Mrs. Frank-           thoroughly. (Informal. Used much in the
  lin.    “No, I haven’t been cheating on           military.) The sergeant chewed the cor-
  you,” said Mr. Franklin.                          poral out; then the corporal chewed the

chew the fat

  private out. T The boss is always chewing        in his armor. Jane’s insecurity is a chink
  out somebody. T The coach ate out the en-        in her armor.
  tire football team because of their poor
                                                 chip in (on something) and chip in something
                                                   on something ; chip something in (on some-
chew the fat and chew the rag to have              thing ) to contribute a small amount of
  a chat with someone; to talk very infor-         money to a fund that will be used to buy
  mally with one’s close friends. (Infor-          something. Would you care to chip in
  mal.) Hi, old buddy! Come in and let’s           on a gift for the teacher?    Yes, I’d be
  chew the fat.    They usually just sat           happy to chip in. Could you chip in a
  around and chewed the rag. They never            dollar on the gift, please?
  did get much done.
                                                 chip in something on something Go to chip in
chew the rag Go to chew the fat.                   (on something ).
chicken out (of something ) to withdraw          a chip off the old block a person (usu-
  from something due to fear or cowardice.         ally a male) who behaves in the same way
  (Informal.) Jane was going to go para-           as his father or resembles his father.
  chuting with us, but she chickened out at        (Usually informal.) John looks like his
  the last minute. I’d never chicken out of        father—a real chip off the old block. Bill
  parachute jumping, because I’d never agree       Jones, Jr., is a chip off the old block. He’s
  to do it in the first place!                     a banker just like his father.
The chickens have come home to roost.            chip something in (on something ) Go to chip
  All the problems have returned to the            in (on something ).
  person who caused them and that person
                                                 chips and dip potato chips, or some other
  must now solve them or take the blame.
                                                   kind of crisply fried substance, and a
  (Literal for chickens whose home is a
                                                   sauce or dressing to dip them into before
  chicken house. See also come home (to
                                                   eating them. There were tons of chips
  roost).)    You took on too much credit
                                                   and dip and all kinds of cold pop avail-
  card debt and now you are broke. The
                                                   able for everyone.
  chickens have finally come home to roost.
     Your car broke down because you never       chisel someone out of something to cheat
  changed the oil. The chickens have come          someone to get money or belongings.
  home to roost.                                   The company tried to chisel the govern-
                                                   ment out of taxes it owed. Bill chiseled
child’s play something very easy to do.
                                                   his little sister out of her allowance.
  The test was child’s play to her. Find-
  ing the right street was child’s play with a   choke someone up to make a person become
  map.                                             overemotional and speechless; to make a
                                                   person begin to cry. (Informal.) The
chilled to the bone very cold.          I was
                                                   sight of all those smiling people choked Bob
  chilled to the bone in that snowstorm.
                                                   up, and he couldn’t go on speaking. T The
  The children were chilled to the bone in the
                                                   funeral procession choked up the whole
  unheated room.
chime in (with something) to add one’s voice
                                                 choke something off to stifle something; to
  to something; to add something to the            force something to an end. The car ran
  discussion, usually by interrupting.
                                                   over the hose and choked the water off. T
  Billy chimed in by reminding us to come to       The president choked off the debate.
  dinner. Everyone chimed in on the fi-
  nal chorus of the song.                        chomp at the bit Go to champ at the bit.
chink in one’s armor a special weakness          choose up sides to form into two oppos-
  that provides a means for attacking or           ing teams by having a leader or captain
  impressing someone otherwise invulner-           take turns choosing players.        Let’s
  able. His love for his child is the chink        choose up sides and play baseball. When

                                                                                clear the table

  I choose up sides, all the best players don’t   clear of something without touching some-
  end up on the same team.                          thing; away from something.         Please
claim a life [for something] to take the life       stand clear of the doors while the train is
  of someone. The killer tornado claimed            moving. Make sure the dog moves clear
  the lives of six people at the trailer park.      of the driveway before backing the car up.
     The athlete’s life was claimed in a ski-     clear out to get out (of a place); to leave.
  ing accident.                                        All right, you people, clear out of here
clam up to shut up; to refuse to talk; to           now. I knew right then that it was time
  close one’s mouth (as tightly as a clam           to clear out.
  closes its shell). (Slang.) You talk too        clear sailing progress made without any
  much, John. Clam up! When they tried              difficulty; an easy situation.      Once
  to question her, she clammed up.                  you’ve passed that exam, it will be clear
clamp down (on someone or something) to be-         sailing. Working there was not all clear
  come strict with someone; to become               sailing. The boss had a very bad temper.
  strict about something. (Also literal.)
  Because Bob’s grades were getting worse,        clear someone’s name to prove that some-
  his parents clamped down on him. The              one is not guilty of a crime or misdeed.
  police have clamped down on speeders in             I was accused of theft, but I cleared my
  this town. Things have already gone too           name.      The student was accused of
  far. It’s too late to clamp down.                 cheating, but her name was cleared.
clap eyes on someone or something to see          clear something up 1. to explain something;
  someone or something, perhaps for the             to solve a mystery. I think that we can
  first time; to set eyes on someone or             clear this matter up without calling in the
  something. (Informal.)        I wish she had      police. T First we have to clear up the
  never clapped eyes on her fiancé.           I     problem of the missing jewels. 2. to cure
  haven’t clapped eyes on a red squirrel for        a disease or a medical condition. (Espe-
  years.                                            cially facial pimples.) There is no med-
                                                    icine that will clear pimples up. T The doc-
clean as a hound’s tooth Go to (as) clean           tor will give you something to clear up your
  as a hound’s tooth.
clean as a whistle Go to (as) clean as a
  whistle.                                        clear the air to get rid of doubts or hard
                                                    feelings. (Also literal. Sometimes this is
clean out (of something ) Go to fresh out (of       said about an argument or other un-
  something ).                                      pleasantness.) All right, let’s discuss this
clean up to make a great profit. (Also lit-         frankly. It’ll be better if we clear the air.
  eral. Informal.) John won at the races               Mr. and Mrs. Brown always seem to
  and really cleaned up. Ann cleaned up             have to clear the air with a big argument
  by taking a job selling encyclopedias.            before they can be sociable.
clean up one’s act to reform one’s conduct;       clear the decks get out of the way; get out
  to improve one’s performance. (Informal.          of this area. (From a naval expression,
  Originally referred to polishing one’s            “Clear the decks for action!” urging sea-
  stage performance.) T Since Sally cleaned         man to prepare for battle or other ac-
  her act up, she has become very productive.       tion.) Clear the decks! Here comes the
     If you don’t clean up your act, you’ll be      teacher. Clear the decks and take your
  sent home.                                        seats.
clear as a bell Go to (as) clear as a bell.       clear the table to remove the dishes and
clear as crystal Go to (as) clear as crystal.       other eating utensils from the table after
                                                    a meal. (The opposite of set the table.)
clear as mud Go to (as) clear as mud.               Will you please help clear the table? Af-
clear as vodka Go to (as) clear as vodka.           ter you clear the table, we’ll play cards.

clear up

clear up 1. [for a problem] to become               thing.    My problems are closing in on
  solved. This matter won’t clear up by it-         me. The wolves closed in on the elk.
  self.    The confusion cleared up very            They howled as they closed in.
  quickly when I explained. 2. [for a dis-        close one’s eyes to something to ignore
  ease] to cure itself or run its course. I         something; to pretend that something is
  told you your pimples would clear up with-        not really happening.      You can’t close
  out special medicine. My rash cleared up          your eyes to hunger in the world. I just
  in a week.                                        closed my eyes to the problem and pre-
climb on the bandwagon to join others in            tended that it wasn’t there.
   supporting someone or something. (See          close ranks to move closer together in a
   also get on the bandwagon, jump on the           military formation. (See also close ranks
   bandwagon.)       Come join us! Climb on         (behind someone or something ); close ranks
   the bandwagon and support Senator                (with someone ).)    The soldiers closed
   Smith! Look at all those people climb-           ranks and marched on the enemy. All
   ing on the bandwagon! They don’t know            right! Stop that talking and close ranks.
   what they are getting into!
                                                  close ranks (behind someone or something )
climb the wall(s) to do something des-
                                                    to support someone or something; to
   perate when one is extremely anxious,            back someone or something. We will
   bored, or excited. (Informal or slang.)          close ranks behind the candidate. She
   I’m so upset I could climb the wall. The         needs our help. Let’s close ranks behind her
   meeting was so long and the speaker so           and give her the support she needs.
   boring that most of the audience wanted
   to climb the wall.                             close ranks (with someone ) to join with
                                                    someone. We can fight this menace only
clip someone’s wings to restrain someone;           if we close ranks.      Let’s all close ranks
  to reduce or put an end to a teenager’s           with Ann and adopt her suggestions.
  privileges. (Informal.) You had better
  learn to get home on time, or I will clip       close something down and shut something
  your wings.       My mother clipped my            down to make something stop operating;
  wings. I can’t go out tonight.                    to put something out of business. The
                                                    police closed the factory down. T The
cloak-and-dagger involving secrecy and              manager shut down the factory for the hol-
  plotting. A great deal of cloak-and-dag-          idays. T The city council closed down the
  ger stuff goes on in political circles. A lot     amusement park.
  of cloak-and-dagger activity was involved
  in the appointment of the director.             close the books (on someone or something )
                                                    to put an end to a matter that concerns
close as two coats of paint Go to (as)              someone or something. (The books here
  close as two coats of paint.
                                                    refers to financial accounting records.)
close at hand within reach; handy. (See             It’s time to close the books on the Frank-
  also at hand.) I’m sorry, but your let-           lin case. Yes, let’s close the books on Mr.
  ter isn’t close at hand. Please remind me         Franklin. You closed the books too soon.
  what you said in it. When you’re cook-            Here is some new information.
  ing, you should keep all the ingredients        close the door on someone or something Go
  close at hand.                                    to shut the door on someone or something .
close enough for government work                  close to home and where one lives af-
  fairly close or accurate. (Jocular.) I can        fecting one personally and intimately.
  do math pretty well. Close enough for gov-        (Informal.) Her remarks were a bit too
  ernment work anyway. This isn’t quite             close to home. I was afraid she was dis-
  right, but it’s close enough for government       cussing me! She’s got me figured out all
  work.                                             right. She knows where I live. Every crit-
close in (on someone or something ) to over-        icism she made of the performance hit a
  whelm or surround someone or some-                little too close to home for my comfort. I

                                                                                 cold comfort

  didn’t know I was so bad! When you go             was not wearing a coat and tie, and they
  through an experience like that and see the       would not admit him into the restaurant.
  horror of a hurricane face to face, that sort        I always carry a coat and tie in my car
  of gets you where you live!                       just in case I have to dress up a little for
close to someone fond of someone; very
  good friends with someone.        Tom is        cock-and-bull story a silly, made-up story;
  very close to Mary. They may get married.         a story that is a lie. Don’t give me that
     Mr. Smith isn’t exactly close to Mrs.          cock-and-bull story. I asked for an ex-
  Smith.                                            planation, and all I got was your ridicu-
close up shop to quit working, for the day
                                                    lous cock-and-bull story!
  or forever. (Informal.) It’s five o’clock.      cock of the walk someone who acts more
  Time to close up shop. I can’t make any           important than others in a group. The
  money in this town. The time has come to          deputy manager was cock of the walk un-
  close up shop and move to another town.           til the new manager arrived. He loved
closefisted (with money) Go to tight-               acting cock of the walk and ordering every-
  fisted (with money).                              one about.
cloud up 1. [for the sky] to get cloudy, as       cocky as the king of spades Go to (as)
  if it were going to rain. All of a sud-           cocky as the king of spades.
  den it clouded up and began to rain. It         coffee and Danish a cup of coffee and a
  usually clouds up at sunset. 2. [for some-        Danish sweet roll. A few of us like to
  one] to grow very sad, as if to cry. (See         have coffee and Danish before we start
  also turn on the waterworks.) The baby            work. Coffee and Danish is not my idea
  clouded up and let out a howl. When-              of a good breakfast!
  ever Mary got homesick, she’d cloud up.
  She really wanted to go home.                   coffee-table book a book that is more
                                                    suitable for display than for reading, typ-
clue someone in (on something ) to inform           ically, an illustrated book left on the cof-
  someone of something. (Informal.)                 fee table for visitors to examine. This
  Please clue me in on what’s going on.             book is more of a coffee-table book than an
  Yes, clue her in.                                 art book. I prefer something more schol-
clutch at straws to continue to seek solu-          arly. We purchased a coffee-table book
  tions, ideas, or hopes that are insubstan-        for Jan’s birthday.
  tial. When you talk of inheriting money,        coffee, tea, or milk a choice of beverage.
  you are just clutching at straws. That is         (Originally used by airline personnel
  not a real solution to the problem. You are       when offering something to drink to the
  just clutching at straws.                         passengers.) She asked me if I wanted
The coast is clear. There is no visible dan-        coffee, tea, or milk, and I chose just plain
  ger. I’m going to stay hidden here until          water. Would you prefer coffee, tea, or
  the coast is clear. You can come out of           milk to go with your meal?
  your hiding place now. The coast is clear.      cold as a witch’s caress Go to (as) cold
coast-to-coast from the Atlantic to the Pa-         as a witch’s caress.
  cific Oceans (in the continental U.S.A.);       cold as a witch’s tit Go to (as) cold as a
  all the land between the Atlantic and Pa-         witch’s tit.
  cific Oceans. My voice was once heard
  on a coast-to-coast radio broadcast. Our        cold as marble Go to (as) cold as marble.
  car made the coast-to-coast trip in eighty
                                                  cold comfort no comfort or consolation at
                                                    all. She knows there are others worse off
coat and tie [for men] a jacket or sports           than she is, but that’s cold comfort. It
  coat and necktie. (A standard of dress be-        was cold comfort to the student that oth-
  tween casual and a suit.) My brother              ers had failed as badly as he did.

a cold fish

a cold fish a person who is distant and un-       come apart at the seams suddenly to lose
   feeling. (Informal or slang. Preceded by         one’s emotional self-control. (Informal.
   be, become, seem like, or act like.) Bob         From the literal sense referring to some-
   is so dull—a real cold fish. She hardly          thing falling apart. See also burst at the
   ever speaks to anyone. She’s a cold fish.        seams; fall apart at the seams.) Bill was
                                                    so upset that he almost came apart at the
cold, hard cash cash, not checks or
                                                    seams. I couldn’t take anymore. I just
  promises. (Informal.) I want to be paid
                                                    came apart at the seams.
  in cold, hard cash, and I want to be paid
  now! Pay me now! Cash on the barrel-            come (a)round 1. finally to agree or con-
  head—cold, hard cash.                             sent (to something).      I thought he’d
come about 1. to happen.         How did this       never agree, but in the end he came
  come about? This came about due to the            around. She came round only after we
  severe weather. 2. [for a sailboat] to turn.      argued for an hour. 2. to return to con-
     Look how easily this boat comes about.         sciousness; to wake up.        He came
     Now, practice making the boat come             around after we threw cold water in his
  about.                                            face.   The boxer was knocked out, but
                                                    came round in a few seconds.
come a cropper to have a misfortune; to
  fail. (From an expression meaning to fall       come as no surprise not to be surprising
  off one’s horse.)     Bob invested all his        [for someone] to learn [something].
  money in the stock market just before it          It will come as no surprise for you to learn
  fell. Boy, did he come a cropper.      Jane       that the company is losing money this year.
  was out all night before she took her tests.         It came as no surprise that the president
  She really came a cropper.                        had been lying.
come across someone or something and run          come away empty-handed to return
  across someone or something to find some-         without anything. (See also go away
  one or something; to discover someone             empty-handed.) All right, go gambling.
  or something. John came across a book             Don’t come away empty-handed, though.
  he had been looking for. Where did you               Go to the bank and ask for the loan
  run across that lovely skirt?                     again. This time don’t come away empty-
Come again. 1. Come back.; Return some              handed.
  other time. I’m so glad you enjoyed our
                                                  come by something 1. to travel by a specific
  party. Please come again sometime. The
                                                    carrier, such as a plane, a boat, or a car.
  store clerk gave me my change and my pur-
                                                       We came by train. It’s more relaxing.
  chase and said, “Thank you. Come again.”
                                                    Next time, we’ll come by plane. It’s faster.
  2. Say it again. I did not hear you. (Folksy.
                                                    2. to find or get something.      How did
  Usually Come again?)           TOM: Hello,
                                                    you come by that haircut?       Where did
  Grandfather. GRANDFATHER: Come
                                                    you come by that new shirt?
  again? You’ll have to talk louder. The
  farmer looked at me and said, “Come             come by something honestly 1. to get some-
  again?”                                           thing honestly. Don’t worry. I came by
Come and get it! Dinner is ready. Come              this watch honestly. I have a feeling she
  and eat it! (Folksy.) A shout was heard           didn’t come by it honestly. 2. to inherit
  from the kitchen, “Come and get it!” No           something—a character trait—from
  one says “Come and get it!” at a formal           one’s parents. I know I’m mean. I came
  dinner.                                           by it honestly, though. She came by her
                                                    kindness honestly.
come and gone already arrived and al-
  ready departed.      No, Joy is not here.       come clean (with someone ) to be com-
  She’s come and gone. Sorry, you are too           pletely honest with someone; to confess
  late for your appointment. The doctor has         (everything) to someone. The lawyer
  come and gone.                                    said, “I can help you only if you come clean

                                                                  come in out of the rain

  with me.” All right, I’ll come clean. Here   come full circle to return to the original
  is the whole story.                            position or state of affairs. The family
                                                 sold the house generations ago, but things
come down [for something] to descend (to         have come full circle and one of their de-
  someone) through inheritance. All my           scendants lives there now.       The em-
  silverware came down to me from my             ployer’s power was reduced by the unions
  great-grandmother. The antique furni-          at one point, but matters have come full
  ture came down through my mother’s             circle again.
                                               come hell or high water no matter what
come down hard on someone or something to        happens. (Informal. Use caution with
  attack vigorously; to scold someone se-        hell.) I’ll be there tomorrow, come hell
  verely. Tom’s parents really came down         or high water. Come hell or high water,
  hard on him for coming home late. T Yes,       I intend to have my own home.
  they came down on him hard.
                                               come home (to roost) [for a problem] to
come down in the world to lose one’s so-         return to cause trouble [for someone].
  cial position or financial standing. Mr.       (See also The chickens have come home
  Jones has really come down in the world        to roost.)  As I feared, all my problems
  since he lost his job.    If I were unem-      came home to roost. Yes, problems all
  ployed, I’m sure I’d come down in the          come home eventually.
  world, too.
                                               come home to someone to become appar-
come down to earth to become realistic;          ent to someone; to be realized by some-
  to become alert to what is going on            one. The truth of the matter suddenly
  around one. (Informal.) You have very          came home to me. It all came home to
  good ideas, John, but you must come down       me while I was taking a bath. Suddenly I
  to earth. We can’t possibly afford any of      understood everything.
  your suggestions. Pay attention to what
  is going on. Come down to earth and join     come in a body and arrive in a body to
  the discussion.                                arrive as a group. All the guests came
                                                 in a body.     Things become very busy
come down to something to be reduced to          when everyone arrives in a body.
  something; to amount to no more than
  something. (Informal. Similar to boil        come in for something and fall in for some-
  down to something .)  It comes down to         thing to receive something; to acquire
  whether you want to go to the movies or        something.        Billy came in for a good
  stay at home and watch television.    It       bawling-out when he arrived home.
  came down to either getting a job or go-       Mary came in for a tremendous amount of
  ing back to college.                           money when her aunt died. Sally fell in
                                                 for a lot of trouble when she bought a used
come down with something to become ill           car.
  with some disease. I’m afraid I’m com-
  ing down with a cold. I’ll probably come     come in handy to be useful or convenient.
  down with pneumonia.                           (Informal.) A small television set in the
                                                 bedroom would come in handy. A good
come from far and wide to come from              hammer always comes in handy. A nice
  many different places.     Everyone was        cool drink would come in handy about
  there. They came from far and wide. We         now.
  have foods that come from far and wide.
                                               come in out of the rain to become alert
come from nowhere to come as a surprise          and sensible; to come down to earth.
  with no warning. The dogs came from            (Also literal. See also not know enough to
  nowhere and attacked my cat.        The        come in out of the rain.) Pay attention,
  whole set of problems came from nowhere.       Sally! Come in out of the rain! Bill will
  There was no way we could have foreseen        fail if he doesn’t come in out of the rain
  them.                                          and study.

come into its own

come into its own Go to come into one’s           come on somehow to appear as having cer-
  own.                                              tain characteristics to other people. (In-
                                                    formal. Especially with strong, which
come into one’s own and come into its
                                                    means “intensely.” See also the previous
  own 1. [for one] to achieve one’s proper
                                                    entry.) Jane comes on like a very un-
  recognition. Sally finally came into her          pleasant person.      She really comes on
  own. After years of trying, she finally           strong. John doesn’t care how he comes
  came into her own. 2. [for something] to          on.
  achieve its proper recognition.         The
  idea of an electric car finally came into its   come on the scene and arrive on the
  own.     Film as an art medium finally            scene to appear in a certain area or
  came into its own.                                place. (Used in particular in police re-
                                                    ports or dramatizations of police re-
come into something to inherit something.           ports.)    What time did the picnickers
  (Also literal. See also come in for some-         come on the scene? The witness arrived
  thing , which is very close in meaning.)          on the scene at about 7:13 in the evening.
  Jane came into a small fortune when her
  aunt died. Mary came into a house and           come out 1. to become; to turn out. (Also
  a new car when her rich uncle died.               literal.) We’ll just have to wait and see
                                                    how things come out. I’m baking a cake.
come of age to reach an age when one is             I hope it comes out okay. 2. to be pre-
  old enough to own property, get married,          sented to the public; to be released to the
  and sign legal contracts.      When Jane          public.      My new book came out last
  comes of age, she will buy her own car.           month. Mary Ann Smith came out last
  Sally, who came of age last month, entered        fall at a lovely party. 3. Go to come out
  into an agreement to purchase a house.            (of the closet).
come off to happen; to take place. (Also          come out ahead to end up with a profit;
  literal referring to something that be-           to improve one’s situation. (Compare this
  comes disconnected. Informal.) What               with break even.) I hope you come out
  time does this party come off ? How did           ahead with your investments. It took a
  your speech come off ? It came off very           lot of money to buy the house, but I think
  well.                                             I’ll come out ahead.
Come off it! Tell the truth!; Be serious!         come out for someone or something to an-
  (Slang.) Come off it, Bill! I don’t believe       nounce one’s support for someone or
  you! Come on, Jane. Come off it! That             something. I’m coming out for Senator
  can’t be true.                                    Brown’s reelection.    All the employees
come off second-best to win second                  came out for a longer workweek.
  place or worse; to lose out to someone          come out in the wash to work out all
  else. John came off second-best in the            right. (Informal. This means that prob-
  race. Why do I always come off second-            lems or difficulties will go away as dirt
  best in an argument with you?                     goes away in the process of washing.)
come on to hurry up; to follow (someone).           Don’t worry about that problem. It’ll all
    Come on! I’m in a hurry. If you don’t           come out in the wash. This trouble will
  come on, we’ll miss the train.                    go away. It’ll come out in the wash.
                                                  come out of left field [for a problem or
come on like gangbusters to approach
                                                    dilemma] to come from an unexpected
  people in a wild and exciting manner; to
                                                    place. This new problem came out of left
  seem very active and pushy when ap-
                                                    field. We were really surprised. Your re-
  proaching people. Why is she so un-
                                                    marks came out of left field. I can’t un-
  polished? She comes on like gangbusters
                                                    derstand your complaint.
  and frightens people away. The people
  in this town come on like gangbusters and       come out of nowhere to appear suddenly.
  they seem very rude at first.                     (Almost the same as appear out of

                                                                         come to a standstill

  nowhere.)    Suddenly, a truck came out           we needed. 2. [for something] to be ap-
  of nowhere. Without warning, the storm            proved; [for something] to gain approval.
  came out of nowhere.                                 Our mortgage loan application finally
                                                    came through!        Your papers came
come out of one’s shell to become more
                                                    through, and you can be sure that the mat-
  friendly; to be more sociable. (Refers to
                                                    ter has been taken care of.
  a turtle that sticks its head and legs out of
  its shell when it feels safe.) Ann, you         come through something with flying col-
  should come out of your shell and spend           ors to survive something quite well. (See
  more time with your friends. Come out             also with flying colors.)       Todd came
  of your shell, Tom. Go out and make some          through the test with f lying colors. Mr.
  friends.                                          Franklin came through the operation with
                                                    f lying colors.
come out of the blue to appear suddenly
  as if falling from the sky. (The blue refers    come to to become conscious; to wake up.
  to the blue sky.) This idea came out of              We threw a little cold water in his face,
  the blue, and I think it is a good one.           and he came to immediately. Come to,
  Sally showed up at the party even though          John! You act as if you were in a daze.
  no one told her where it was. She just came
                                                  come to a bad end to have a disaster, per-
  out of the blue.
                                                    haps one that is deserved or expected; to
come out (of the closet) 1. to reveal one’s         die an unfortunate death. My old car
  secret interests. Tom Brown came out              came to a bad end. Its engine burned up.
  of the closet and admitted that he likes to          The evil merchant came to a bad end.
  knit. It’s time that all of you lovers of
                                                  come to a dead end to come to an ab-
  chamber music came out of the closet and
                                                    solute stopping point.     The building
  attended our concerts. 2. to reveal that
                                                    project came to a dead end. The street
  one is a homosexual. (See also come out.)
                                                    came to a dead end. We were driving
     Tom surprised his parents when he came
                                                    along and came to a dead end.
  out of the closet. It was difficult for him
  to come out of the closet.                      come to a head to come to a crucial point;
                                                    to come to a point when a problem must
come out with something to say something;
                                                    be solved. Remember my problem with
  to announce something.       Sometimes
                                                    my neighbors? Well, last night the whole
  Jane comes out with the most interesting
                                                    thing came to a head.      The battle be-
  comments. Jane came out with a long
                                                    tween the two factions of the city council
  string of curse words.
                                                    came to a head yesterday.
come over 1. to join this party or side; to
                                                  come to an end to stop; to finish.       The
  change sides or affiliation.   Tom was
                                                    party came to an end at midnight.      Her
  formerly an enemy spy, but last year he
                                                    life came to an end late yesterday.
  came over. I thought that Bill was a Re-
  publican. When did he come over? 2. to          come to an untimely end to come to an
  come for a visit. See if Ann wants to             early death. Poor Mr. Jones came to an
  come over. I can’t come over. I’m busy.           untimely end in a car accident. Cancer
                                                    caused Mrs. Smith to come to an untimely
come someone’s way to come to someone.
    I wish a large sum of money would come
  my way. I hope that no bad luck comes           come to a pretty pass to develop into a
  my way.                                           bad, unfortunate, or difficult situation.
                                                    Things have come to a pretty pass when
come through 1. to do what one is ex-
                                                    people have to beg in the streets. When
  pected to do, especially under difficult
                                                    parents are afraid of their children, things
  conditions.     You can depend on Jane.
                                                    have come to a pretty pass.
  She’ll always come through. We thought
  that there would be no food, but Tom came       come to a standstill to stop, temporarily
  through at the last minute with everything        or permanently.      The building project

come to a stop

  came to a standstill because the workers           John, come to your senses. You’re being
  went on strike.      The party came to a         quite stupid.   In the morning I don’t
  standstill until the lights were turned on       come to my senses until I have had two
  again.                                           cups of coffee.
come to a stop [for someone or some-             come to pass to happen. (Formal.)
  thing] to stop moving or happening.              When did all of this come to pass?   When
  The bus finally came to a stop so I could        will this event come to pass?
  get off. The loud noise finally came to
                                                 come to rest to stop moving.        When the
  a stop.
                                                   car comes to rest, you can get in. The leaf
come to blows (over something ) [for peo-          fell and came to rest at my feet.
  ple] to become increasingly angry and
  begin to fight about something, usually        come to terms with someone or something 1.
  by striking blows, or verbally. They got         to come to an agreement with someone.
  excited about the accident, but they never          I finally came to terms with my lawyer
  actually came to blows over it. Yes, they        about his fee. Bob, you have to come to
  aren’t the kind of people who come to            terms with your father’s wishes. 2. to learn
  blows.                                           to accept someone or something. (See
                                                   also come to grips with something .) She
come to grief to fail; to have trouble or          had to come to terms with the loss of her
  grief. The artist wept when her canvas           sight. It’s time you came to terms with
  came to grief. The wedding party came            your boss and her unreasonable demands.
  to grief when the bride passed out.
                                                 come to the fore to become prominent; to
come to grips with something to face some-         become important.         The question of
  thing; to comprehend something. He               salary has now come to the fore. Since
  found it difficult to come to grips with his     his great showing in court, my lawyer has
  grandmother’s death.        Many students        really come to the fore in city politics.
  have a hard time coming to grips with
  algebra.                                       come to the point and get to the point
                                                   to get to the important part (of some-
come to life to become alive or lively.            thing). He has been talking a long time.
  (Usually used in a figurative sense.)            I wish he would come to the point. Quit
  The party came to life about midnight.           wasting time! Get to the point! We are
  As the anesthetic wore off, the patient came     talking about money, Bob! Come on, get to
  to life.                                         the point.
come to light to become known.         Some      come to the same thing Go to amount to
  interesting facts about your past have just      the same thing.
  come to light. If too many bad things
  come to light, you may lose your job.          come to think of it I just remembered
                                                   [something].      Come to think of it, I
come to mind [for a thought or idea] to            know someone who can help. I have a
  enter into one’s consciousness. (Compare         screwdriver in the trunk of my car, come
  this with cross someone’s mind.) Do I            to think of it.
  know a good barber? No one comes to
  mind right now. Another idea comes to          come true [for a dream or a wish] actu-
  mind. Why not cut your own hair?                 ally to happen. When I got married, all
                                                   my dreams came true. Coming to the big
come to naught Go to come to nothing.              city was like having my wish come true.
come to nothing and come to naught to
                                                 come unglued to lose emotional control;
  amount to nothing; to be worthless. So           to have a mental breakdown; to break out
  all my hard work comes to nothing. Yes,          into tears or laughter. (Slang.) When
  the whole project comes to naught.               Sally heard the joke, she almost came
come to one’s senses to wake up; to be-            unglued. When the bank took away my
  come conscious; to start thinking clearly.       car, I came unglued and cried and cried.

                                                                    control the purse strings

come up to happen unexpectedly. (Also lit-        comfortable as an old shoe Go to (as)
  eral.) I’m sorry, I cannot come to your           comfortable as an old shoe.
  party. Something has come up.         The
                                                  commit something to memory to memorize
  storm came up so quickly that I almost got
                                                    something. We all committed the Get-
  blown away.
                                                    tysburg Address to memory. T I commit-
come up in the world to improve one’s               ted to memory the whole list of names and
  status or situation in life. Since Mary           numbers.
  got her new job, she has really come up in      common as an old shoe Go to (as) com-
  the world. A good education helped my             mon as an old shoe.
  brother come up in the world.
                                                  common as dirt Go to (as) common as
come up smelling like roses to end up               dirt.
  looking good or respectable after being
  involved in some difficult or notorious         con someone out of something to trick some-
  affair. It was a nasty political campaign,        one out of money or something of value.
  but both candidates came up smelling like         (Slang.) Anne conned her little sister out
  roses. I was not surprised that my con-           of her allowance. Dave conned me out
  gressional representative came up smelling        of my autographed baseball.
  like roses after his colleagues investigated    conceited as a barber ’s cat Go to (as)
  him.                                              conceited as a barber’s cat.
come up with someone or something to find         confide in someone to tell secrets or per-
  or supply someone or something.             I     sonal matters to someone. Sally always
  came up with a date at the last minute.           confided in her sister Ann. She didn’t
  My mom is always able to come up with a           feel that she could confide in her mother.
  snack for me in the afternoon. I don’t
                                                  conk out 1. [for someone] to collapse as
  have the tool you need, but I’ll see if I can
  come up with something.                           from exhaustion. (Slang.) I was so tired
                                                    I just went home and conked out. I was
come what may no matter what might                  afraid I would conk out while I was driv-
  happen. I’ll be home for the holidays,            ing. 2. [for something] to break down; to
  come what may. Come what may, the                 quit running. (Slang.) My car conked
  mail will get delivered.                          out finally. I hope my computer doesn’t
                                                    conk out.
come within an ace of doing something Go
  to come within an inch of doing something .     conspicuous by one’s absence to have
                                                    one’s absence (from an event) noticed.
come within an inch of doing something and          We missed you last night. You were con-
  come within an ace of doing something al-         spicuous by your absence. How could the
  most to do something; to come very close          bride’s father miss the wedding? He was
  to doing something. I came within an              certainly conspicuous by his absence.
  inch of going into the army.          I came
  within an inch of falling off the roof. She     contradiction in terms a statement con-
  came within an ace of buying the house.           taining a seeming contradiction.         A
                                                    wealthy pauper is a contradiction in terms.
come with the territory to be expected                 A straight-talking politician may seem
  under circumstances like this. (Refers to         a contradiction in terms.
  the details and difficulties attendant to
                                                  contrary to something in spite of something;
  something like the assignment of a spe-
                                                    regardless of something. Contrary to
  cific sales territory to a salesperson.
                                                    what you might think, I am neat and tidy.
  When one accepts the assignment, one
                                                      Contrary to public opinion, my uncle is
  accepts the problems.) There is a lot of
                                                    well and healthy.
  paperwork in this job. Oh, well, I guess it
  comes with the territory. There are prob-       control the purse strings to be in charge
  lems, but that comes with the territory.          of the money in a business or a house-

cook someone’s goose

  hold. I control the purse strings at our           doctor talked on the telephone. All right.
  house. Mr. Williams is the treasurer. He           If you can’t behave properly, just sit down
  controls the purse strings.                        here and cool your heels until I call you.
cook someone’s goose to damage or ruin             cool someone down and cool someone off
  someone. I cooked my own goose by not              1. to reduce someone’s anger. (Also lit-
  showing up on time. Sally cooked Bob’s             eral.) I just stared at him while he was
  goose for treating her the way he did.             yelling. I knew that would cool him down.
cook something to perfection to cook                    The coach talked to them for a long
  something perfectly. John cooked my                time. That cooled them off. 2. to reduce
  steak to perfection. The entire dinner             someone’s passion or love. When she
  was cooked to perfection!                          slapped him, that really cooled him down.
                                                        Dating Mary was too intense, so Bill
cook something up to plot something; to im-          cooled himself off by dating Sally for a
  provise something. (Also literal.) Mary            while.
  cooked an interesting party up at the last
  minute. T Let me see if I can cook up a          cool someone off Go to cool someone down.
  way to get you some money.                       cop a plea to plead guilty to a crime in
cook the accounts to cheat in bookkeep-              hopes of receiving a lighter punishment.
  ing; to make the accounts appear to bal-           (Slang, especially criminal slang.) The
  ance when they do not. Jane was sent               robber copped a plea and got only two
  to jail for cooking the accounts of her            years in jail. When you cop a plea, it
  mother’s store. It’s hard to tell whether          saves the court system a lot of money.
  she really cooked the accounts or just did-      cop out to get out of a difficult situation;
  n’t know how to add.                               to sneak out of a difficult situation.
cooking with gas doing things the right              (Slang.) At the last minute she copped
  way. (Also literal. Informal. From an ad-          out on us. Things were going badly for
  vertising slogan.)       That’s great. Now         Senator Phillips, so he copped out by
  you’re cooking with gas.        Things are         resigning.
  moving along nicely with the project. The
  entire staff is really cooking with gas.         a copycat a person who copies or mimics
                                                     what someone else does. (Usually juve-
cool as a cucumber Go to (as) cool as a              nile. Can be preceded by be, become, seem
  cucumber.                                          like, or act like.) Sally wore a pink dress
cool down Go to cool off.                            just like Mary’s. Mary called Sally a copy-
                                                     cat. Bill is such a copycat. He bought a
Cool it! Calm down!; Take it easy! (Slang.)          coat just like mine.
    Don’t get mad, Bob. Cool it! Cool it,
  you guys! No fighting around here.               cost an arm and a leg to cost too much.
                                                        It cost an arm and a leg, so I didn’t buy
cool off and cool down 1. to lose or re-             it. Why should a little plastic part cost
  duce heat. I wish my soup would cool               an arm and a leg?
  off. I’m hungry. It’ll cool down this eve-
  ning, after dusk. 2. to let one’s anger die      cost a pretty penny to cost a lot of money.
  away. I’m sorry I got angry. I’ll cool off            I’ll bet that diamond cost a pretty
  in a minute. Cool off, Tom. There is no            penny. You can be sure that house cost
  sense getting so excited. 3. to let one’s pas-     a pretty penny. It has seven bathrooms.
  sion or love die away. TED: Is Bob still         cough something up to produce something
  in love with Jane? BILL: No, he’s cooled off       unwillingly (that someone has re-
  a lot.    TED: I thought that they were            quested). (Also literal. Informal.) All
  both cooling down.                                 right, Bill. Cough the stolen diamonds up
cool one’s heels to wait (for someone). (In-         or else. Okay, okay. I’ll cough them up.
  formal.) I spent all afternoon cooling             T Bill had to cough up forty dollars to pay
  my heels in the waiting room while the             for the broken window.

                                                                 cover someone’s tracks (up)

Could be better. satisfactory, but capable        count someone in (on something ) to include
  of improvement.     The pie’s okay, but           someone in something. (Compare this
  could be better. Q: How do you feel? A:           with count someone out (for something ).)
  Could be better.                                  If you’re looking for a group to go moun-
                                                    tain climbing, count me in on it. T I would
Could be worse. satisfactory, but not as            like to count in your entire family, but
  bad as it could be. Q: How are things?            there isn’t enough room. Please count
  A: Could be worse.       Things could be          me in.
  worse, and in a little while, they probably
  will be.                                        count someone out (for something) to exclude
                                                    someone from something. (Compare this
could do with someone or something to want          with count someone in (on something ).)
  or need someone or something; to bene-            Please count me out for the party next Sat-
  fit from someone or something. (Com-              urday. I have other plans. You should
  pare this with go for someone or something .)     count the whole family out. We are going
      I could do with a nice cool drink right       to the beach for the weekend.
  now. I could do with some help on this
  project. This house could do with some          a couple of two; two or three; a few; some;
  cleaning up.     They said they could do           not many. Bill grabbed a couple of beers
  with John to help them finish faster. My           from the refrigerator. I hung a couple
  car could do with a bigger engine.                 of pictures on the wall.
                                                  course of action the procedures or se-
couldn’t be better completely satisfactory.         quence of actions that someone will fol-
     I feeling great and couldn’t be better.        low to accomplish a goal. I plan to take
  We had a wonderful time and our vaca-             a course of action that will produce the best
  tion couldn’t have been better.                   results. The committee planned a course
couldn’t be happier totally happy.     We           of action that would reduce costs and elim-
  are delighted. Couldn’t be happier. They          inate employees.
  both couldn’t be happier since they got         cover a lot of ground and cover a lot of
  married.                                          territory 1. to travel over a great dis-
could(n’t) care less unable to care at all.         tance; to investigate a wide expanse of
  (Informal. Could care less is almost              land. The prospectors covered a lot of
  slang.) John couldn’t care less whether           ground, looking for gold.      My car can
  he goes to the party or not. So she won           cover a lot of ground in one day. 2. to deal
  first place. I couldn’t care less. I could        with much information and many facts.
  care less if I live or die.                          The history lecture covered a lot of
                                                    ground today. Mr. and Mrs. Franklin
count noses to count people.      I’ll tell you     always cover a lot of ground when they
  how many people are here after I count            argue.
  noses. Everyone is here. Let’s count noses      cover a lot of territory Go to cover a lot
  so we can order hamburgers.                       of ground.
count one’s chickens before they hatch            cover for someone 1. to make excuses for
  to plan how to utilize good results before        someone; to conceal someone’s errors.
  they have occurred. (Frequently used in           If I miss class, please cover for me.      If
  the negative.) You’re way ahead of your-          you’re late, I’ll cover for you. 2. to handle
  self. Don’t count your chickens before they       someone else’s work.           Dr. Johnson’s
  hatch. You may be disappointed if you             partner agreed to cover for him during his
  count your chickens before they hatch.            vacation. I’m on duty this afternoon.
                                                    Will you please cover for me? I have a doc-
count on someone or something to rely on
                                                    tor’s appointment.
  someone or something. Can I count on
  you to be there at noon? I want to buy          cover someone’s tracks (up) to conceal one’s
  a car I can count on in winter weather.           trail; to conceal one’s past activities.

cover something up

  She was able to cover her tracks up so that      usually a bottle of an alcoholic drink.
  they couldn’t find her. T It’s easy to cover     They cracked open a bottle to celebrate her
  up your tracks if you aren’t well known.         arrival.    Let’s crack open a bottle of
     The robber failed to cover his tracks.        champagne and celebrate.
cover something up to conceal something.         crack someone or something up 1. [with some-
  (Also literal.) T They covered up the truth      thing] to crash something; to destroy
  about the crime. We’ll cover this little         something (in an accident). The dri-
  matter up and make up a story for the            ver cracked the car up in an accident. T
  press.                                           The pilot cracked up the plane. 2. [with
cover the territory Go to cover the
                                                   someone] to make someone laugh. She
                                                   told a joke that really cracked us up. T I
                                                   cracked up my history class with a silly
cover the waterfront and cover the ter-            remark.
  ritory to deal with many things, much
                                                 crack something wide open to expose and
  space, or much information from many
  points of view. (Informal.) That lecture         reveal some great wrongdoing. (Also lit-
                                                   eral.) The police cracked the drug ring
  really covered the waterfront. I could
  hardly follow it. Why can’t she stick to         wide open. The newspaper story cracked
                                                   the trouble at city hall wide open.
  the point? She has to cover the territory
  every time she talks.                          crack up 1. [for a plane, boat, car, etc.] to
                                                   crash.       The plane cracked up in the
cozy up (to someone ) to be extra friendly
                                                   storm. The boat cracked up on the rocks.
  with someone, perhaps in hope of special
                                                   2. [for someone] to break out in laugh-
  favors in return. (Informal or slang.)
                                                   ter. The audience really cracked up dur-
  Look at that lawyer cozying up to the
                                                   ing the second act. The class cracked up
  judge! Lawyers who cozy up like that
                                                   when I told my joke, but the teacher did-
  usually get into big trouble.
                                                   n’t like it. 3. to go crazy. (Slang.) The
crack a book to open a book to study.              mayor cracked up after only a year in of-
  (Slang. Almost always in the negative.)          fice. I was afraid the mayor would crack
  I passed that test with an A, and I didn’t       up because of too much work.
  even crack a book. If you think you can
                                                 cramp someone’s style to limit someone in
  get through college without cracking a
                                                   some way.      I hope this doesn’t cramp
  book, you’re wrong.
                                                   your style, but could you please not hum
crack a joke to tell a joke. (Informal.)           while you work? To ask him to keep re-
  She’s never serious. She’s always cracking       gular hours would really be cramping his
  jokes.    As long as she’s cracking jokes,       style.
  she’s okay.
                                                 crank something out to produce something;
crack a smile to smile a little, perhaps re-       to make something in a casual and me-
  luctantly. (Informal.)      She cracked a        chanical way. (Slang.) John can crank a
  smile, so I knew she was kidding. The            lot of work out in a single day. T That fac-
  soldier cracked a smile at the wrong time        tory keeps cranking out cars even though
  and had to march for an hour as                  no one buys them.
                                                 crash and burn to fail spectacularly. (Also
crack down (on someone or something ) to be        literal, as with a car or a plane.) Poor
  hard on someone or something; to en-             Chuck really crashed and burned when he
  force a rule or law more strenuously.            made his presentation at the sales meeting.
  They are cracking down on speeding                   Mary just knew that the whole project
  around here.       It’s about time they          would crash and burn if she didn’t keep a
  cracked down.                                    close watch on it.
crack open a bottle to open a bottle; to         crazy about someone or something and crazy
  remove the cork or seal from a bottle,           for someone or something ; mad about some-

                                                           cross someone’s palm with silver

  one or something ; mad for someone or some-     a crick in one’s back a twisted or cramped
  thing; nuts about someone or something very       place in the back that causes pain. I
  fond of someone or something. (Slang.)            can’t move! I’ve got a crick in my back!
     Ann is crazy about John. He’s crazy            I had a crick in my back all night and I
  about her, too. I’m mad about their new           couldn’t sleep.
  song.    Our whole family is nuts about
                                                  a crick in one’s neck a twisted place or a
  homemade ice cream.
                                                    cramp in the neck that causes pain. I
crazy as a betsy bug Go to (as) crazy as            got a crick in my neck from sleeping in a
  a betsy bug.                                      draft. When I read on the plane, I get a
                                                    crick in my neck.
crazy as a loon Go to (as) crazy as a loon.
                                                  crooked as a barrel of fishhooks Go to
crazy as a peach-orchard boar Go to (as)            (as) crooked as a barrel of fishhooks.
  crazy as a peach-orchard boar.
                                                  crooked as a dog’s hind leg Go to (as)
crazy for someone or something Go to crazy          crooked as a dog’s hind leg.
  about someone or something .
                                                  crooked as a fishhook Go to (as) crooked
the cream of the crop the best of all.              as a fishhook.
  This particular car is the cream of the crop.
     The kids are very bright. They are the       cross a bridge before one comes to it to
  cream of the crop.                                worry excessively about something before
                                                    it happens. (Note the variation in the ex-
create an uproar and make an uproar to              amples.) There is no sense in crossing
  cause an outburst or sensation. (Espe-            that bridge before you come to it. She’s
  cially with such.)      The dog got into          always crossing bridges before coming to
  church and made an uproar. Her poo-               them. She needs to learn to relax.
  dle created an uproar in the restaurant.
  Why did you make such an uproar?                cross a bridge when one comes to it to
                                                    deal with a problem only when one is
create a scene Go to make a scene.                  faced with the problem. (Note the varia-
create a stink (about something ) and               tion in the examples.) Please wait and
  make a stink (about something ); raise a          cross that bridge when you come to it.
  stink (about something ) to make a major          He shouldn’t worry about it now. He can
  issue out of something; to make much              cross that bridge when he comes to it.
  over something; to make a lot of com-           cross-examine someone to ask someone
  plaints and criticisms about something.           questions in great detail; to question a
  (Slang. Compare this with make a federal          suspect or a witness at great length.
  case out of something .)  Tom created a           The police cross-examined the suspect for
  stink about Bob’s remarks. Why did he             three hours. The lawyer plans to cross-
  make a stink about that? Tom is always            examine the witness tomorrow morning.
  trying to raise a stink.
                                                  cross one’s fingers Go to keep one’s fingers
creature comforts things that make peo-             crossed (for someone or something ).
  ple comfortable. The hotel room was
                                                  cross one’s heart (and hope to die) to
  sparse, but all the creature comforts were
  there.    The entire country of Adonia            pledge or vow that the truth is being told.
  seemed to lack the expected creature                 It’s true, cross my heart and hope to die.
  comforts.                                            It’s really true—cross my heart.
                                                  cross someone’s mind Go to pass through
a credit to someone or something someone or
                                                    someone’s mind.
  something that is of value or benefit.
  (Preceded by be, become, or seem like.)         cross someone’s palm with silver to give
  I always want to be a credit to my school.        money to someone in payment for a ser-
     John is not what you would call a credit       vice. (A fortune-teller might ask for a po-
  to his family.                                    tential customer to cross her palm with

cross someone up

  silver. Used in that sense or jocularly for      cry one’s eyes out to cry very hard.    When
  something like tipping a porter.)            I     we heard the news, we cried our eyes out
  crossed his palm with silver, but he still         with joy. She cried her eyes out after his
  stood there.     You will find that things         death.
  happen much faster in hotels if you cross        cry over spilled milk to be unhappy about
  the staff ’s palms with silver fairly often.       something that cannot be undone. (Also
cross someone up to give someone trouble;            literal.) I’m sorry that you broke your
  to defy or betray someone. (Also without           bicycle, Tom. But there is nothing that can
  up.) You really crossed me up when you             be done now. Don’t cry over spilled milk.
  told Tom what I said. Please don’t cross               Ann is always crying over spilled milk.
  me up again.                                     cry wolf to cry or complain about some-
                                                     thing when nothing is really wrong.
cross swords (with someone) (on something)
                                                     Pay no attention. She’s just crying wolf
  to enter into an argument with someone.
                                                     again. Don’t cry wolf too often. No one
     I don’t want to cross swords with Tom
                                                     will come.
  on this matter. The last time we crossed
  swords, we had a terrible time.                  crying need for someone or something a def-
                                                     inite or desperate need for someone or
cross the Rubicon to do something that               something. There is a crying need for
  inevitably commits one to following a              someone to come in and straighten things
  certain course of action. (The crossing of         out. All the people in that area have a
  the River Rubicon by Julius Caesar in-             crying need for better housing.
  evitably involved him in a war with the
  senate in 49 b.c.)       Jane crossed the        a crying shame a very unfortunate situa-
  Rubicon by signing the contract. Find              tion; a real shame. It’s a crying shame
  another job before you cross the Rubicon           that people cannot afford adequate hous-
  and resign from this one.                          ing. That everyone could not attend the
                                                     concert was a crying shame.
crushed by something demoralized; with             cue someone in 1. to give someone a cue; to
  hurt feelings. (Also literal.) The whole           indicate to someone that the time has
  family was completely crushed by the news.         come. Now, cue the orchestra director
     I was just crushed by your attitude. I          in. T All right, cue in the announcer. 2.
  thought we were friends.                           to tell someone what is going on. (Infor-
the crux of the matter the central issue             mal. Almost the same as clue someone in
  of the matter. (Crux is an old word mean-          (on something ).)     I want to know what’s
  ing “cross.”) All right, this is the crux of       going on. Cue me in. T Cue in the general
  the matter.      It’s about time that we           about the troop movement.
  looked at the crux of the matter.                curdle someone’s blood to frighten or dis-
                                                     gust someone severely. The story was
cry before one is hurt to cry or complain
                                                     scary enough to curdle your blood. The
  before one is injured. Bill always cries
                                                     terrible scream was enough to curdle my
  before he’s hurt. There is no point in cry-
  ing before one is hurt.
                                                   Curiosity killed the cat. It is dangerous
cry bloody murder to scream as if some-              to be curious. (Proverb.) Don’t ask so
  thing very serious has happened. (See              many questions, Billy. Curiosity killed the
  also scream bloody murder.) Now that               cat. Curiosity killed the cat. Mind your
  Bill is really hurt, he’s crying bloody mur-       own business.
  der. There is no point in crying bloody
  murder about the bill if you aren’t going to     curl someone’s hair and make someone’s hair
  pay it.                                            curl to frighten or alarm someone; to
                                                     shock someone with sight, sound, or
cry crocodile tears Go to shed crocodile             taste. (Also literal.) Don’t ever sneak up
  tears.                                             on me like that again. You really curled my

                                                  cut loose (from someone or something)

  hair.    The horror film made my hair            ship’s or boat’s anchor and sailing away
  curl.                                            in a hurry.) Max decided to cut and run
                                                   when he heard the police sirens. As soon
curl up and die to retreat and die.  When
                                                   as I finish what I am doing here, I’m go-
  I heard you say that, I could have curled
                                                   ing to cut and run. I’ve got to get home by
  up and died. No, it wasn’t an illness. She
                                                   six o’clock.
  just curled up and died.
                                                 cut a wide swath and cut a big swath
curry favor (with someone ) to try to win fa-      to seem important; to attract a lot of at-
  vor from someone. The lawyer tried to            tention. In social matters, Mrs. Smith
  curry favor with the judge. It’s silly to        cuts a wide swath. Bob cuts a big swath
  curry favor. Just be yourself.                   whenever he appears in his military
cut a big swath Go to cut a wide swath.            uniform.
a cut above someone or something a measure       cut back (on something ) to reduce one’s use
  or degree better than someone or some-           of something; to use less of something.
  thing else. (Especially with average, as in         The government has to cut back on its
  the examples.) Your shirt is beautiful,          spending. It’s very difficult for the gov-
  but mine is a cut above yours. John is-          ernment to cut back.
  n’t the best mechanic in town, but he’s a      cut both ways to affect both sides of an is-
  cut above average.                               sue equally. Remember that your sug-
cut across something to reach beyond some-         gestion that costs should be shared cuts
  thing; to embrace a wide variety; to slice       both ways. You will have to pay as well.
  across a figurative boundary or barrier.         If our side cannot take along supporters to
  (Also literal.) His teaching cut across all      the game, then yours cannot either. The
  human cultures and races. This rule cuts         rule has to cut both ways.
  across all social barriers.                    cut class to skip going to class. (Informal.)
cut a fine figure to look good; to look               If Mary keeps cutting classes, she’ll fail
  elegant. (Formal. Usually said of a male.)       the course.   I can’t cut that class. I’ve
     Tom really cuts a fine figure on the          missed too many already.
  dance f loor. Bill cuts a fine figure since    cut corners to reduce efforts or expendi-
  he bought some new clothes.                      tures; to do things poorly or incom-
cut-and-dried fixed; determined before-            pletely.    You cannot cut corners when
  hand; usual and uninteresting. I find            you are dealing with public safety. Don’t
  your writing quite boring. It’s too cut-and-     cut corners, Sally. Let’s do the job right.
  dried. The lecture was, as usual, cut-         cut from the same cloth and made from
  and-dried. It was the same thing we’ve           the same mold sharing a lot of similar-
  heard for years.                                 ities; seeming to have been created,
cut and paste 1. to cut something out of           reared, or fashioned in the same way.
  paper with scissors and paste it onto            She and her brother are cut from the same
  something else. The teacher told the lit-        cloth. They both tell lies all the time.
  tle children that it was time to cut and         They are made from the same mold and
  paste, and they all ran to the worktables.       even sound alike on the telephone.
     Mary made a tiny house by cutting and       Cut it out! Stop doing that!          That’s
  pasting little strips of paper. 2. something     enough! Cut it out!     Stop doing that. It
  trivial, simple, or childish. I hate this        hurts! Cut it out!
  job. It’s nothing but cut and paste.       I
                                                 cut loose (from someone or something ) to
  don’t mind doing things that have to be
                                                   break away from someone or something;
  done, but I hate to waste my time on cut
                                                   to break ties with someone or something;
  and paste.
                                                   to act in a free manner. (Also literal.
cut and run to get free and run away.              Compare this with break loose (from
  (Slang. As in cutting loose the rope on a        someone or something ).) Jane is finding it

cut loose (with something)

  hard to cut loose from her family. Cut-             pare this with cut out to be something .)
  ting loose is part of growing up. When              Tom was not cut out for banking. Sally
  those farm boys get to town, they really cut        was cut out for the medical profession.
  loose from convention.      They sure are         cut out the deadwood to remove unpro-
  wild when they cut loose.                           ductive persons from employment. (Also
cut loose (with something ) Go to let go              literal as in pruning away dead branches
  (with something ).                                  or deadwood.) This company would be
cut no ice (with someone ) to fail to change          more profitable if management would cut
  the mind of someone; to have no influ-              out the deadwood. When we cut out the
  ence on someone. (Informal.)             What       deadwood, all our departments will run
  you just said will cut no ice with the man-         more smoothly.
  ager. All that may be true, but it cuts           cut out to be something well-suited for a
  no ice with me. That idea cuts no ice.              particular role or a particular occupation.
  It won’t help at all. It cuts no ice that           (Compare this with cut out for something .)
  your mother is the mayor.                               Tom was not cut out to be a banker.
cut off to stop by itself or oneself. (Infor-         Sally was cut out to be a doctor.
  mal.) The machine got hot and cut off.            cut (someone ) a check to write a check; to
     Bob cut off in midsentence.                      have a computer print a check. We will
cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face to             cut a check for the balance due you later
  harm oneself while trying to harm an-               this afternoon. We will cut you a check
  other person. (Note the variation in the            as soon as possible.
  examples.) Billy loves the zoo, but he re-        cut someone dead to ignore someone totally.
  fused to go with his mother because he was              Joan was just about to speak to James
  mad at her. He cut off his nose to spite his        when he cut her dead. Jean cut her for-
  face. Find a better way to be angry. It             mer husband dead.
  is silly to cut your nose off to spite your       cut someone down (to size) and take some-
  face.                                               one down (to size) to make a person
cut one’s eyeteeth on something to have               humble; to put one in one’s place. (See also
  done something since one was very                   beat someone down (to size).) John’s re-
  young; to have much experience at some-             marks really cut me down to size. Jane
  thing. (Folksy.) Do I know about cars?              is too conceited. I think her new boss will
  I cut my eyeteeth on cars. I cut my eye-            take her down to size. The boss’s angry
  teeth on Bach. I can whistle everything he          stare will really cut her down.
  wrote.                                            cut someone in to give someone a share of
cut one’s losses to reduce someone’s losses           something. (Informal or slang.) Shall
  of money, goods, or other things of value.          we cut Bill in on this deal? I don’t think
     I sold the stock as it went down, thus           we should cut anybody in. T Pretty soon
  cutting my losses. He cut his losses by             we’ll have to cut in the whole town.
  putting better locks on the doors. There          cut someone off without a penny to end
  were fewer robberies. The mayor’s rep-              someone’s allowance; to fail to leave
  utation suffered because of the scandal. He         someone money in one’s will. Mr. and
  finally resigned to cut his losses.                 Mrs. Franklin cut their son off without a
cut one’s (own) throat [for someone] to ex-           penny after he quit school. T They cut off
  perience certain failure; to do damage to           both of their sons without a penny. T We
  oneself. (Also literal. Informal.)         If I     learned, when Uncle Sam’s will was read,
  were to run for office, I’d just be cutting my      that he cut off his own f lesh and blood
  throat. Judges who take bribes are cut-             without a penny.
  ting their own throats.                           cut someone or something to the bone 1. to
cut out for something well-suited for some-           slice flesh or meat deep to the bone.
  thing; with a talent for something. (Com-           The knife cut John to the bone. He had to

                                                                                        cut up

  be sewed up. Cut each slice of ham to            cutting teeth.   Ann cut her first tooth this
  the bone. Then each slice will be as big as      week.
  possible. 2. [with something] to cut down      cut the ground out from under someone
  severely (on something).       We cut our        to destroy the foundation of someone’s
  expenses to the bone and are still losing        plans or someone’s argument.             The
  money. Congress had to cut the budget            politician cut the ground out from under
  to the bone in order to balance it.              his opponent. T Congress cut out the
cut someone or something up to criticize some-     ground from under the president.
  one or something severely. (Also literal.      cut to the chase to get to the important
  Slang.) Jane is such a gossip. She was           matters. Let’s stop all this chatter and
  really cutting Mrs. Jones up. T The pro-         cut to the chase. I like the way you cut
  fessor really cut up my essay.                   to the chase and don’t waste my time.
cut someone to the quick to hurt someone’s       cut up to act wildly; to show off and be
  feelings very badly. Your criticism cut          troublesome; to act like a clown. (Slang.
  me to the quick. Tom’s sharp words to            See also cut someone or something up.)
  Mary cut her to the quick.                       Tom, Billy! Stop cutting up, or I’ll send you
                                                   to the principal’s office.     If you spent
cut teeth [for a baby or young person] to          more time studying than cutting up, you’d
  grow teeth.     Billy is cranky because he’s     get better grades.

[daily dozen] Go to one’s daily dozen.

the daily grind [someone’s] everyday work
                                                darken someone’s door [for an unwelcome
                                                  person] to come to someone’s door seek-
                                                  ing entry. (As if the unwelcome visitor
  routine. (Informal.)     I’m getting very       were casting a shadow on the door. For-
  tired of the daily grind. When my va-           mal or jocular.) Who is this who has
  cation was over, I had to go back to the        come to darken my door? Is that you,
  daily grind.                                    John, darkening my door again? I thought
                                                  you were out of town. The heroine of the
damn someone or something with faint praise       drama told the villain never to darken her
  to criticize someone or something indi-         door again. She touched the back of her
  rectly by not praising enthusiastically.        hand to her forehead and said, “Go, and
  The critic did not say that he disliked the     never darken my door again!”
  play, but he damned it with faint praise.
  Mrs. Brown is very proud of her son’s         dart in and out [for something moving] to
  achievements, but damns her daughter’s          dart quickly between two things, or into
  with faint praise.                              a number of things, and move away
                                                  again. On the highway, a small car was
dance to another tune to shift to a dif-          darting in and out of the two right lanes of
  ferent kind of behavior; to change one’s        traffic. A small bird darted in and out
  behavior or attitude. (See also change          of the bush, probably going into a nest
  someone’s tune; sing a different tune.)         inside.
  After being yelled at, Ann danced to an-
  other tune. A stern talking-to will make      dash cold water on something Go to pour
  her dance to another tune.                      cold water on something .
                                                dash something off to send something off,
dance with death to attempt to do some-
                                                  usually quickly. I’ll dash a quick note
  thing that is very risky. The crossing of
                                                  off to Aunt Mary. T Ann just dashed off
  the border into Adonia was like dancing
                                                  a message to her parents.
  with death. You are dancing with death
  in your effort to cross that narrow ledge.    date back (to sometime ) to extend back to
                                                  a particular time; to have been alive at a
dare someone (to do something ) to challenge      particular time in the past.       My late
  someone to do something. Sally dared            grandmother dated back to the Civil War.
  Jane to race her to the corner.      You           This record dates back to the sixties.
  wouldn’t do that, would you? I dare you.        How far do you date back?
dark horse someone or something whose           Davy Jones’s locker the bottom of the sea,
  abilities, plans, or feelings are little        especially when it is a grave. (From the
  known to others. (From horse racing.)           seamen’s name for the evil spirit of the
  It’s difficult to predict who will win the      sea. See also go to Davy Jones’s locker.)
  prize—there are two or three dark horses            They were going to sail around the
  in the tournament. Everyone was sur-            world, but ended up in Davy Jones’s locker.
  prised at the results of the election. The          Most of the gold from that trading ship
  dark horse won.                                 is in Davy Jones’s locker.

                                                  dead set against someone or something

dawn on someone to occur to someone; to            more. Her husband is dead and gone,
  cross someone’s mind. It just dawned on          but she is getting along fine.
  me that I forgot my books. When will
  it dawn on him that his audience is bored?     dead as a dodo Go to (as) dead as a dodo.

day after day every day; daily; all the time.    dead as a doornail Go to (as) dead as a
    He wears the same clothes day after day.       doornail.
    She visits her husband in the hospital       a dead duck someone or something that
  day after day.                                   is failed, finished, or nearly dead. He
day and night and night and day all the            missed the exam. He’s a dead duck. Yes,
  time; around the clock. The nurse was            John’s a dead duck. He drove his car into
  with her day and night. The house is             a tree.
  guarded night and day.                         dead in someone’s or something’s tracks
day in and day out and day in, day out             stopped exactly where someone or some-
  on every day; for each day. She smokes           thing is at the moment. (This does not
  day in and day out. They eat nothing             usually have anything to do with death.
  but vegetables, day in, day out.                 The phrase is often used with stop.)
                                                   Her unkind words stopped me dead in my
day in, day out Go to day in and day out.
                                                   tracks. When I heard the rattlesnake, I
day-to-day daily; everyday; common.                stopped dead in my tracks. The project
  They update their accounts on a day-to-          came to a halt dead in its tracks.
  day basis. Just wear your regular day-
                                                 dead letter 1. a piece of mail that is re-
  to-day clothing.
                                                   turned to the post office as both unde-
daylight robbery the practice of blatantly         liverable and unreturnable. At the end
  or grossly overcharging.       It’s daylight     of the year, the post office usually has
  robbery to charge that amount of money           bushels of dead letters. Some of the dead
  for a hotel room! The cost of renting a          letters are opened to see if there is an ad-
  car at that place is daylight robbery.           dress inside. 2. an issue, law, or matter
[days are numbered] Go to one’s days are           that is no longer important or that no
                                                   longer has force or power. (Usually a
                                                   dead letter. Could also be used for a
days running and weeks running;                    person.) His point about the need for
  months running; years running days in            education reform is a dead letter. It is be-
  a series; months in a series; etc. (Follows      ing done now.       This point of law is a
  a number.) I had a bad cold for 5 days           dead letter since the last Supreme Court
  running.      For two years running, I           ruling on this matter.
  brought work home from the office every
  night.                                         a dead loss a total loss. My investment
                                                   was a dead loss. This car is a dead loss.
dead ahead straight ahead; directly ahead.         It was a waste of money.
     Look out! There is a cow in the road
  dead ahead. The farmer said that the           dead on its feet and dead on one’s feet
  town we wanted was dead ahead.                   exhausted; worn out; no longer useful.
                                                   Ann is so tired. She’s really dead on her
dead and buried gone forever. (Refers lit-         feet. He can’t teach well anymore. He’s
  erally to persons and figuratively to ideas      dead on his feet. This inefficient com-
  and other things.) Now that memories             pany is dead on its feet.
  of Uncle Bill are dead and buried, we can
  throw away his old boots. That kind of         dead on one’s feet Go to dead on its feet.
  thinking is dead and buried.
                                                 dead set against someone or something totally
dead and gone dead and buried, and                 opposed to someone or something. (See
  probably forgotten. John is dead and             also one’s heart is (dead) set against some-
  gone. There is no reason to fear him any-        thing .) I’m dead set against the new tax

dead to the world

  proposal. Everyone is dead set against        deem that it is necessary Go to deem it
  the mayor.                                      (to be) necessary.
dead to the world tired; exhausted; sleep-      deep-six someone or something to get rid of
  ing soundly. (Compare this with dead on         someone or something; to dispose of
  one’s feet.) I’ve had such a hard day. I’m      someone or something. (Slang. To bury
  really dead to the world.      Look at her      someone or something six feet deep, the
  sleep. She’s dead to the world.                 standard depth for a grave.) Take this
                                                  horrible food out and deep-six it. That
deaf and dumb unable to hear or speak.
                                                  guy is a pain. Deep-six him so the cops will
  (Used without any intended malice, but
                                                  never find him.
  no longer considered polite. Sometimes
  euphemized as “hearing and speech im-         [deepest sympathy] Go to one’s deepest
  paired.”) Fred objected to being called         sympathy.
  deaf and dumb. Aunt Clara—she was
  deaf and dumb, you know—lived to be           a den of iniquity a place filled with
  over 100.                                       wickedness. The town was a den of in-
                                                  iquity and vice was everywhere. Police
deaf as a post Go to (as) deaf as a post.         raided the gambling house, calling it a den
deal in something to buy and sell something.      of iniquity.
     My uncle is a stockbroker. He deals in     desert a sinking ship and leave a sink-
  stocks and bonds.     My aunt deals in          ing ship to leave a place, a person, or a
  antiques.                                       situation when things become difficult or
death and taxes death, which is inevitable,       unpleasant. (Rats are said to be the first
  and the payment of taxes, which is un-          to leave a ship that is sinking.) I hate
  avoidable. (A saying that emphasizes the        to be the one to desert a sinking ship, but
  rigor with which taxes are collected.)          I can’t stand it around here anymore.
  There is nothing as certain on this old         There goes Tom. Wouldn’t you know he’d
  planet as death and taxes. Max said he          leave a sinking ship rather than stay
  could get out of anything except death and      around and try to help?
  taxes.                                        devil-may-care attitude and devil-may-
death on someone or something 1. very effec-      care manner a very casual attitude; a
  tive in acting against someone or some-         worry-free or carefree attitude.     You
  thing. This road is terribly bumpy. It’s        must get rid of your devil-may-care atti-
  death on tires. The sergeant is death on        tude if you want to succeed. She acts so
  lazy soldiers. 2. [with something] accurate     thoughtlessly with her devil-may-care
  or deadly at doing something requiring          manner.
  skill or great effort. John is death on       devil-may-care manner Go to devil-may-
  curve balls. He’s our best pitcher. The         care attitude.
  boxing champ is really death on those fast
  punches.                                      a devil of a job and the devil’s own job
                                                  the most difficult task. (Informal.) We
decide in favor of someone or something to        had a devil of a job fixing the car. It was
  determine that someone or something is          the devil’s own job finding a hotel with
  the winner. The judge decided in favor          vacancies.
  of the defendant. I decided in favor of
  the red one.                                  the devil’s own job Go to devil of a job.
deem it (to be) necessary and deem              a diamond in the rough a valuable or po-
  that it is necessary to believe that            tentially excellent person or thing hidden
  something is necessary. Mary deemed             by an unpolished or rough exterior.
  that it was necessary to leave town that        Ann looks like a stupid woman, but she’s
  night.    Lisa deemed it necessary to go        a fine person—a real diamond in the
  home.                                           rough. That piece of property is a dia-

                                                              dig some dirt up on someone

  mond in the rough. Someday it will be            broken hearts. Please don’t leave me. I
  valuable.                                        know I’ll die of a broken heart.
die a natural death 1. [for someone] to          die of boredom to suffer from boredom;
  die by disease or old age rather than by         to be very bored. No one has ever really
  violence or foul play. I hope to live to         died of boredom. We sat there and lis-
  100 and die a natural death. The po-             tened politely, even though we almost died
  lice say she didn’t die a natural death, and     of boredom.
  they are investigating. 2. [for something]     die on someone 1. [for someone] to die
  to fade away or die down. I expect that          while in someone’s care.      The ambu-
  all this excitement about computers will         lance driver didn’t want his patient to die
  die a natural death. Most fads die a nat-        on him. “Come on, don’t die on me!”
  ural death.                                      cried the emergency room doctor. 2. [for
die in one’s boots and die with one’s boots        something, such as a car engine] to stop
  on to go down fighting; to die in some           running while one is using it. My car
  fashion other than in bed; to die fighting.      just died on me. His computer keeps dy-
  (A cliché popularized by western movies.         ing on him.
  The villains of these movies said they         die on the vine Go to wither on the vine.
  preferred death by gunshot or hanging to
  dying in bed. See also go down fighting.)      die with one’s boots on Go to die in one’s
     I won’t let him get me. I’ll die in my        boots.
  boots. He may give me a hard time, but         different as night and day Go to (as) dif-
  I won’t be overcome. I’ll fight him and die      ferent as night and day.
  with my boots on.
                                                 dig in 1. to eat a meal; to begin eating a
The die is cast. some process is past the          meal. (Informal. See also Come and get
  point of no return. (This die is one of a        it!)   Dinner’s ready, Tom. Sit down and
  pair of dice. This cast means “thrown.”)         dig in.     The cowboy helped himself to
    After that speech favoring reform of the       some beans and dug in. 2. to apply one-
  education system, the die is cast. This is       self to a task; to tackle (something) vig-
  now a campaign issue. The die is cast.           orously.      Sally looked at the big job
  There is no turning back on this point.          ahead of her. Then she rolled up her sleeves
                                                   and dug in. “Tom,” hollered Mrs. Smith,
die laughing 1. to meet one’s death laugh-         “you get to that pile of homework and dig
  ing—in good spirits, revenge, or irony.          in this very minute.”
  Sally is such an optimist that she’ll proba-
  bly die laughing. Bob tried to poison his      dig one’s heels in to refuse to alter one’s
  rich aunt, who then died laughing because        course of action or opinions; to be ob-
  she had taken Bob out of her will. 2. to         stinate or determined. The student dug
  laugh very long and hard. (Informal.)            her heels in and refused to obey the in-
  The joke was so funny that I almost died         structions. I’m digging in my heels. I’m
  laughing.      The play was meant to be          not going back.
  funny, but the audience didn’t exactly die     dig one’s own grave to be responsible for
  laughing.                                        one’s own downfall or ruin. The man-
                                                   ager tried to get rid of his assistant, but he
die of a broken heart 1. to die of emo-
                                                   dug his own grave. He got fired himself for
  tional distress. I was not surprised to
                                                   trying. The committee has dug its own
  hear of her death. They say she died of a
                                                   grave with the new tax bill.
  broken heart. In the movie, the heroine
  appeared to die of a broken heart, but the     dig some dirt up on someone to find out
  audience knew she was poisoned. 2. to suf-       something bad about someone. (Infor-
  fer from emotional distress, especially          mal.)    If you don’t stop trying to dig
  from a failed romance. Tom and Mary              some dirt up on me, I’ll get a lawyer and
  broke off their romance and both died of         sue you. T The citizens’ group dug up

dig someone or something

  some dirt on the mayor and used it against        dishonest or underhanded actions;
  her at election time.                             treachery.      She knew there was some
dig someone or something to understand some-
                                                    dirty work going on when she saw her op-
  thing; to relate to a person or a thing.          ponents whispering together. The com-
  (Slang.) I really dig Tom. He’s a special         pany seems respectable enough, but there’s
  guy. I really dig rock music.                     a lot of dirty work that goes on.
dig someone or something up to go to great ef-    divide and conquer to cause the enemy
  fort to find someone or something.                to split into two or more warring fac-
  (There is an implication that the thing or        tions, and then move in to conquer all of
  person dug up is not the most desirable,          them. Mary thought she could divide
  but is all that could be found.) Mary             and conquer the board of directors, but
  dug a date up for the dance next Friday.          they had survived such tactics many times,
  T I dug up a recipe for roast pork with           and her efforts failed. Sam led his men
  pineapple. T I dug up a carpenter who             to divide and conquer the enemy platoon,
  doesn’t charge very much.                         and his strategy succeeded.
dig something out to work hard to locate          divide something fifty-fifty and split some-
  something and bring it forth. (Also lit-          thing fifty-fifty to divide something into
  eral.) They dug the contract out of the           two equal parts. (Informal. Each fifty
  file cabinet. I dug this old suit out of a        means 50 percent.) Tommy and Billy
  box in the attic. T I dug out an old dress        divided the candy fifty-fifty. The rob-
  and wore it to the fifties party.                 bers split the money fifty-fifty.
a dime a dozen abundant; cheap and com-           do a double take to react with surprise; to
  mon. (Also literal.)     People who can           have to look twice to make sure that one
  write good books are not a dime a dozen.          really saw correctly. (Informal.) When
     Romantic movies are a dime a dozen.            the boy led a goat into the park, everyone
                                                    did a double take. When the nurse saw
dine out Go to eat (a meal) out.
                                                    that the man had six toes, she did a dou-
dip in(to something ) to take or borrow from        ble take.
  a supply of something, especially a sup-
  ply of money. (Also literal.) I had to          do a flip-flop (on something ) and do an
  dip into my savings account to pay for the        about-face to make a sudden reversal of
  car. I hate to dip in like that. She put          opinion. (Informal or slang.) Without
  out her hand and dipped into the choco-           warning, the government did a flip-flop on
  late box.                                         taxation. It had done an about-face on
                                                    the question of deductions last year.
dirt cheap extremely cheap. (Informal.)
  Buy some more of those plums. They’re           do a job on someone or something 1. to dam-
  dirt cheap. In Italy, the peaches are dirt        age someone or something; to mess up
  cheap.                                            someone or something. (Informal or
                                                    slang.) The robbers really did a job on
dirty old man an older man who is exces-            the bank guard. They beat him when they
  sively interested in sex.      Tell your          robbed the bank. The puppy did a job
  daughter to stay away from him. He’s a            on my shoes. They are all chewed to pieces.
  dirty old man and might attack her.               2. [with something] to defecate on some-
  There were several dirty old men looking          thing. (Informal and euphemistic. Note
  at pornographic magazines in the park.            the variation in the second example.)
dirty one’s hands Go to get one’s hands             The puppy did a job on the living-room
  dirty.                                            carpet. It’s supposed to do its job on the
                                                    newspapers in the basement.
dirty work 1. unpleasant or uninteresting
  work. My boss does all the traveling. I         do a land-office business to do a large
  get all the dirty work to do. She’s tired         amount of business in a short period of
  of doing all the dirty work at the office. 2.     time. The ice cream shop always does a

                                                                                  do one’s part

  land-office business on a hot day. The           do not have a care in the world being
  tax collector’s office did a land-office busi-     free and casual; being unworried and
  ness on the day that taxes were due.               carefree. (Do not have can be replaced
                                                     with be without.) I really feel good to-
do an about-face Go to do a flip-flop (on            day—as if I didn’t have a care in the world.
  something ).                                          Ann always acts as if she doesn’t have
do an errand Go to run an errand.                    a care in the world.

do a number on someone or something to             do not have a leg to stand on [for an ar-
  damage or harm someone or something.               gument or a case] to have no support.
  (Slang.) The teacher did a number on               (Informal. Do not have can be replaced
  the whole class. That test was terrible.           with be without.) You may think you’re
  Tom did a number on Mary when he went              in the right, but you don’t have a leg to
  out with Ann.                                      stand on. My lawyer said I didn’t have
                                                     a leg to stand on, so I shouldn’t sue the
do a snow job on someone to deceive or               company.
  confuse someone. (Informal or slang.)
  Tom did a snow job on the teacher when           do not have all one’s marbles do not have
  he said that he was sick yesterday. I hate         all one’s mental capacities. (Also literal.
  it when someone does a snow job on me. I           Informal.)     John acts as if he doesn’t
  find it harder and harder to trust people.         have all his marbles. I’m afraid that I
                                                     don’t have all my marbles all the time.
do away with someone or something 1. [with
  someone] to kill someone; to dispose of          do one’s bit Go to do one’s part.
  someone or something. The crooks did             do one’s duty to do one’s job; to do what is
  away with the witness. I was there, too.           expected of one. Please don’t thank me.
  I hope they don’t try to do away with me.          I’m just doing my duty.      Soldiers who
  2. [with something] to get rid of some-            fight in wars are doing their duty.
  thing; to dispose of something. This
  chemical will do away with the stain in          do oneself proud [for one] to make oneself
  your sink. The time has come to do away            proud. (Folksy. See also do credit to some-
  with that old building.                            one .) Well, Bill really did himself proud
                                                     in the horse race. You did yourself proud
do credit to someone and do someone credit           by raising that fine-looking, prizewinning
  to add to the reputation of someone.               hog.
  Your new job really does credit to you.
  Yes, it really does you credit.                  do one’s (level) best to do (something) as
                                                     well as one can. Just do your level best.
Do I need to paint you a picture? It is              That’s all we can ask of you. Tom isn’t
  so very simple, so why do you require              doing his best. We may have to replace
  more explanation to understand it?                 him.
  What is so difficult? Do I need to paint you
  a picture? I’ve explained it every way I         do one’s (own) thing to do what one likes
  can. Do I need to paint you a picture?             or what one pleases. (Informal or slang.)
                                                        Tom doesn’t like being told what to do.
do justice to something 1. to do something           He prefers to do his own thing. When
  well; to represent or portray something            you do your thing, you have no one but
  accurately. Sally did justice to the con-          yourself to blame if things don’t work out.
  tract negotiations.       This photograph
  doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the          do one’s part and do one’s bit to do one’s
  mountains. 2. to eat or drink a great deal.        share of the work; to do whatever one can
     Bill always does justice to the turkey on       do to help. All people everywhere must
  Thanksgiving. The party didn’t do jus-             do their part to help get things under con-
  tice to the roast pig. There were nearly ten       trol. I always try to do my bit. How can
  pounds left over.                                  I help this time?

do or die

do or die to do something or die trying.           huge waves totally did in the seaside com-
  (Refers to an attitude adopted when one          munity. The fire did the wooden build-
  must do something whether one wants to           ing in.
  or not. Occurs as a noun or an adjective.)     do someone or something over and make
     It was do or die. There was no turning        someone or something over 1. [with some-
  back now. He simply had to get to the            one] to buy a new wardrobe for someone;
  airport on time. It was a case of do or die.     to redo someone’s hair. (See also make a
do so Go to do too.                                fuss (over someone or something ).)   Sally’s
                                                   mother did Sally over for the play tryouts.
do somehow by someone to treat someone in
                                                       It’s very expensive to do a person over
  a particular manner. (Informal. Do not           completely. The designer did Sally over
  confuse this with a passive construction.        completely. 2. [with something] to re-
  The someone is not the actor but the ob-         build, redesign, or redecorate something.
  ject.) Tom did all right by Ann when                 We did our living room over for the hol-
  he brought her red roses. I did badly by         idays. T We made over the family room
  Tom. I fired him.                                because it was looking shabby.
do someone a good turn to do something           do someone out of something to cheat some-
  that is helpful to someone. My neigh-            one out of something. (Informal or
  bor did me a good turn by lending me his         slang.) They did the widow out of her
  car.    The teacher did me a good turn           life savings. I won’t let anyone do me out
  when he told me to work harder.                  of anything. I’m a very cautious and sus-
do someone a kindness to do a kind deed            picious person.
  for a person.    My neighbor did me a          do someone’s bidding to do what is re-
  kindness when he cut my grass. I am al-          quested by someone.         The servant
  ways happy to have the opportunity of do-        grumbled but did his employer’s bidding.
  ing someone a kindness.                            Am I expected to do your bidding when-
do someone credit Go to do credit to some-         ever you ask?
  one.                                           do someone’s heart good to make someone
do someone damage to harm someone. (In-            feel good emotionally. (Also literal. In-
  formal.) I hope she doesn’t plan to do           formal.) It does my heart good to hear
  me damage.       They did us damage by           you talk that way. When she sent me a
  telling the whole story to the newspapers.       get-well card, it really did my heart good.
do someone good to benefit someone. (In-         do something by hand to do something with
  formal.) A nice hot bath really does me          one’s hands rather than with a machine.
  good. A few years in the army would do               The computer was broken so I had to
  you good.                                        do the calculations by hand. All this tiny
                                                   stitching was done by hand. Machines can-
do someone one better Go to go someone             not do this kind of work.
  one better.
                                                 do something fair and square to do some-
do someone or something in 1. [with someone]       thing fairly. (Folksy. See also fair and
  to make someone tired.        That tennis        square.)    He always plays the game fair
  game really did me in. Yes, hard activ-          and square. I try to treat all people fair
  ity will do you in. 2. [with someone] to         and square.
  cheat someone; to take someone in. The
  crooks did the widow in. T They did in the     do something for a living to do some kind
  widow by talking her into giving them all        of work to earn enough money to live.
  the money in her bank account. 3. [with             John paints houses for a living. What
  someone] to kill someone. T The crooks           do you do for a living?
  did in the bank guard. T They’ll proba-        do something hands down to do something
  bly do in the witnesses soon. 4. [with           easily and without opposition.   The
  something] to destroy something. T The           mayor won the election hands down.

                                                                                 do the honors

  She was the choice of the people hands           supposed to be losing weight, but she was
  down.                                            snacking on the sly.
do something in a heartbeat to do some-          do something over (again) to redo some-
  thing almost immediately. If I had the           thing; to repeat the doing of something.
  money, I would go back to college in a              This isn’t right. You’ll have to do it over
  heartbeat. Just tell me that you need me         again. The teacher made me do my pa-
  and I’ll come there in a heartbeat.              per over.
do something in person to appear some-           do something the hard way 1. to accomplish
  where and do something oneself rather            something in the most difficult manner,
  than sending someone else or doing it            rather than by an easier way. I made it
  over the telephone, or by mail. I know           to this job the hard way. I came up through
  the money should be in his account. I saw        the ranks. She did it the hard way. She
  him put it there in person. The famous           had no help from her parents. 2. to do
  actor came to the hospital and greeted each      something the wrong way.             No, you
  patient in person.                               can’t pound in nails like that. You’re do-
                                                   ing it the hard way. I’m sorry. I learn
do something in public to do something             things the hard way.
  where anyone looking could see it. You
  should dress neatly when you appear in         do something to excess to do too much of
  public. I wish that you wouldn’t talk to         something; to consume too much of
  me so rudely in public. Bob, you must            something. Anne often drinks to excess
  behave properly in public.                       at parties. John smokes to excess when
                                                   he works.
do something in secret to do something pri-
                                                 do something up to repair or redecorate
  vately or secretly. Why do you always
                                                   something.      If we’re going to sell the
  do things like that in secret? There is no
                                                   house, we’ll have to do it up. T I’m going
  need to count your money in secret.
                                                   to do up the kitchen.
do something in vain to do something with        do something up brown to do something
  no result; to do something that fails.            just right. (Folksy. Refers to cooking
  They rushed her to the hospital, but they         something until it has just the right
  did it in vain. We tried in vain to get her       amount of brownish color.) Of course
  there on time.                                    I can do it right. I’ll really do it up brown.
do something on the fly to do something                Come on, Bob. Let’s do it right this time.
  while one is moving; to do something (to          I know you can do it up brown.
  something that is in motion). (Slang.          do something with a vengeance to do some-
  This has nothing to do with actual                thing with vigor; to do something ener-
  flight.) We can’t stop the machine to oil         getically as if one were angry with it.
  it now. You’ll have to do it on the f ly. We      (Folksy.) Bob is building that fence with
  will have to find the break in the film on        a vengeance. Mary is really weeding her
  the f ly—while we are showing it.                 garden with a vengeance.
do something on the run to do something          do the dishes to wash and dry dishes,
  while one is moving hurriedly; to do             glasses, cups, knives, forks, etc., after a
  something while one is going rapidly             meal. Bill, you cannot go out and play
  from one place to another. (Informal.)           until you’ve done the dishes. Why am I
  I was very busy today and had to eat on          always the one who has to do the dishes?
  the run. I didn’t have time to meet with
                                                 do the honors to act as host or hostess and
  Bill, but I was able to talk to him on the
  run.                                             serve one’s guests by pouring drinks, slic-
                                                   ing meat, making (drinking) toasts, etc.
do something on the sly to do something               All the guests were seated, and a huge,
  slyly or sneakily. (Informal.)      He was       juicy turkey sat on the table. Jane Thomas
  seeing Mrs. Smith on the sly.      She was       turned to her husband and said, “Bob, will

do the trick

  you do the honors?” Mr. Jones smiled and          succeed; ruthless competition.         It is
  began slicing thick slices of meat from the       dog-eat-dog in the world of business these
  turkey.     The mayor stood up and ad-            days. Universities are not quiet peaceful
  dressed the people who were still eating          places. It’s dog-eat-dog to get a promotion.
  their salads. “I’m delighted to do the hon-
  ors this evening and propose a toast to your    dog in the manger one who prevents other
  friend and mine, Bill Jones. Bill, good luck      people from doing or having what one
  and best wishes in your new job in Wash-          does not wish them to do or have. (From
  ington.” And everyone sipped a bit of wine.       one of Aesop’s fables in which a dog—
                                                    which cannot eat hay—lay in the hayrack
do the trick to do exactly what needs to            [manger] and prevented the other ani-
  be done. (Folksy.) Push it just a little          mals from eating the hay.) Jane is a real
  more to the left. There, that does the trick.     dog in the manger. She cannot drive, but
     If you lend me five dollars, I’ll have         she will not lend anyone her car. If Mar-
  enough to do the trick.                           tin were not such a dog in the manger, he
                                                    would let his brother have that dinner
do too and do so to do something (despite
                                                    jacket he never wears.
  anything to the contrary). (An emphatic
  way of saying do. See also be too, have         dollar for dollar considering the amount
  too.)   BOB: You don’t have your money            of money involved; considering the cost.
  with you. BILL: I do too! He does so! I           (Informal. Often seen in advertising.)
  saw him put it in his pocket. She did too.        Dollar for dollar, you cannot buy a better
  I saw her do it.                                  car. Dollar for dollar, this laundry de-
                                                    tergent washes cleaner and brighter than
do without (someone or something) to manage         any other product on the market.
  to get through life without someone or
  something that you want or need.          I     done in tired; exhausted; terminated;
  guess I’ll just have to do without a car.         killed. I am really done in after all that
  I don’t know how I can do without. The            exercise. The project was done in by a
  boss can’t do without a secretary.                vote of the board.       The witness was
                                                    afraid he would be done in by the mobsters.
Do you read me? Do you understand what
  I am telling you? (Typically asked of           done to a T and done to a turn cooked
  someone receiving a radio communica-              just right. (Folksy. See also fit someone to
  tion, such as from an airplane or an              a T; suit someone to a T.)   Yummy! This
  airport control tower. Also used as an            meat is done to a T. I like it done to a
  emphatic way of asking if one is under-           turn, not too done and not too raw.
  stood.) This is Delta heavy 54. Do you
                                                  done to a turn Go to done to a T.
  read me? I have said no twenty times al-
  ready! The answer is still no! Do you read      Don’t hold your breath. Do not stop
  me?                                               breathing (while waiting a long time for
                                                    something to happen). (Informal.) You
dog and pony show a display, demon-
                                                    think he’ll get a job? Ha! Don’t hold your
  stration, or exhibition of something—
                                                    breath. I’ll finish building the fence as
  such as something one is selling. (Refers
                                                    soon as I have time, but don’t hold your
  to a circus act where trained dogs leap
  onto and off of trained ponies, in exactly
  the same sequence each time the show is         Don’t let it go any further. and Don’t let
  performed.)       Gary was there with his        it out of this room. Don’t tell this secret
  dog and pony show, trying to sell his ideas       to anyone else. (Also literal.) This is a
  to whomever would listen to him. Don’t            strict secret. Don’t let it go any further.
  you get tired of running through the same         I’ll tell you what you what to know, but
  old dog and pony show, week after week?           don’t let it go any further.
dog-eat-dog a situation in which one has          Don’t let it out of this room Go to Don’t
  to act ruthlessly in order to survive or          let it go any further.

                                                                         down for the count

Don’t let someone or something get you             at Jane because she double-crossed him on
 down. Do not allow yourself to be over-           the sale of his car.
  come by someone or something. Don’t            double in brass to serve two purposes; to
  let their constant teasing get you down.         be useful for two different things. (Refers
  Don’t let Tom get you down. He’s not al-         to a musician who can play a trumpet or
  ways unpleasant.                                 trombone, etc., in addition to some other
Don’t quit your day job. You are not very          instrument.) The English teacher also
  good at what you are doing, so don’t quit        doubles in brass as the football coach.
  your regular job in hopes that you can           The drummer doubles in brass as a
  support yourself doing this. I saw your          violinist.
  comedy act at the nightclub. Don’t quit        double up (with someone ) to share some-
  your day job! So, you laid the bricks in         thing with someone.        We don’t have
  this wall. Well, don’t quit your day job.        enough books. Tom, will you double up
doomed to failure certain to fail, usually         with Jane? When we get more books, we
  because of some obvious flaw.        This        won’t have to double up anymore. We’ll
  project was doomed to failure from the           share hotel rooms to save money. Tom and
  very beginning. The play is doomed to            Bill will double up.
  failure because there is not a good story      doubting Thomas someone who will not
  line.                                            easily believe something without strong
door-to-door 1. having to do with move-            proof or evidence. (From the Bible.)
  ment from one door to another or from            Mary won’t believe that I have a dog un-
  one house to another. (See also from door        til she sees him. She’s such a doubting
  to door.)   John is a door-to-door sales-        Thomas. This school is full of doubting
  man.      We spent two weeks making a            Thomases. They want to see Jimmy’s new
  door-to-door survey. 2. by moving from           bike with their own eyes.
  one door to another or one house to an-        down-and-dirty sneaky, unfair, low-down,
  other.    Anne is selling books door-to-         and nasty. (Slang.) The boys played a
  door. We went door-to-door, collecting           real down-and-dirty trick on the teacher.
  money.                                              A political campaign provides a lot of
                                                   down-and-dirty speeches that only confuse
a dose of one’s own medicine the same              the voters.
  kind of treatment that one gives to other
  people. (Often with get or have.) Sally        down-and-out having no money or means
  never is very friendly. Someone is going to      of support. There are many young peo-
  give her a dose of her own medicine some-        ple down-and-out in Los Angeles just now.
  day. He didn’t like getting a dose of his           John gambled away all his fortune and
  own medicine.                                    is now completely down-and-out.
double back (on someone or something ) [for      down-at-the-heels        shabby;     poorly
  a person or animal] to reverse motion,           dressed. (Refers to shoes that are worn
  moving toward someone or something               down at the heels.) The hobo was really
  rather than away from someone or some-           down-at-the-heels. Tom’s house needs
  thing.    The deer doubled back on the           paint. It looks down-at-the-heels.
  hunter. The robber doubled back on the         down by some amount having a score that is
  police, and they lost track of him. He           lower, by the specified amount, than
  doubled back on his trail.                       someone else’s score or the other team’s
double-cross someone to betray someone             score. At halftime, the home team was
  by doing the opposite of what was                down by 14 points. Down by one run,
  promised; to betray a person by not do-          the team scored two runs in the ninth in-
  ing what was promised. (Slang. Origi-            ning and won the game.
  nally criminal slang.)        If you double-   down for the count finished for the time
  cross me again, I’ll kill you. Tom is mad        being. (From boxing, where a fallen

down in the dumps

  fighter remains down [resting] until the       down the tubes ruined; wasted. (Slang.)
  last count, or even beyond.) After the              His political career went down the tubes
  professor rebuked me in class, I knew I was      after the scandal. He’s lost his job. The
  down for the count. I am down for the            business went down the tubes.
  count, but I’ll try again tomorrow.
                                                 down-to-earth 1. direct, frank, and hon-
down in the dumps sad or depressed. (In-           est. You can depend on Ann. She’s very
  formal.) I’ve been down in the dumps             down-to-earth.        It’s good that she’s
  for the past few days. Try to cheer Jane         down-to-earth and will give us a frank re-
  up. She’s down in the dumps for some             sponse. 2. practical; not theoretical; not
  reason.                                          fanciful. Her ideas for the boutique are
                                                   always very down-to-earth. The com-
down in the mouth sad-faced; depressed             mittee’s plans for the village are anything
  and unsmiling. Since her dog died, Bar-          but down-to-earth.
  bara has been down in the mouth. Bob
  has been down in the mouth since the car       down to the last detail considering all of
  wreck.                                           the details. Jean planned the party very
                                                   carefully, down to the last detail. Mary
down on one’s luck without any money;              wanted to be in charge of everything right
  unlucky. (Euphemistic for broke.) Can            down to the last detail.
  you lend me twenty dollars? I’ve been
  down on my luck lately. The gambler            down to the wire at the very last minute;
  had to get a job because he had been down        up to the very last instant. (Refers to a
  on his luck and didn’t earn enough money         wire that marks the end of a horse race.)
  to live on.                                         I have to turn this in tomorrow, and I’ll
                                                   be working down to the wire. When we
down on someone or something against some-         get down to the wire, we’ll know better
  one or something; negative about some-           what to do.
  one or something. I’ve been down on
                                                 down with some disease ill; sick at home.
  red meat lately. It’s better to eat chicken
                                                   (Can be said about many diseases.)
  or fish. The teacher was down on Tom
                                                   Tom isn’t here. He’s down with a cold.
  because he’s always talking in class.
                                                   Sally is down with the f lu. The whole
down South to or in the southeastern               office has come down with something.
  United States. (See also back East; out        downhill all the way easy all the way. (In-
  West; up North.)    I used to live down          formal.) Don’t worry about your alge-
  South. We are going down South for the           bra course. It’s downhill all the way. The
  winter.                                          mayor said that the job of mayor is easy—
down the drain lost forever; wasted. (Also         in fact, downhill all the way.
  literal. Informal.) I just hate to see all     downhill from here on easy from this
  that money go down the drain.          Well,     point on. (Informal.) The worst part
  there goes the whole project, right down the     is over. It’s downhill from here on. The
  drain.                                           painful part of this procedure is over. It’s
down the hatch [to] swallow (something).           downhill from here on.
  (Informal or slang. Sometimes said when        drag one’s feet to act very slowly, often de-
  someone takes a drink of alcohol.)               liberately. The government is dragging
  Come on, Billy. Eat your dinner. Down the        its feet on this bill because it costs too
  hatch! John raised his glass of beer and         much. If the planning department had
  said, “Down the hatch.”                          not dragged their feet, the building would
                                                   have been built by now.
down the street a short distance away on
  this same street. Sally lives just down        a drag (on someone) a burden to someone;
  the street. There is a drugstore down the        a bore. (Slang. Preceded by be, become,
  street. It’s very convenient.                    seem like, or act like.)  Mr. Franklin

                                                               draw the line (at something)

  seems like a drag on Mrs. Franklin.      Yes,   draw lots and draw straws to choose
  I’d expect him to be a drag.                      from a group of things to determine who
                                                    will do something. (Typically, to choose
draw a bead on someone or something to aim          a straw from a bundle of straws. The per-
  at someone or something; to pick out              son with the shortest straw is selected.)
  someone or something for special treat-              We drew lots to decide who would wash
  ment. (Informal.) Ann wants a new car,            the dishes. The players drew straws to
  and she has drawn a bead on a red con-            determine who would go first.
  vertible. Jane wants to get married, and
  she has drawn a bead on Tom.                    draw someone or something out 1. [with some-
                                                    one] to coax someone to speak or answer;
draw a blank 1. to get no response; to find         to bring someone into a conversation or
  nothing. I asked him about Tom’s fi-              other social interaction. Jane is usually
  nancial problems, and I just drew a blank.        very shy with older men, but Tom really
     We looked in the files for an hour, but        drew her out last evening. T John drew out
  we drew a blank. 2. to fail to remember           Mr. Smith on the question of tax increases.
  (something). I tried to remember her              2. [with something] to make something
  telephone number, but I could only draw           longer in length or time. T Jane drew out
  a blank. It was a very hard test with just        the conversation for more than twenty
  one question to answer, and I drew a              minutes. Bill drew the taffy candy out
  blank.                                            into a long string.
draw a line between something and some-           draw (someone’s ) fire (away from someone
  thing else and draw the line between              or something ) to make oneself a target in
  something and something else to separate          order to protect someone or something.
  two things; to distinguish or differentiate       (Refers to gunfire.)      The mother bird
  between two things. (See also draw the            drew fire away from her chicks. The hen
  line (at something ).) It’s necessary to draw     drew the hunter’s fire away from her nest.
  a line between bumping into people and               Birds draw fire by f lapping their wings
  striking them. It’s very hard to draw the         to get attention. The president drew fire
  line between slamming a door and just             away from Congress by proposing a
  closing it loudly.                                compromise.
draw blood 1. to make a wound that                draw something to a close to make some-
  bleeds. The dog chased me and bit me              thing end. It is now time to draw this
  hard, but it didn’t draw blood.        The        evening to a close. What a lovely vaca-
  boxer landed just one punch and drew              tion. It’s a shame that we must draw it to
  blood immediately. 2. to anger or insult          a close.
  a person. Sally screamed out a terrible
                                                  draw something up to put something into
  insult at Tom. Judging by the look on his
  face, she really drew blood. Tom started          writing; to prepare a written document;
  yelling and cursing, trying to insult Sally.      to put plans on paper. (Used especially
  He wouldn’t be satisfied until he had             with legal documents prepared by a
  drawn blood, too.                                 lawyer.) You should draw a will up as
                                                    soon as you can. T I went to see my lawyer
draw interest 1. to appear interesting and          this morning about drawing up a will. T
  get (someone’s) attention. (Note the vari-        The architect is drawing up plans for the
  ation in the examples below.) This kind           new city hall.
  of event isn’t likely to draw a lot of inter-   draw straws Go to draw lots.
  est. What kind of thing will draw in-
  terest? 2. [for money] to earn interest         draw the line (at something ) to set a limit
  while on deposit. Put your money in the           at something; to decide when a limit has
  bank so it will draw interest. The cash           been reached. (See also hold the line (at
  value of some insurance policies also draws       someone or something ).) You can make as
  interest.                                         much noise as you want, but I draw the

draw the line between something and something else

  line at fighting. It’s hard to keep young       chestra arrived by dribs and drabs. All
  people under control, but you have to draw      her fortune was spent in dribs and drabs
  the line somewhere.                             on silly things—like clothes and fine wines.
draw the line between something and             drink to excess to drink too much alco-
  something else Go to draw a line between        hol; to drink alcohol continually. Mr.
  something and something else.                   Franklin drinks to excess. Some people
draw to a close to end; to come to an end.        drink to excess only at parties.
     This evening is drawing to a close. It’s   drive a hard bargain to work hard to ne-
  a shame that our vacation is drawing to a       gotiate prices or agreements in one’s own
  close.                                          favor. (Informal.) I saved $200 by driv-
drawn and quartered dealt with very se-           ing a hard bargain when I bought my new
  verely. (Refers to a practice of torturing      car. All right, sir, you drive a hard bar-
  someone guilty of treason, usually a            gain. I’ll sell you this car for $12,450.
  male, by disemboweling and dividing the         You drive a hard bargain, Jane, but I’ll sign
  body into four parts.) Todd was prac-           the contract.
  tically drawn and quartered for losing the    drive at something to be making a point; to
  Wilson contract.       You were much too        be approaching the making of a point.
  harsh with Jean. No matter what she did,          I do not understand what you are telling
  she didn’t need to be drawn and quartered       me. What are you driving at? She was
  for it!                                         driving at how important it is to get an
a dream come true a wish or a dream that          education.
  has become real. Going to Hawaii is like      drive someone crazy and drive someone
  a dream come true. Having you for a             mad 1. to make someone insane. He’s
  friend is a dream come true.                    so strange that he actually drove his wife
Dream on. What you are expecting or               crazy. Doctor, there are little green peo-
  wanting to happen is nothing but fantasy,       ple following me around trying to drive me
  so enjoy yourself and create as many fan-       mad. 2. to annoy or irritate someone.
  tasies as you want. You want to get pro-        This itch is driving me crazy. All these
  moted to general manager? Dream on.             telephone calls are driving me mad.
  You, an opera singer? Dream on.               drive someone mad Go to drive someone
dredge something up Go to rake something up.      crazy.
dress someone down to bawl someone out;         drive someone out (of office) Go to force
  to give someone a good scolding. (Pri-          someone out (of office).
  marily military.) The sergeant dressed        drive someone to the wall Go to force some-
  the soldier down severely. I know they’ll       one to the wall.
  dress me down when I get home.
                                                drive someone up the wall 1. to make
dressed to kill dressed in fancy or stylish       someone insane. (Slang.) Mr. Frank-
  clothes. (Slang.)     Wow, look at Sally!       lin drove his wife up the wall. All my
  She’s really dressed to kill.    A person       problems will drive me up the wall some-
  doesn’t go to church dressed to kill.           day. 2. to annoy or irritate someone.
dressed to the nines dressed very well.           (Slang.) Stop whistling that tune. You’re
  (What nines means is not known.)                driving me up the wall.      All his talk
  Tom showed up at the dance dressed to the       about moving to California nearly drove
  nines. Sally is even dressed to the nines       me up the wall.
  at the office.                                drive something home to make something
dribs and drabs in small irregular quan-          clearly understood. (Also literal.) Why
  tities. (Especially with in and by.) The        do I always have to shout at you to drive
  checks for the charity are coming in in         something home? T Sometimes you have
  dribs and drabs. The members of the or-         to be forceful to drive home a point.

                                                                            drop someone

drive something into the ground Go to run        keep working this way, I’ll drop in my
  something into the ground.                     tracks. Uncle Bob was working in the
                                                 garden and dropped in his tracks. We are
driving force (behind someone or something )
                                                 all sorry that he’s dead.
  a person or a thing that motivates or di-
  rects someone or something. Money is         drop in (on someone ) and drop in (to say
  the driving force behind most businesses.      hello) to pay someone a casual visit, per-
     Ambition is the driving force behind        haps a surprise visit. I hate to drop in
  Tom. Love can also be a driving force.         on people when they aren’t expecting me.
drop a bomb(shell) and explode a                   You’re welcome to drop in at any time.
  bombshell; drop a brick to announce               We won’t stay a minute. We just
  shocking or startling news. (Also literal      dropped in to say hello.
  for bomb and brick. Informal or slang.)      a drop in the bucket Go to a drop in the
  They really dropped a bombshell when           ocean.
  they announced that the mayor had can-
  cer. Friday is a good day to drop a bomb     a drop in the ocean and a drop in the
  like that. It gives the business world the     bucket just a little bit; not enough of
  weekend to recover.      They must speak       something to make a difference. But
  very carefully when they explode a bomb-       one dollar isn’t enough! That’s just a drop
  shell like that.    They really dropped a      in the ocean. At this point your help is
  brick when they told the cause of her          nothing more than a drop in the ocean. I
  illness.                                       need far more help than twenty people
drop a brick Go to drop a bomb(shell).
                                                 could give. I won’t accept your offer. It’s
                                                 just a drop in the bucket.
drop around (sometime) and drop by (some-
  time ) to come and visit at some future      drop in (to say hello) Go to drop in (on
  time. (Similar to drop in (on someone ).)      someone ).
  Nice to see you, Mary. You and Bob must      drop names to mention the names of im-
  drop around sometime. Please do drop           portant or famous people as if they were
  around when you’re out driving. We’d           personal friends. Mary always tries to
  love to have you drop by.                      impress people by dropping the names of
drop by (sometime) Go to drop around (some-      well-known film stars. Bill’s such a snob.
  time ).                                        Leave it to him to drop the names of all the
                                                 local gentry.
drop by the wayside Go to fall by the
  wayside.                                     drop off (to sleep) to go to sleep without
drop dead 1. to die suddenly.      I under-      difficulty; to fall asleep.   I sat in the
  stand that Tom Anderson dropped dead at        warm room for five minutes, and then I
  his desk yesterday. No one knows why           dropped off to sleep.     After I’ve eaten
  Uncle Bob suddenly dropped dead. 2. Go         dinner, I can drop off with no trouble at
  away and stop bothering me. (Rude              all.
  slang.) If you think I’m going to put up     drop out (of something ) to stop being a
  with your rudeness all afternoon, you can      member of something; to stop attending
  just drop dead! Drop dead! I’m not your        or participating in something. (Also lit-
  slave!                                         eral.) I’m working part time so that I
drop everything to stop doing whatever           won’t have to drop out of college. I don’t
  one is doing. Drop everything and go           want to drop out at this time.
  outside. The house is on fire. Do you ex-
                                               drop someone to stop being friends with
  pect me to drop everything and come and
                                                 someone, especially with one’s boyfriend
  pick you up at school?
                                                 or girlfriend. Bob finally dropped Jane.
drop in one’s tracks to stop or collapse         I don’t know what he saw in her. I’m
  from exhaustion; to die suddenly.     If I     surprised that she didn’t drop him first.

drop someone a few lines

drop someone a few lines Go to drop some-           couldn’t hear all the concert because the
  one a line.                                       airplanes drowned out the quiet parts.
drop someone a line and drop someone a            drug on the market on the market in great
  few lines to write a letter or a note to          abundance; a glut on the market. Right
  someone. (Line refers to lines of writing.)       now, small computers are a drug on the
     I dropped Aunt Jane a line last Thanks-        market. Ten years ago, small transistor
  giving. She usually drops me a few lines          radios were a drug on the market.
  around the first of the year.
                                                  drum some business up to stimulate
drop someone’s name to mention the name             people to buy what you are selling. I
  of an important or famous person as if            need to do something to drum some busi-
  the person were a personal friend.                ness up. T A little bit of advertising would
  Mary always tries to impress people by            drum up some business.
  dropping a well-known movie star’s name.
     Joan is such a snob. Leave it to her to      drum someone out of something to expel or
  drop some social leader’s name.                   send someone away from something, es-
                                                    pecially in a formal or public fashion.
drop the ball to make a blunder; to fail in         (From the military use of drums on such
  some way. (Refers to dropping the ball            occasions.) The officer was drummed
  in a ball game.) Everything was going             out of the regiment for misconduct.        I
  fine in the election until my campaign            heard that he was drummed out of the
  manager dropped the ball.        You can’t        country club for cheating on his golf score.
  trust John to do the job right. He’s always
  dropping the ball.                              drum something into someone (‘s head) to
                                                    make someone learn something through
drop the other shoe to do the deed that             persistent repetition. Yes, I know that.
  completes something; to do the expected           They drummed it into me as a child.
  remaining part of something. (Refers to           Now I’m drumming it into my own chil-
  the removal of shoes at bedtime. One              dren. I will drum it into their heads day
  shoe is dropped, and then the process is          and night.
  completed when the second shoe drops.)
     Mr. Franklin has left his wife. Soon he’ll   drunk and disorderly a criminal charge
  drop the other shoe and divorce her.              for public drunkenness accompanied by
  Tommy has just failed three classes in            bad or offensive behavior. The judge
  school. We expect him to drop the other           fined Max for being drunk and disorderly.
  shoe and quit altogether any day now.                In addition to being convicted for driv-
                                                    ing while intoxicated, Max was found
drop the subject to stop talking about              guilty of being drunk and disorderly.
  whatever is being talked about. This is
  a disgusting conversation. Let’s drop the       drunk as a lord Go to (as) drunk as a lord.
  subject. He had heard enough about my           drunk as a skunk Go to (as) drunk as a
  operation, so I just dropped the subject.         lord.
drown one’s sorrows Go to drown one’s             dry as a bone Go to (as) dry as a bone.
                                                  dry as dust Go to (as) dry as dust.
drown one’s troubles and drown one’s
  sorrows to try to forget one’s problems         dry run an attempt; a rehearsal.      We had
  by drinking a lot of alcohol. (Informal.)         better have a dry run for the official cere-
    Bill is in the bar, drowning his troubles.      mony tomorrow. The children will need
    Jane is at home, drowning her sorrows.          a dry run before their procession in the
drown someone or something out to make so
  much noise that someone or something            dry someone out to help a drunk person get
  cannot be heard. I can’t hear what you            sober. We had to call the doctor to help
  said. The radio drowned you out. T We             dry Mr. Franklin out. T It takes time to

                                                                      dying to do something

  dry out someone who has been drinking for      Dutch     courage unusual or artificial
  a week.                                          courage arising from the influence of al-
dry up to become silent; to stop talking.          cohol. It was Dutch courage that made
  (Also literal. Informal.) The young lec-         the football fan attack the policeman.
  turer was so nervous that he forgot what he      It will take a bit of Dutch courage to make
  was going to say and dried up. Actors            an after-dinner speech.
  have a fear of drying up on stage. Oh,         Dutch treat a social occasion where one
  dry up! I’m sick of listening to you.            pays for oneself. (See also go Dutch.)
duck and cover 1. to dodge something,              “It’s nice of you to ask me out to dinner,”
  such as an issue or a difficult question,        she said, “but could we make it a Dutch
  and attempt to shield oneself against sim-       treat?”     The office outing is always a
  ilar issues or questions. (Refers to duck-       Dutch treat.
  ing down and taking cover to protect           Dutch uncle a man who gives frank and di-
  oneself.) The candidate’s first reaction         rect advice to someone in the manner of
  to the question was to duck and cover.           a parent or relative. I would not have to
  The debaters were ducking and covering           lecture you like a Dutch uncle if you were
  throughout the evening. 2. dodging some-         not so extravagant. He acts more like a
  thing, such as an issue or a difficult ques-     Dutch uncle than a husband. He’s forever
  tion, and attempting to shield oneself           telling her what to do in public.
  against similar issues or questions. (Typ-
  ically duck-and-cover.) These politi-          duty bound (to do something ) forced by a
  cians are experts at duck-and-cover.             sense of duty and honor to do something.
  When in doubt, turn to duck-and-cover.              Good evening, madam. I’m duty bound
dull as dishwater Go to (as) dull as               to inform you that we have arrested your
  dishwater.                                       husband. No one made me say that. I
                                                   was duty bound.
dull as ditchwater Go to (as) dull as
  dishwater.                                     dyed-in-the-wool permanent; indelible;
                                                   stubborn. (Usually said of a person.)
Dutch auction an auction or sale that              My uncle was a dyed-in-the-wool farmer.
  starts off with a high asking price that is      He wouldn’t change for anything. Sally
  then reduced until a buyer is found.             is a dyed-in-the-wool socialist.
  Dutch auctions are rare—most auction-
  eers start with a lower price than they hope   dying to do something very anxious to do
  to obtain. My real estate agent advised          something. I’m just dying to go sailing
  me to ask a reasonable price for my house        in your new boat. After a long hot day
  rather than get involved with a Dutch            like this one, I’m just dying for a cool drink
  auction.                                         of water.

an eager beaver someone who is very en-
  thusiastic; someone who works very
                                         E            ways get up at dawn. After all, early to bed,
                                                      early to rise.
  hard. New volunteers are always eager
                                                    earn one’s keep to help out with chores in
  beavers.    The young assistant gets to             return for food and a place to live; to earn
  work very early. She’s a real eager beaver.         one’s pay by doing what is expected. I
an eagle eye careful attention; an intently           earn my keep at college by shoveling snow
  watchful eye. (From the sharp eyesight of           in the winter. Tom hardly earns his keep
  the eagle.)     The students wrote their            around here. He should be fired.
  essays under the eagle eye of the head-           [ears are red] Go to one’s ears are red.
  master. The umpire kept his eagle eye on
  the tennis match.                                 [ears are ringing] Go to one’s ears are
early bird someone who gets up or arrives
  early or starts something very promptly,          ease off (on someone or something) and ease
  especially someone who gains an advan-              up (on someone or something ) to reduce the
  tage of some kind by so doing. (See also            urgency with which one deals with some-
  The early bird gets the worm.)         The          one or something; to put less pressure on
  members of the Smith family are all early           someone or something.          Ease off on
  birds. They caught the first bus to town.           John. He has been yelled at enough today.
  I was an early bird and got the best selec-            Yes, please ease off. I can’t stand any
  tion of f lowers.                                   more. Tell them to ease up on the horses.
                                                      They are getting tired. Tell them to ease
The early bird gets the worm. The early               up now! They are making the horses work
  person will get the reward or benefit.              too hard.
  Don’t be late again! Don’t you know that
  the early bird gets the worm? I’ll be there       ease up (on someone or something) Go to ease
  before the sun is up. After all, the early bird     off (on someone or something ).
  gets the worm.                                    easier said than done Go to (be) easier
early on early; at an early stage.   We rec-          said than done.
  ognized the problem early on, but we              easy as ABC Go to (as) easy as ABC.
  waited too long to do something about it.
      This doesn’t surprise me. I knew about        easy as (apple) pie Go to (as) easy as (ap-
  it early on.                                        ple) pie.

Early to bed, early to rise(, makes a man           easy as duck soup Go to (as) easy as duck
  healthy, wealthy, and wise). Going to
  bed early and getting up early is good for        easy as falling off a log Go to (as) easy
  you. (Proverb. Sometimes said to explain            as falling off a log.
  why a person is going to bed early. The
                                                    easy as rolling off a log Go to (as) easy
  last part of the saying is sometimes left
                                                      as falling off a log.
  out.) Tom left the party at ten o’clock,
  saying, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes       easy come, easy go <a phrase used when
  a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I al-            accepting the loss of something that re-

                                                      eat someone out of house and home

  quired only a small amount of effort to           for your rights. You don’t have to eat hum-
  get in the first place.>        Ann found         ble pie all the time.     Beth seems quite
  twenty dollars in the morning and spent           happy to eat humble pie. She should stand
  it foolishly at noon. “Easy come, easy go,”       up for her rights.
  she said. John spends his money as fast
                                                  eat like a bird to eat only small amounts
  as he can earn it. With John it’s easy come,
                                                    of food; to peck at one’s food. Jane is
  easy go.
                                                    very slim because she eats like a bird.
Easy does it. Act with care. (Informal.)            Bill is trying to lose weight by eating like
  Be careful with that glass vase. Easy does        a bird.
  it!   Now, now, Tom. Don’t get angry.
                                                  eat like a horse to eat large amounts of
  Easy does it.
                                                    food. (Informal.) No wonder he’s so fat.
easy to come by easily found; easily pur-           He eats like a horse. John works like a
  chased; readily available.    Please be           horse and eats like a horse, so he never gets
  careful with that phonograph record. It           fat.
  was not easy to come by. A good dictio-
                                                  eat one’s cake and have it too Go to have
  nary is very easy to come by.
                                                    one’s cake and eat it too.
eat (a meal) out and dine out to eat a
                                                  eat one’s hat <a phrase telling the kind of
  meal at a restaurant. I like to eat a meal
                                                    thing that one would do if a very unlikely
  out every now and then. Yes, it’s good
                                                    event really happens.> (Informal. Always
  to eat out and try different kinds of food.
                                                    used with an if-clause.) If we get there
     It costs a lot of money to dine out often.
                                                    on time, I’ll eat my hat. I’ll eat my hat
eat and run to eat a meal or a snack and            if you get a raise. He said he’d eat his
  then leave. Well, I hate to eat and run           hat if she got elected.
  but I have to take care of some errands.
                                                  eat one’s heart out 1. to be very sad (about
  I don’t invite John to dinner anymore be-
                                                    someone or something). Bill spent a lot
  cause he always has some excuse to eat and
                                                    of time eating his heart out after his di-
                                                    vorce. Sally ate her heart out when she
eat away at someone or something 1. to re-          had to sell her house. 2. to be envious (of
  move parts, bit by bit.     John’s disease        someone or something). (Informal.)
  was eating away at him. The acid in the           Do you like my new watch? Well, eat your
  rain slowly ate away at the stone wall. 2.        heart out. It was the last one in the store.
  [with someone] to bother or worry some-              Don’t eat your heart out about my new
  one. Her failure to pass the exam was             car. Go get one of your own.
  eating away at her. Fear of appearing in
                                                  eat one’s words to have to take back one’s
  court was eating away at Tom.
                                                    statements; to confess that one’s predic-
eat high on the hog to eat good or ex-              tions were wrong.      You shouldn’t say
  pensive food. (Folksy. Compare this with          that to me. I’ll make you eat your words.
  live high on the hog. Note the so in the             John was wrong about the election and
  second example. See also live high off the        had to eat his words.
  hog.)    The Smith family has been eat-
                                                  eat out of someone’s hands to do what
  ing pretty high on the hog since they had
                                                    someone else wants; to obey someone ea-
  a good corn harvest. John would have
                                                    gerly. (Often with have.) Just wait! I’ll
  more money to spend on clothing if he did-
                                                    have everyone eating out of my hands.
  n’t eat so high on the hog.
                                                    They’ll do whatever I ask. The president
eat humble pie 1. to act very humbly                has Congress eating out of his hands. A
  when one is shown to be wrong. I think            lot of people are eating out of his hands.
  I’m right, but if I’m wrong, I’ll eat hum-
                                                  eat someone out Go to chew someone out.
  ble pie. You think you’re so smart. I hope
  you have to eat humble pie. 2. to accept        eat someone out of house and home to eat
  insults and humiliation. John, stand up           a lot of food (in someone’s home); to eat

eat something up

  all the food in the house. Billy has a           the eleventh hour.)      Eleventh-hour de-
  huge appetite. He almost eats us out of          cisions are seldom satisfactory. The pres-
  house and home. When the kids come               ident’s eleventh-hour decision was made in
  home from college, they always eat us out        a great hurry, but it turned out to be
  of house and home.                               correct.
eat something up to enjoy, absorb, or appre-     an end in itself for its own sake; toward its
  ciate. (Also literal. Informal.) The au-         own ends; toward no purpose but its
  dience loved the comedian. They ate his act      own. For Bob, art is an end in itself. He
  up and demanded more. T The children             doesn’t hope to make any money from it.
  ate up Grandfather’s stories. They listened        Learning is an end in itself. Knowledge
  to him for hours.                                does not have to have a practical
ebb and flow to decrease and then in-
  crease, as with tides; a decrease followed     the end of the line Go to the end of the
  by an increase, as with tides. The for-          road.
  tunes of the major political parties tend
                                                 the end of the road and the end of the
  to ebb and f low over time. The ebb and
                                                   line the end; the end of the whole pro-
  f low of democracy through history is a fas-
                                                   cess; death. (Line originally referred to
  cinating subject.
                                                   railroad tracks.) Our house is at the end
edge someone out to remove a person from           of the road. We rode the train to the end
  a job, office, or position, usually by beat-     of the line. When we reach the end of
  ing the person in competition. The vice          the road on this project, we’ll get paid.
  president edged the president out during         You’ve come to the end of the line. I’ll not
  the last election. T Tom edged out Bob as        lend you another penny. When I reach
  the new cook at the restaurant.                  the end of the road, I wish to be buried in
                                                   a quiet place, near some trees.
egg someone on to encourage, urge, or dare
  someone to continue doing something,           end something up to bring something to an
  usually something unwise. John would-            end. (Informal. Also without up.)       I
  n’t have done the dangerous experiment if        want you to end your game up and come
  his brother hadn’t egged him on. The             in for dinner. T We can’t end up the game
  two boys kept throwing stones because the        until someone scores.
  other children were egging them on.
                                                 end up by doing something to conclude some-
either feast or famine either too much (of         thing by doing something. (Compare this
  something) or not enough (of some-               with end up doing something .) We ended
  thing). (Also without either.)         This      up by going back to my house.      They
  month is very dry, and last month it rained      danced until midnight and ended up by
  almost every day. Our weather is either          having pizza in the front room.
  feast or famine. Sometimes we are busy,
                                                 end up doing something and wind up doing
  and sometimes we have nothing to do. It’s
                                                   something to have to do something that one
  feast or famine.
                                                   had not planned to do. (Compare this
elbow someone out (of something) to force or       with end up by doing something .)     We
  pressure someone out of something, such          ended up going back to my house after all.
  as an office, post, or status. (Also literal       Todd wound up inviting everyone to his
  when attempting to use one’s elbows to           house, even though he planned to spend
  move the person beside oneself away.)            the evening at home alone.
  The old head of the company was elbowed
                                                 end up (somehow ) to end something at a
  out of office by a young vice president.
                                                   particular place, in a particular state, or
  They tried to elbow me out, but I held on
                                                   by having to do something. (Compare
  to what was mine.
                                                   this with end up by doing something .) I
eleventh-hour decision a decision made             ended up having to pay for everyone’s din-
  at the last possible minute. (See also at        ner. After paying for dinner, I ended up

                                                                                every last one

  broke. We all ended up at my house.              lier request escaped your notice, so I’m
  After playing in the rain, we all ended up       writing again.     I’m sorry. Your letter
  with colds.                                      escaped my notice.
end up somewhere and wind up somewhere           even in the best of times even when
  to finish at a certain place. If you don’t       things are good; even when things are go-
  get straightened out, you’ll end up in jail.     ing well. It is hard to get high-quality
     I fell and hurt myself, and I wound up        leather even in the best of times. John
  in the hospital.                                 had difficulty getting a loan even in the
end up with the short end of the stick             best of times because of his poor credit
  Go to get the short end of the stick.            record.
engage in small talk to talk only about          even steven even (with someone or some-
  minor matters rather than important or           thing). (Informal or slang. Preceded by
  personal matters. All the people at the          be or seem.) Bill hit Tom; then Tom hit
  party were engaging in small talk. They          Bill. Now they are even steven. Mary
  chatted about the weather and otherwise          paid Ann the $100 she owed her. Ann said,
  engaged in small talk.                           “Good, we are even steven.”
Enjoy your meal. <a polite phrase said by        ever and anon now and then; occasionally.
  a waiter or waitress when delivering food        (Literary and archaic.) Ever and anon
  to the table.> There you go. Enjoy your          the princess would pay a visit to the sor-
  meal. Do you have the medium steak?              cerer in the small walled garden directly
  Enjoy your meal.                                 behind the castle. We eat swan ever and
Enough is enough. That is enough, and              anon, but not when we can get wild boar.
  there should be no more. Stop asking           Every cloud has a silver lining. There is
  for money! Enough is enough! I’ve heard          something good in every bad thing.
  all the complaining from you that I can          (Proverb.) Jane was upset when she saw
  take. Stop! Enough is enough!                    that all her flowers had died from the frost.
enough to go (a)round a supply adequate            But when she saw that the weeds had died
  to serve everyone. (Informal.)     Don’t         too, she said, “Every cloud has a silver lin-
  take too much. There’s not enough to go          ing.” Sally had a sore throat and had to
  around. I cooked some extra potatoes,            stay home from school. When she learned
  so there should be enough to go around.          she missed a math test, she said, “Every
                                                   cloud has a silver lining.”
enter one’s mind to come to one’s mind;
  [for an idea or memory] to come into           Every dog has his day Go to Every dog
  one’s consciousness. Leave you behind?           has its day.
  The thought never even entered my mind.
                                                 Every dog has its day. and Every dog
     A very interesting idea just entered my
                                                   has his day. Everyone will get a chance.
  mind. What if I ran for Congress?
                                                   (Proverb.) Don’t worry, you’ll get cho-
enter the fray Go to join the fray.                sen for the team. Every dog has its day.
equal to someone or something able to handle       You may become famous someday. Every
  or deal with someone or something.               dog has his day.
  (Also literal.) I’m afraid that I’m not        every inch a something and every inch the
  equal to Mrs. Smith’s problem right now.         something completely; in every way.
  Please ask her to come back later. That’s        Mary is every inch the schoolteacher.
  a very difficult task, but I’m sure Bill is      Her father is every inch a gentleman.
  equal to it.
                                                 every inch the something Go to every inch
escape someone’s notice to go unnoticed;           a something .
  to be overlooked. (Usually a way to point
  out that someone has failed to see or re-      every last one every one; every single one.
  spond to something.) I suppose my ear-           (Informal.)     You must eat all your peas!

every living soul

  Every last one! Each of you—every last           out very few invitations. She doesn’t want
  one—has to take some medicine.                   every Tom, Dick, and Harry turning up.
every living soul every person. (Informal.)      every    which way in all directions.
    I expect every living soul to be there and     (Folksy.) The children were all running
  be there on time.      This is the kind of       every which way. The wind scattered the
  problem that affects every living soul.          leaves every which way.
every minute counts and every moment
                                                 everything but the kitchen sink almost
  counts time is very important. Doctor,
                                                   everything one can think of.        When
  please try to get here quickly. Every minute     Sally went off to college, she took every-
  counts. When you take a test, you must           thing but the kitchen sink. John orders
  work rapidly because every minute counts.        everything but the kitchen sink when he
     When you’re trying to meet a deadline,        goes out to dinner, especially if someone
  every moment counts.                             else is paying for it.
every moment counts Go to every minute
  counts.                                        everything from A to Z Go to everything
                                                   from soup to nuts.
every nook and cranny every small, out-
  of-the-way place where something can be        everything from soup to nuts and
  hidden.      We looked for the tickets in        everything from A to Z almost every-
  every nook and cranny. They were lost.           thing one can think of. For dinner we
  There was no doubt. The decorator had            had everything from soup to nuts.      In
  placed f lowers in every nook and cranny.        college I studied everything from soup to
                                                   nuts. She mentioned everything from A
(every) now and again Go to (every) now
                                                   to Z.
  and then.
(every) now and then and (every) now             everything humanly possible everything
  and again; (every) once in a while oc-           that is in the range of human powers.
  casionally; infrequently. We eat lamb            The rescuers did everything humanly pos-
  every now and then. We eat pork now              sible to find the lost campers. The doc-
  and then. I read a novel every now and           tor tried everything humanly possible to
  again. We don’t go to the movies except          save the patient.
  maybe every now and then. I drink cof-         Everything’s coming up roses. Every-
  fee every once in a while.  I drink tea          thing is really just excellent.   Life is
  once in a while.                                 wonderful. Everything is coming up roses.
(every) once in a while Go to (every) now             Q: How are things going? A: Every-
  and then.                                        thing’s coming up roses.
every other person or thing every second per-    the exception that proves the rule <a
  son or thing; alternating. The magician          saying identifying an exception to a rule
  turned every other card over.     Every          or guideline as emphasizing the existence
  other table had an ashtray on it.                of the rule.> Sixth-graders do not have
every time one turns around frequently;            to wear school uniforms, but they’re the ex-
  at every turn; with annoying frequency.          ception that proves the rule.           The
  (Informal.)      Somebody asks me for            youngest dog is allowed in the house. He’s
  money every time I turn around. Some-            the exception that proves the rule.
  thing goes wrong with Bill’s car every time    exchange more than some number of words
  he turns around.                                 with someone to say hardly anything to
(every) Tom, Dick, and Harry everyone,             someone. (Always negated.)        I know
  without discrimination; ordinary people.         Tom was there, but I am sure that I didn’t
  (Not necessarily males.) The golf club           exchange more than three words with him
  is very exclusive. They don’t let any Tom,       before he left.   We hardly exchanged
  Dick, and Harry join. Mary’s sending             more than two words the whole evening.


  Sally and Liz didn’t have enough time to         This is a very serious matter, and you can-
  exchange more than five words.                   not just explain it away. T John couldn’t
                                                   explain away his low grades.
exciting as watching (the) paint dry Go
  to (as) exciting as watching (the) paint       explode a bombshell Go to drop a
  dry.                                             bomb(shell).
excuse oneself to make polite apologies or       express one’s anger to allow a release or ex-
  explanations before leaving a place.             pression of anger, such as through angry
  Please excuse me. I must leave. I will           words. Don’t keep your emotions inside
  have to excuse myself from this meeting          of you. You have to learn to express your
  since I have a vested interest in the            anger. Bob expresses his anger by yelling
  outcome.                                         at people.
excuse someone 1. to forgive someone.            extend credit (to someone ) and extend
  (Usually with me. Said when interrupt-           someone credit to allow someone to pur-
  ing or when some other minor offense             chase something on credit. I’m sorry,
  has been committed. There are many               Mr. Smith, but because of your poor record
  mannerly uses of this expression.) John          of payment, we are no longer able to ex-
  came in late and said, “Excuse me, please.”      tend credit to you. Look at this letter,
     John said “excuse me” when he inter-          Jane. The store won’t extend credit any-
  rupted our conversation.       When John         more.     We are unable to extend that
  made a strange noise at the table, he said       company credit any longer.
  quietly, “Excuse me.” John suddenly left
  the room saying, “Excuse me. I’ll be right     extend one’s sympathy (to someone ) to
  back.” 2. to permit someone to leave; to         express sympathy to someone. (A very
  permit someone to remain away from an            polite and formal way to tell someone
  event.     The coach excused John from           that you are sorry about a misfortune.)
  practice yesterday. The teacher excused          Please permit me to extend my sympathy
  John, and he ran quickly from the room.          to you and your children. I’m very sorry to
                                                   hear of the death of your husband. Let’s
expecting    (a    child) pregnant. (Eu-           extend our sympathy to Bill Jones, who is
  phemism.)       Tommy’s mother is expect-        in the hospital with a broken leg. We
  ing a child.    Oh, I didn’t know she was        should send him some f lowers.
                                                 extend someone credit Go to extend credit
expense is no object Go to money is no             (to someone ).
                                                 extenuating circumstances special cir-
explain oneself 1. to explain what one has         cumstances that account for an irregu-
  said or done or what one thinks or feels.        lar or improper way of doing something.
  (Formal and polite.) Please take a mo-              Mary was permitted to arrive late be-
  ment to explain yourself. I’m sure we are        cause of extenuating circumstances. Due
  interested in your ideas. Yes, if you give       to extenuating circumstances, the class will
  me a moment to explain myself, I think           not meet today.
  you’ll agree with my idea. 2. to give an ex-
  planation or excuse for something wrong        the eye of the storm the center of a prob-
  that one may have done. (Usually said in         lem; the center of a commotion or a dis-
  anger.) Young man! Come in here and              turbance. Tom, finding himself at the
  explain yourself this instant. Why did           eye of the storm, tried to blame someone
  you do that, Tom Smith? You had better           else for the problem. The manager’s of-
  explain yourself, and it had better be good.     fice was known as the eye of the storm
                                                   since all the major problems ended up
explain something away to give a good ex-
  planation for something; to explain
  something so that it seems less impor-         eyeball-to-eyeball person to person; face
  tant; to make excuses for something.             to face.   The discussions will have to be

eyes are bigger than one’s stomach

  eyeball-to-eyeball to be effective. Tele-   [eyes are bigger than one’s stomach] Go
  phone conversations are a waste of time.      to One’s eyes are bigger than one’s
  We need to talk eyeball-to-eyeball.           stomach.

face someone down to overcome someone
  by being bold; to disconcert someone by
                                         F         fair and square completely fair(ly). She
                                                     won the game fair and square. The di-
  displaying great confidence.          The          vision of the money should be fair and
  teacher faced the angry student down               square.
  without saying anything. T The mayor             fair game someone or something that it is
  couldn’t face down the entire city council.        quite permissible to attack. I don’t like
face the music to receive punishment; to
                                                     seeing articles exposing people’s private
  accept the unpleasant results of one’s ac-         lives, but politicians are fair game. Jour-
  tions. Mary broke a dining-room win-               nalists always regard movie stars as fair
  dow and had to face the music when her             game.
  father got home. After failing a math            fair-haired boy a favored person. (Not
  test, Tom had to go home and face the              necessarily young or male.)           The
  music.                                             teacher’s fair-haired boy always does well
                                                     on tests. The supervisor’s son was the
face-to-face 1. in person; in the same lo-           fair-haired boy on the construction site.
  cation. (Said only of people. An adverb.)
                                                   [fair share] Go to one’s fair share.
     Let’s talk about this face-to-face. I don’t
  like talking over the telephone. Many            fair to middling only fair or okay; a little
  people prefer to talk face-to-face. 2. fac-        better than acceptable. (Folksy.) I don’t
  ing one another; in the same location.             feel sick, just fair to middling. The play
  I prefer to have a face-to-face meeting.           wasn’t really good. It was just fair to
  They work better on a face-to-face basis.          middling.
                                                   fair-weather friend someone who is your
the facts of life 1. the facts of sex and re-
                                                     friend only when things are going well for
  production, especially human reproduc-
                                                     you. (This person will desert you when
  tion. (See also birds and the bees.) My
                                                     things go badly for you. Compare this
  parents told me the facts of life when I was
                                                     with A friend in need is a friend indeed.)
  nine years old. Bill learned the facts of
                                                        Bill wouldn’t help me with my home-
  life from his classmates. 2. the truth about
                                                     work. He’s just a fair-weather friend. A
  the unpleasant ways that the world
                                                     fair-weather friend isn’t much help in an
  works. Mary really learned the facts of
  life when she got her first job.         Tom
  couldn’t accept the facts of life in business,   fall afoul of someone or something and run
  so he quit.                                        afoul of someone or something to get into a
                                                     situation where one is opposed to some-
fair and impartial fair and unbiased. (Usu-          one or something; to get into trouble
  ally referring to some aspect of the legal         with someone or something. Dan fell
  system, such as a jury, a hearing, or a            afoul of the law at an early age. I hope
  judge.)     Gary felt that he had not re-          that you will avoid falling afoul of the dis-
  ceived a fair and impartial hearing. We            trict manager. She can be a formidable en-
  demand that all of our judges be fair and          emy. I hope I don’t run afoul of your sis-
  impartial in every instance.                       ter. She doesn’t like me.

fall (all) over oneself

fall (all) over oneself to behave awkwardly          kept losing because the coach was falling
  and eagerly when doing something. (See             down on the job. Tom was fired because
  also fall over backwards (to do something ).)      he fell down on the job.
     Tom fell all over himself trying to make      fall flat (on its face) Go to fall flat (on one’s
  Jane feel at home.      I fall over myself         face).
  when I’m doing something that makes me
  nervous.                                         fall flat (on one’s face) and fall flat (on
                                                     its face) to be completely unsuccessful.
fall all over someone to give a lot of atten-        (Informal.) I fell f lat on my face when
  tion, affection, or praise to someone. (In-        I tried to give my speech. The play fell
  formal.)      My aunt falls all over me            f lat on its face. My jokes fall f lat most
  whenever she comes to visit. I hate for            of the time.
  someone to fall all over me. It embarrasses
  me.                                              fall for someone or something 1. [with some-
                                                     one] to fall in love with someone. Tom
fall apart at the seams [for something] to           fell for Ann after only two dates. He wants
  break into pieces; to fall apart; [for ma-         to marry her. Some men always fall for
  terial that is sewn together] to separate at       women with blond hair. 2. [with some-
  the seams. (Literal for cloth, otherwise           thing] to be deceived by something. I
  figurative. See also come apart at the             can’t believe you fell for that old trick.
  seams.) My new jacket fell apart at the            Jane didn’t fall for Ann’s story.
  seams. This old car is about ready to fall
  apart at the seams.                              fall from grace to cease to be held in favor,
                                                     especially because of some wrong or fool-
fall asleep to go to sleep.     The baby cried       ish action. He was the teacher’s pet un-
  and cried and finally fell asleep. Tom fell        til he fell from grace by failing the history
  asleep in class yesterday.                         test. Mary was the favorite grandchild
fall back on someone or something to turn to         until she fell from grace by running away
  someone or something for help. (Also lit-          from home.
  eral.)   Bill fell back on his brother for       fall head over heels to fall down, perhaps
  help. John ran out of ink and had to fall          turning over or rolling. (Also literal.)
  back on his pencil.                                Fred tripped on the rug and fell head over
fall between two stools to come some-                heels into the center of the room. Slow
  where between two possibilities and so             down or you will fall down—head over
  fail to meet the requirements of either.           heels.
  The material is not suitable for an acade-       fall head over heels in love (with some-
  mic book or for a popular one. It falls be-        one) to fall deeply in love with someone,
  tween two stools.      He tries to be both         perhaps suddenly. Roger fell head over
  teacher and friend, but falls between two          heels in love with Maggie, and they were
  stools.                                            married within the month.         Very few
fall by the wayside and drop by the                  people actually fall head over heels in love
  wayside to give up and quit before the             with each other. She fell head over heels
  end (of something). (Refers to being too           in love and thought she was dreaming.
  exhausted to finish a footrace.) John            fall ill to become ill.  Tom fell ill just be-
  fell by the wayside and didn’t finish college.     fore he was to perform. We both fell ill
      Many people start out to train for a ca-       after eating the baked fish.
  reer in medicine, but some of them drop by
                                                   fall in to line up in a row, standing shoul-
  the wayside. All of her projects fall by
                                                     der to shoulder. (Also literal, meaning
  the wayside when she tires of them.
                                                     “to collapse.” Usually refers to people in
fall down on the job to fail to do some-             scouting or the military. Compare this
  thing properly; to fail to do one’s job ad-        with fall in(to) line and fall out.) The
  equately. (Also literal referring to an ac-        Boy Scouts were told to fall in behind the
  cident while one is working.) The team             scoutmaster. The soldiers fell in quickly.

                                                                                            fall to

fall in for something Go to come in for some-         on deaf ears. Walter had made up his own
  thing .                                             mind.
fall in love (with someone ) to develop the         fall out 1. to happen; to result.   As things
  emotion of love for someone. Tom fell               fell out, we had a wonderful trip. What
  in love with Mary, but she only wanted to           fell out of our discussion was a decision to
  be friends. John is too young to really fall        continue. 2. to leave one’s place in a for-
  in love.                                            mation when dismissed. (Usually in
                                                      scouting or the military. The opposite of
fall into a trap and fall into the trap; fall
                                                      fall in.) The scouts fell out and ran to the
  into someone’s trap to become caught in
                                                      campfire. All the soldiers fell out and
  someone’s scheme; to be deceived into
                                                      talked among themselves.
  doing or thinking something. (Also lit-
  eral.) We fell into a trap by asking for          fall out (with someone about something ) Go
  an explanation. I fell into his trap when           to fall out (with someone over something ).
  I agreed to drive him home. We fell into
                                                    fall out (with someone over something ) and
  the trap of thinking he was honest.
                                                      fall out (with someone about something )
fall in(to) line 1. to line up with each per-         to quarrel or disagree about something.
  son (except the first person) standing be-             Bill fell out with Sally over the question
  hind someone. (Compare this with fall               of buying a new car. Bill fell out with
  in.) The teacher told the students to fall          John about who would sleep on the bottom
  in line for lunch. Hungry students fall             bunk. They are always arguing. They
  into line very quickly. 2. to conform; to           fall out about once a week.
  fall in(to) place.    All the parts of the
                                                    fall over backwards (to do something ) and
  problem finally fell into line. Bill’s be-
                                                      bend over backwards (to do something );
  havior began to fall in line.
                                                      lean over backwards (to do something) to
fall in(to) place to fit together; to become          do everything possible to please some-
  organized.       After we heard the whole           one. (Informal. See also fall (all) over one-
  story, things began to fall in place. When          self. ) The taxi driver fell over backwards
  you get older, the different parts of your life     to be helpful.     The teacher bent over
  begin to fall into place.                           backwards to help the students under-
                                                      stand. The principal said that it was not
fall into someone’s trap Go to fall into a trap.
                                                      necessary to bend over backwards. You
fall into the trap Go to fall into a trap.            don’t have to lean over backwards to get
                                                      me to help. Just ask.
fall in with someone or something 1. [with
  someone] to meet someone by accident;             fall short (of something ) 1. to lack some-
  to join with someone. John has fallen               thing; to lack enough of something.
  in with a strange group of people. We               We fell short of money at the end of the
  fell in with some people from our home-             month. When baking a cake, the cook
  town when we went on vacation. 2. to                fell short of eggs and had to go to the store
  agree with someone or something. Bill               for more. 2. to fail to achieve a goal. We
  was not able to fall in with our ideas about        fell short of our goal of collecting a thou-
  painting the house red. Bob fell in with            sand dollars. Ann ran a fast race, but fell
  Mary’s plans to move to Texas.                      short of the record.
fall off to decline or diminish.    Business        fall through not to happen; to come to
  falls off during the summer months. My              nothing. (Informal.)     Our plans fell
  interest in school fell off when I became           through, and we won’t be going to Texas
  twenty.                                             after all. The party fell through at the
                                                      last minute.
fall on deaf ears [for talk or ideas] to be
  ignored by the persons they were in-              fall to to begin (to do something). (Com-
  tended for. Her pleas for mercy fell on             pare this with turn to.)       The hungry
  deaf ears. All of Sally’s good advice fell          children took their knives and forks and fell

fall to someone to do something

  to. The carpenter unpacked his saw and             Sally is good, but Ann is far and away
  hammer and fell to. The boys wanted             the best.
  to fight, so the coach put boxing gloves on   far as anyone knows Go to (as) far as any-
  them and told them to fall to. John fell        one knows.
  to and cleaned up his room after he got
  yelled at.                                    far as something is concerned Go to (as) far
                                                  as something is concerned.
fall to someone to do something to become the
  responsibility of someone.        It always   a faraway look and a far-off look an ap-
  falls to me to apologize first. Why does         pearance on one’s face of having one’s
  it fall to me to answer the telephone every      mind in another place. Dave had a far-
  time it rings?                                   away look in his eyes, so I touched him to
                                                   get his attention. Katherine’s face had
fall (up)on someone or something 1. to attack      a far-off look indicating that she was
  someone or something. (Also literal.)            daydreaming.
  The cat fell upon the mouse and killed it.
                                                far be it from me to do something it is not
     The children fell on the birthday cake
                                                  really my place to do something. (Always
  and ate it all. 2. [with someone] [for a
                                                  with but, as in the examples below.)
  task] to become the duty of someone.
                                                  Far be it from me to tell you what to do,
  The task of telling Mother about the bro-
                                                  but I think you should buy the book. Far
  ken vase fell upon Jane.        The job of
                                                  be it from me to attempt to advise you, but
  cleaning up the spill fell upon Tom.
                                                  you’re making a big mistake.
familiar with someone or something having a     a far cry from something a thing that is very
  good knowledge of someone or some-               different from something else. (Infor-
  thing. Are you familiar with changing a          mal.) What you did was a far cry from
  f lat tire? I’m can’t speak German f lu-         what you said you were going to do. The
  ently, but I’m somewhat familiar with the        song they played was a far cry from what
  language.                                        I call music.
Familiarity breeds contempt. Knowing a          far from it not it at all; not at all.  Do I
  person closely for a long time leads to bad     think you need a new car? Far from it. The
  feelings. (Proverb.) Bill and his broth-        old one is fine. BILL: Does this hat look
  ers are always fighting. As they say: “Fa-      strange? TOM: Far from it. It looks good.
  miliarity breeds contempt.” Mary and
                                                far into the night late into the night; late.
  John were good friends for many years. Fi-
  nally they got into a big argument and be-         She sat up and read far into the night.
  came enemies. That just shows that famil-          The party went on far into the night.
  iarity breeds contempt.                       a far-off look Go to a far-away look.
a fan of someone a follower of someone;         far out 1. far from the center of things; far
  someone who idolized someone. (Pre-             from town. The Smiths live sort of far
  ceded by be, become, seem like, or act          out. The restaurant is nice, but too far
  like.) My mother is still a fan of the Bea-     out. 2. strange. (Slang.) Ann acts pretty
  tles. I’m a great fan of the mayor of the       far out sometimes. The whole group of
  town.                                           people seemed pretty far out.
fan the flames (of something ) to make          farm someone or something out 1. [with some-
  something more intense; to make a situ-         one] to send someone (somewhere) for
  ation worse. The riot fanned the f lames        care or development. When my mother
  of racial hatred even more. The hostil-         died, they farmed me out to my aunt and
  ity in the school is bad enough without         uncle. T The team manager farmed out
  anyone fanning the f lames.                     the baseball player to the minor leagues
                                                  until he improved. 2. [with something] to
far and away the best unquestionably the          send something (elsewhere) to be dealt
  best.   This soap is far and away the best.     with. Bill farmed his chores out to his

                                                                 feel free (to do something)

  brothers and sisters and went to a movie.        vide for oneself selfishly. (Said especially
  T I farmed out various parts of the work         of politicians who use their offices to
  to different people.                             make money for themselves.)             The
                                                   mayor seemed to be helping people, but she
fast and furious very rapidly and with un-
                                                   was really feathering her own nest. The
  restrained energy.       Her work in the
                                                   building contractor used a lot of public
  kitchen was fast and furious, and it looked
                                                   money to feather his nest.
  lovely when she finished. Everything was
  going so fast and furious at the store dur-    fed up (to somewhere ) (with someone or some-
  ing the Christmas rush that we never had         thing) bored with or disgusted with some-
  time to eat lunch.                               one or something. (Informal. The some-
                                                   where can be here, the teeth, the gills, or
faster and faster at an increasing rate of
                                                   other places.) I’m fed up with Tom and
  speed; fast and then even faster. The
                                                   his silly tricks. I’m fed up to here with
  car went faster and faster and I was afraid
                                                   high taxes. They are fed up to the teeth
  we would crash. The cost of education
                                                   with screaming children. I’m really fed
  goes up faster and faster every year.
fat and happy well-fed and content.
                                                 feed one’s face to eat; to eat a regular meal.
  Since all the employees were fat and happy,
                                                   (Slang.) Come on, everyone. It’s time
  there was little incentive to improve pro-
                                                   to feed your faces. Bill, if you keep feed-
  ductivity. You look fat and happy. Has
                                                   ing your face all the time, you’ll get fat.
  life been treating you well?
                                                 feed someone a line Go to give someone a
fat as a pig Go to (as) fat as a pig.
fat chance very little likelihood. (Infor-
                                                 feed the kitty to contribute money to a
  mal.) Fat chance he has of getting a pro-
                                                   special, voluntary collection. (See also
  motion.   You think she’ll lend you the
                                                   pass the hat.)       Please feed the kitty.
  money? Fat chance!
                                                   Make a contribution to help sick children.
favor someone or something with something to          Come on, Bill. Feed the kitty. You can
  provide someone or something with                afford a dollar for a good cause.
  something beneficial or special. Mary
                                                 feel a glow of something a feeling of con-
  favored us with a song. Nature favored
                                                   tentment, happiness, satisfaction, peace,
  Bill with curly hair.
                                                   etc. Anne felt a glow of happiness as she
feast one’s eyes (on someone or something ) to     held her new baby. Sitting by the lake,
  look at someone or something with plea-          the lovers felt a warm glow of contentment.
  sure, envy, or admiration.        Just feast
                                                 feel at home to feel as if one belongs; to
  your eyes on that beautiful, juicy steak!
                                                   feel as if one were in one’s home; to feel
  Yes, feast your eyes. You won’t see one like
                                                   accepted. (See also at home with someone
  that again for a long time.
                                                   or something .) I liked my dormitory room.
a feather in one’s cap an honor; a reward          I really felt at home there. We will do
  for something. Getting a new client was          whatever we can to make you feel at home.
  really a feather in my cap. John earned
                                                 feel dragged out to feel exhausted. (In-
  a feather in his cap by getting an A in
                                                   formal.)      What a day! I really feel
                                                   dragged out.     If he runs too much, he
feather one’s (own) nest 1. to decorate and        ends up feeling dragged out.
  furnish one’s home in style and comfort.
                                                 feel fit to feel well and healthy.   If you
  (Birds line their nests with feathers to
                                                   want to feel fit, you must eat the proper
  make them warm and comfortable.)
                                                   food and get enough rest. I hope I still
  Mr. and Mrs. Simpson have feathered their
                                                   feel fit when I get old.
  nest quite comfortably. It costs a great
  deal of money to feather one’s nest these      feel free (to do something ) to feel like one is
  days. 2. to use power and prestige to pro-       permitted to do something or take some-

feel it beneath one (to do something)

  thing. Please feel free to stay for dinner.      upon, but she took each of the children
     If you see something you want in the re-      home after the birthday party.
  frigerator, please feel free.
                                                 feel someone out to try to find out how
feel it beneath one (to do something ) to feel     someone feels (about something). (In-
  that one would be lowering oneself to do         formal. This does not involve touching
  something. Ann feels it beneath her to           anyone.) Sally tried to feel Tom out on
  carry her own luggage. I would do it,            whether he’d make a contribution. T The
  but I feel it beneath me.                        students felt out their parents to find out
feel like a million (dollars) to feel well         what they thought about the proposed
  and healthy, both physically and men-            party.
  tally.    A quick swim in the morning          feel something in one’s bones and know
  makes me feel like a million dollars.            something in one’s bones to sense some-
  What a beautiful day! It makes you feel          thing; to have an intuition about some-
  like a million.                                  thing. The train will be late. I feel it in
feel like a new person to feel refreshed           my bones. I failed the test. I know it in
  and renewed, especially after getting well       my bones.
  or getting dressed up. I bought a new
                                                 feel the pinch to experience hardship be-
  suit, and now I feel like a new person.
  Bob felt like a new person when he got out       cause of having too little money. The
  of the hospital.                                 Smiths used to go abroad every year, but
                                                   now that he’s retired, they’re really feeling
feel like doing something 1. to want to do         the pinch. You’re bound to feel the pinch
  something; to be in the mood to do               a bit when you’re a student.
  something.       Do you feel like stopping
  work to eat something? I feel like going       feel up to something to feel well enough or
  on a vacation. 2. to feel well enough to do      prepared enough to do something. (Of-
  something. I believe I’m getting well. I         ten in the negative.) I don’t feel up to
  feel like getting out of bed. I don’t feel       jogging today. Aunt Mary didn’t feel up
  like going to the party. I have a headache.      to making the visit. Do you feel up to go-
                                                   ing out today?
feel like (having) something to want to have
  something or do something. I feel like         feeling no pain drunk.          Bob’s on his
  having a nice cool drink. I feel like a nice     eighth beer and feeling no pain. At mid-
  swim.                                            night when we were all feeling no pain, the
                                                   landlord comes up and tells us to be quiet.
feel one’s gorge rise to sense that one is
  getting very angry. I felt my gorge rise       fence someone in to restrict someone in
  and I knew I was going to lose my temper.        some way. (Also literal. See also hem
     Bob could feel his gorge rise as he read      someone or something in.) I don’t want to
  his tax bill.                                    fence you in, but you have to get home ear-
feel on top of the world to feel very good,        lier at night. Don’t try to fence me in. I
  as if one were ruling the world. I feel          need a lot of freedom.
  on top of the world this morning. I do         fend for oneself Go to shift for oneself.
  not actually feel on top of the world, but I
  have felt worse.                               ferret something out of someone or something
                                                   to remove or retrieve something from
feel out of place to feel that one does not
                                                   someone or something, usually with cun-
  belong in a place. I feel out of place at
                                                   ning and persistence. (In the case of
  formal dances. Bob and Ann felt out of
                                                   someone, the thing being ferreted out
  place at the picnic, so they went home.
                                                   would be information.)          I tried very
feel put-upon to feel taken advantage of or        hard, but I couldn’t ferret the information
  exploited. Bill refused to help because          out of the clerk. I had to ferret out the
  he felt put-upon. Sally’s mother felt put-       answer from a book in the library.

                                                  fill someone in (on someone or something)

few and far between very few; few and                 her speech, Jane fielded questions from re-
  widely scattered. (Informal.) Get some              porters.     The president’s press agents
  gasoline now. Service stations on this high-        field questions from the newspaper.
  way are few and far between. Some peo-
                                                   fight against time to hurry to meet a
  ple think that good movies are few and far
  between.                                            deadline or to do something quickly.
                                                      The ambulance sped through the city to
a few cards short of a deck Go to a few               reach the accident, fighting against time.
  cards shy of a full deck.                              All the students fought against time to
                                                      complete the test.
a few cards shy of a full deck and a few
  cards short of a deck; two bricks shy            fight someone or something hammer and
  of a load [of someone] not very smart               tongs and fight someone or something
  or clever. Bob’s nice, but he’s a few cards         tooth and nail; go at it hammer and
  shy of a full deck. You twit! You’re two            tongs; go at it tooth and nail to fight
  bricks shy of a load!                               against someone or something energeti-
                                                      cally and with great determination.
fiddle about (with someone or something) Go           They fought against the robber tooth and
   to fiddle around (with someone or some-            nail. The dogs were fighting each other
   thing ).                                           hammer and tongs. The mayor fought
fiddle around (with someone or something )            the new law hammer and tongs. We’ll
  and fiddle about (with someone or some-             fight this zoning ordinance tooth and nail.
  thing ) 1. [with someone] to tease, annoy,       fight someone or something tooth and nail Go
  or play with someone; to waste someone’s            to fight someone or something hammer and
  time. (See also mess around (with some-             tongs.
  one or something ).) All right, stop fiddling
  around with me and tell me how much you          a fighting chance a good possibility of
  will give me for my car. Now it’s time for         success, especially if every effort is made.
  all of you to quit fiddling around and get         (See also sporting chance.) They have
  to work. Tom, you have to stop spend-              at least a fighting chance of winning the
  ing your time fiddling about with your             race. The patient could die, but he has
  friends. It’s time to get serious with your        a fighting chance since the operation.
  studies. 2. [with something] to play with
                                                   figure in something [for a person] to play a
  something; to tinker with something in-
                                                      role in something. Tom figures in our
  eptly.     My brother is outside fiddling
                                                      plans for a new building. I don’t wish
  around with his car engine. He should
                                                      to figure in your future.
  stop fiddling around and go out and get a
  job. Stop fiddling about with that stick.        figure on something to plan on something;
  You’re going to hurt someone.                       to make arrangements for something.
                                                      (Informal.) We figured on twenty guests
fiddle while Rome burns to do nothing
                                                      at our party. I didn’t figure on so much
  or something trivial while knowing that             trouble.
  something disastrous is happening.
  (From a legend that the emperor Nero             figure someone or something out to under-
  played the lyre while Rome was burning.)            stand someone or something; to find an
     The lobbyists don’t seem to be doing             explanation for someone or something.
  anything to stop this tax bill. They’re fid-           It’s hard to figure John out. I don’t know
  dling while Rome burns.         The doctor          what he means. T I can’t figure out this
  should have sent for an ambulance right             recipe.
  away instead of examining the woman. In
  fact, he was just fiddling while Rome            fill someone in (on someone or something) to in-
  burned.                                             form someone about someone or some-
                                                      thing. Please fill me in on what is hap-
field questions to answer a series of ques-           pening in Washington. Please fill me in
  tions, especially from reporters.      After        on Ann. How is she doing?     Sit down,

fill someone’s shoes

  and I’ll fill you in. T Later, I’ll fill in          a number of different jobs. He finally
  everyone else.                                       found himself when he became a cook.
fill someone’s shoes to take the place of            find one’s feet to become used to a new sit-
  some other person and do that person’s               uation or experience.      She was lonely
  work satisfactorily. (Refers to the notion           when she first left home, but she is find-
  of taking on someone else’s problems by              ing her feet now. It takes time to learn
  wearing the other person’s shoes.)           I       the office routine, but you will gradually
  don’t know how we’ll be able to do with-             find your feet.
  out you. No one can fill your shoes. It’ll
  be difficult to fill Jane’s shoes. She did her     find one’s own level to find the position
  job very well.                                       or rank to which one is best suited. (As
                                                       water “seeks its own level.”) You can-
fill the bill and fit the bill to be exactly           not force clerks to be ambitious. They will
  the thing that is needed. Ah, this steak             all find their own level. The new student
  is great. It really fills the bill. I think that     is happier in the beginning class. It was just
  this book will fit the bill just right.              a question of letting her find her own level.
filled to the brim filled all the way full;          find one’s tongue to be able to talk. (In-
  filled up to the top edge. I like my cof-            formal.) Tom was speechless for a mo-
  fee cup filled to the brim. If the glass is          ment. Then he found his tongue. Ann
  filled to the brim, I can’t drink without            was unable to find her tongue. She sat
  spilling the contents.                               there in silence.
a final fling the last act or period of en-          find one’s way (around) to be able to move
  joyment before a change in one’s cir-                about an area satisfactorily.   I can go
  cumstances or life-style. You might as               downtown by myself. I can find my way
  well have a final f ling before the baby’s           around. I know the area well enough to
  born.     Mary’s going out with her girl-            find my way.      He can find his way
  friends for a final f ling. She’s getting mar-       around when it comes to car engines.
  ried next week.
                                                     find one’s way somewhere to discover the
find a happy medium Go to strike a happy               route to a place. Mr. Smith found his
  medium.                                              way to the museum. Can you find your
find fault (with someone or something) to find         way home?
  things wrong with someone or some-                 find someone guilty and find someone in-
  thing. We were unable to find fault with             nocent to decide guilt or innocence and
  the meal. Sally’s father was always find-            deliver a verdict in a court of law. The
  ing fault with her. Some people are al-              judge found the defendant not guilty by
  ways finding fault.                                  reason of insanity. The jury found the
find it in one’s heart (to do something ) to           defendant innocent.
  have the courage or compassion to do               find someone innocent Go to find someone
  something. She couldn’t find it in her               guilty.
  heart to refuse to come home to him. I
  can’t do it! I can’t find it in my heart.          find someone or something out 1. [with some-
                                                       thing] to discover facts about someone or
find its way somewhere [for something] to
                                                       something; to learn a fact.         I found
  end up in a place. (This expression avoids
                                                       something out that you might be interested
  accusing someone of moving the thing to
                                                       in. T We found out that the Smiths are go-
  the place.)    The money found its way
                                                       ing to sell their house. 2. [with someone]
  into the mayor’s pocket. The secret plans
                                                       to discover something bad about some-
  found their way into the enemy’s hands.
                                                       one.     John thought he could get away
find oneself to discover what one’s talents            with smoking, but his mother found him
  and preferences are. Bill did better in              out. Jane was taking a two-hour lunch
  school after he found himself. John tried            period until the manager found her out.

                                                                        fish for a compliment

find (something ) out the hard way Go to          firing on all cylinders and hitting on all
  learn (something ) the hard way.                   cylinders working at full strength; mak-
                                                    ing every possible effort. (Refers to an in-
Finders keepers(, losers weepers). <a               ternal combustion engine.) The team
  phrase said when something is found.>             is firing on all cylinders under the new
  (The person who finds something gets to           coach. The factory is hitting on all cylin-
  keep it. The person who loses it can only         ders to finish the orders on time.
  be sorry.) John lost a quarter in the din-
  ing room yesterday. Ann found the quar-         first and foremost first and most impor-
  ter there today. Ann claimed that since she        tant.     First and foremost, I think you
  found it, it was hers. She said, “Finders          should work harder on your biology.
  keepers, losers weepers.” John said, “I’ll         Have this in mind first and foremost: Keep
  say finders keepers when I find something          smiling!
  of yours!”                                      first and ten [in football] the first down
fine and dandy all right; okay; really fine.         [of four] with ten yards needed to earn
     Everything is fine and dandy at work.           another first down. It is first and ten
  No special problems at the present time.           on the forty-yard line, and Army has the
  I feel fine and dandy. The new medicine            ball. There will be no first and ten on
  seems to be working.                               the last play because there was a f lag on
                                                     the play.
a fine how-de-do Go to a fine how-do-
                                                  First come, first served. The first people
                                                    to arrive will be served first. They ran
a fine how-do-you-do and a fine how-                out of tickets before we got there. It was
  de-do a predicament.      What a mess!            first come, first served, but we didn’t know
  This is a fine how-do-you-do! Here’s a            that. Please line up and take your turn.
  fine how-de-do!                                   It’s first come, first served.
a fine kettle of fish a real mess; an un-         first of all the very first thing; before any-
  satisfactory situation.         The dog has       thing else. First of all, put your name
  eaten the steak we were going to have for         on this piece of paper. First of all, we’ll
  dinner. This is a fine kettle of fish! This       try to find a place to live.
  is a fine kettle of fish. It’s below freezing   first off first; the first thing. (Almost the
  outside, and the furnace won’t work.               same as first of all.) He ordered soup
the fine print Go to the small print.                first off. First off, we’ll find a place to
a fine state of affairs Go to a pretty state      first thing (in the morning) before any-
  of affairs.                                        thing else in the morning. Please call
fire a gun to shoot a gun; to discharge a            me first thing in the morning. I can’t help
  gun. The police caught the robber who              you now. I’ll do that first thing.
  had fired the gun.  Jane fired the gun          first things first the most important
  and hit the target.                               things must be taken care of first. It’s
fire away at someone or something 1. to shoot       more important to get a job than to buy
  at someone or something. The hunters              new clothes. First things first! Do your
  fired away at the ducks. On television,           homework now. Go out and play later.
  somebody is always firing away at some-           First things first.
  body else. 2. [with someone] to ask many        fish for a compliment to try to get some-
  questions of someone; to criticize some-          one to pay you a compliment. (Informal.)
  one severely.     When it came time for              When she showed me her new dress, I
  questions, the reporters began firing away        could tell that she was fishing for a com-
  at the mayor. Members of the opposite             pliment. Tom was certainly fishing for a
  party are always firing away at the               compliment when he modeled his fancy
  president.                                        haircut for his friends.

fish for something

fish for something to try to get information        fit someone or something out (with something )
  (from someone). (Also literal.)        The           to provide or furnish someone or some-
  lawyer was fishing for evidence.       The           thing with something. They fitted the
  teacher spent a lot of time fishing for the          camper out with everything they needed.
  right answer from the students.                         They fitted them out for only $140.
                                                       He fitted his car out with lots of chrome.
fish in troubled waters to involve oneself
  in a difficult, confused, or dangerous sit-       fit someone to a T 1. Go to suit someone to a
  uation, especially in order to gain an ad-           T. 2. [for something] to fit a person very
  vantage.      Frank is fishing in troubled           well. His new jacket fits him to a T.
  waters by buying more shares of that com-            My new shoes fit me to a T.
  pany. They are supposed to be in finan-           fit the bill Go to fill the bill.
  cial difficulties.    The company could
  make more money by selling armaments              fit to be tied very angry and excited.
  abroad, but they would be fishing in trou-           (Folksy. To be so angry that one has to be
  bled waters.                                         restrained with ropes.) If I’m not home
                                                       on time, my parents will be fit to be tied.
fish or cut bait either do the task you are               When Ann saw the bill, she was fit to
  supposed to be doing or quit and let                 be tied.
  someone else do it. Mary is doing much
  better on the job since her manager told her      fit to kill dressed up to look very fancy or
  to fish or cut bait. The boss told Tom,             sexy. (Folksy.)       Mary put on her best
  “Quit wasting time! Fish or cut bait!”              clothes and looked fit to kill. John looked
                                                      fit to kill in his tuxedo.
fit and trim slim and in good physical
  shape. Jean tried to keep herself fit and         fix someone’s wagon to punish someone; to
  trim at all times. For some people, keep-           get even with someone; to plot against
  ing fit and trim requires time, effort, and         someone. (Informal.)         If you ever do
  self-discipline.                                    that again, I’ll fix your wagon! Tommy!
                                                      You clean up your room this instant, or I’ll
fit as a fiddle Go to (as) fit as a fiddle.           fix your wagon! He reported me to the
fit for a king totally suitable.   What a de-         boss, but I fixed his wagon. I knocked his
  licious meal. It was fit for a king. Our            lunch on the f loor.
  room at the hotel was fit for a king.             fix someone up (with someone or something ) 1.
fit in someone Go to fit someone in(to some-           [with something] to supply a person with
   thing ).                                            something. (Informal.) The usher fixed
                                                       us up with seats at the front of the theater.
fit in (with someone or something ) to be com-         T We fixed up the visitors with a cold
  fortable with someone or something; to               drink. 2. [with someone] and line some-
  be in accord or harmony with someone                 one up with someone to supply a person
  or something. I really feel as if I fit in           with a date or a companion. (Informal.)
  with that group of people. It’s good that                They lined John up with my cousin,
  you fit in. This chair doesn’t fit in with           Jane. John didn’t want us to fix him up.
  the style of furniture in my house.      I           T We fixed up Bob with a date.
  won’t buy it if it doesn’t fit in.
                                                    fizzle out to die out; to come to a stop
fit like a glove to fit very well; to fit tightly      shortly after starting; to fail. It started
  or snugly. My new shoes fit like a glove.            to rain, and the fire fizzled out. The car
     My new coat is quite snug. It fits like a         started in the cold weather, but it fizzled
  glove.                                               out before we got very far. My attempt
fit someone in(to something ) and fit in some-         to run for mayor fizzled out. She started
   one to manage to put someone into a                 off her job very well, but fizzled out after
  schedule. The doctor is busy, but I can              about a month.
  fit you into the schedule. Yes, here’s an         flare up [for emotions or a chronic disease]
  opening in the schedule. I can fit you in.          to grow intense suddenly. (Refers to a

                                                                            flotsam and jetsam

  fire, suddenly burning brighter or with            and blood. Grandmother was happier
  more vigor.) Just when we thought we               living with her f lesh and blood.
  had put the fire out, it f lared up again.
                                                   flesh something out to make something
  Mr. Jones always f lares up whenever any-
                                                     more detailed, bigger, or fuller. (As if one
  one mentions taxes. My hay fever usu-
                                                     were adding flesh to a skeleton.) This
  ally f lares up in August.
                                                     is basically a good outline. Now you’ll have
a flash in the pan someone or something              to f lesh it out. T The play was good, ex-
   that draws a lot of attention for a very          cept that the author needed to f lesh out the
   brief time. (Refers to a small grease fire        third act. It was too short.
   in a frying pan. Informal.) I’m afraid
                                                   flight of fancy an idea or suggestion that
   that my success as a painter was just a
                                                     is out of touch with reality or possibil-
   f lash in the pan. Tom had hoped to be
                                                     ity. What is the point in indulging in
   a singer, but his career was only a f lash in
                                                     f lights of fancy about foreign vacations
   the pan.
                                                     when you cannot even afford the rent?
flat as a board Go to (as) flat as a board.          We are tired of her f lights of fancy about
flat as a pancake Go to (as) flat as a
                                                     marrying a millionaire.
  pancake.                                         fling oneself at someone Go to throw oneself at
                                                      someone .
flat broke completely broke; with no
  money at all. (Informal.)        I spent my      flip one’s lid Go to flip one’s wig.
  last dollar, and I’m f lat broke. The bank
                                                   flip one’s wig and flip one’s lid to suddenly
  closed its doors to the public. It was f lat
                                                     become angry, crazy, or enthusiastic.
                                                     (Slang.)      Whenever anyone mentions
flat out 1. clearly and definitely; holding          taxes, Mr. Jones absolutely f lips his wig.
  nothing back. (Informal.) I told her flat              Stop whistling. You’re going to make me
  out that I didn’t like her. They reported          f lip my lid. When I saw that brand-new
  f lat out that the operation was a failure. 2.     car and learned it was mine, I just f lipped
  at top speed, with the accelerator pedal           my wig.
  flat on the floor. (Slang.) How fast will
                                                   flirt with the idea of doing something to
  this car go f lat out?     This car will hit
                                                     think about doing something; to toy with
  about 110 miles per hour f lat out.
                                                     an idea; to consider something, but not
Flattery will get you nowhere. You can               too seriously. I f lirted with the idea of
  praise me, but I’m not going to give you           going to Europe for two weeks.          Jane
  what you want. I am glad to hear that              f lirted with the idea of quitting her job.
  I am beautiful and talented, but f lattery
                                                   float a loan to get a loan; to arrange for a
  will get you nowhere. Flattery will get
                                                     loan. I couldn’t afford to pay cash for the
  you nowhere, but that doesn’t mean you
                                                     car, so I f loated a loan.   They needed
  should stop f lattering me!
                                                     money, so they had to float a loan.
flesh and blood 1. a living human body,
                                                   flora and fauna plants and animals.
  especially with reference to its natural
                                                     (Latin.) The magazine story described
  limitations; a human being. This cold
                                                     the f lora and fauna of Panama.        We
  weather is more than flesh and blood can
                                                     went for a hike in the Finnish wilderness
  stand. Carrying 300 pounds is beyond
                                                     hoping to learn all about the local f lora
  mere flesh and blood. 2. the quality of be-
                                                     and fauna.
  ing alive. The paintings of this artist are
  lifeless. They lack f lesh and blood. This       flotsam and jetsam worthless matter;
  play needs f lesh and blood, not the mum-          worthless encumbrances. (Refers to the
  bling of intensely dull actors. 3. one’s own       floating wreckage of a ship and its cargo
  relatives; one’s own kin. That’s no way            or to floating cargo deliberately cast over-
  to treat one’s own f lesh and blood.       I       board to stabilize a ship in a rough sea.)
  want to leave my money to my own f lesh               His mind is burdened with the f lotsam

fluff one’s lines

  and jetsam of many years of poor instruc-       fly in the teeth of someone or something Go
  tion and lax study habits. Your report             to fly in the face of someone or something .
  would be better if you could get rid of a
  lot of the f lotsam and jetsam and clean up     fly into the face of danger to take great
  the grammar a bit.                                risks; to threaten or challenge danger, as
                                                    if danger were a person. (This may refer
fluff one’s lines and blow one’s lines; muff        to flying, as in an airplane, but not nec-
   one’s lines to speak one’s speech badly or       essarily.) John plans to go bungee-jump-
  forget one’s lines when one is in a play.         ing this weekend. He really likes f lying into
  (Informal.) The actress f luffed her lines        the face of danger. Willard was not ex-
  badly in the last act.      I was in a play       actly the type to f ly into the face of danger,
  once, and I muffed my lines over and over.        but tonight was an exception, and he or-
     It’s okay to blow your lines in rehearsal.     dered enchiladas.
flunk out to fail a course; to fail out of        fly off the handle to lose one’s temper.
  school. Tom didn’t study, and he finally          (Informal.)      Every time anyone men-
  f lunked out. Bill is about to f lunk out         tions taxes, Mrs. Brown f lies off the han-
  of geometry.                                      dle. If she keeps flying off the handle like
                                                    that, she’ll have a heart attack.
flunk someone out to cause someone to
  leave school by giving a failing grade.         fly the coop to escape; to get out or get
  The teacher f lunked Tom out. T The pro-          away. (Informal. Refers to a chicken es-
  fessor wanted to f lunk out the whole class.      caping from a chicken coop.) I could-
                                                    n’t stand the party, so I f lew the coop.
flush with something 1. even with some-             The prisoner f lew the coop at the first
  thing; sharing a surface with something.          opportunity.
     The edge of the sink is f lush with the
  counter. The wood flooring is flush with        foam at the mouth to be very angry. (In-
  the carpet so people won’t trip. 2. having        formal. Related to a “mad dog”—a dog
  lots of something. Our garden is f lush           with rabies—which foams at the mouth.)
  with fresh vegetables.     The committee             Bob was raving—foaming at the mouth.
  was f lush with helpful ideas.                    I’ve never seen anyone so angry.   Bill
                                                    foamed at the mouth in anger.
fly-by-night irresponsible; untrustworthy.
  (Refers to a person who sneaks away se-         fob something off (on someone ) to trick
  cretly in the night.) The carpenter we            someone into accepting something that
  hired was a f ly-by-night worker who did          is worthless. (Informal.) The car dealer
  a very bad job. You shouldn’t deal with           fobbed a car off on Tom. T He also fobbed
  a f ly-by-night merchant.                         off a bad car on Jane. Some car dealers
                                                    are always trying to fob something off.
fly in the face of someone or something and
   fly in the teeth of someone or something       foist something (off ) on someone to force
  to disregard, defy, or show disrespect for        someone to take something that they
  someone or something. John loves to               don’t want. Bill tried to foist the task of
  f ly in the face of tradition. Ann made           washing dishes off on his sister. The city
  it a practice to f ly in the face of standard     council foisted the new garbage dump on
  procedures. John finds great pleasure in          the poorest neighborhood in the city.
  f lying in the teeth of his father.
                                                  fold one’s hands to bring one’s hands to-
a fly in the ointment a small, unpleasant           gether, palm to palm, with the fingers in-
  matter that spoils something; a draw-             terlocking; to grasp one’s hands together,
  back. We enjoyed the play, but the f ly in        palm to palm, perpendicular to one an-
  the ointment was not being able to find our       other. Please fold your hands and put
  car afterward.     It sounds like a good          them on the table while the teacher reads
  idea, but there must be a f ly in the oint-       you a story.     Sue folded her hands to
  ment somewhere.                                   pray.

                                                       follow up (on someone or something)

fold something up to put an end to some-              back of the building. Just follow your nose.
  thing; to close something such as a busi-              There was a bad smell in the base-
  ness or some other enterprise. (Refers to           ment—probably a dead mouse. I followed
  folding something closed.) Mr. Jones                my nose until I found it.
  was going broke, so he folded his business
  up. T The producer decided to fold up the         follow orders to do as one has been in-
  play early. It was losing money.                    structed. You have to learn to follow or-
                                                      ders if you want to be a marine. I did-
fold, spindle, or mutilate to harm or dis-            n’t do anything wrong. I was only following
  figure a machine-readable document,                 orders.
  such as a computer punch card. (Such a
  document, if folded, placed on a bill             follow someone or something up 1. [with
  spike, or otherwise punctured, would no             something] to add more information or
  longer be machine-readable. Now rarely              detail to something; to follow something
  seen on a bill but the expression is some-          through. Bill had to follow my sugges-
  times used in a figurative sense.) At the           tion up. T The police followed up my story.
  bottom of the bill, it said “do not fold, spin-     2. [with someone] to review someone’s
  dle, or mutilate,” and Jane, in her anger,          work and check it over. The person who
  did all three. Look here, chum, if you              follows you up will make sure you’re do-
  don’t want to get folded, spindled, or mu-          ing the right thing. T When I followed up
  tilated, you had better do what you are             Mary, I found errors in her work.
  told!                                             follow someone’s lead to do as someone else
fold up to close up; to end. (Alluding to             does; to accept someone’s guidance; to
  something that folds closed or collapses            follow someone’s direction. Just follow
  along its folds.) The play folded up af-            my lead and you will not get lost. John
  ter two days. It’s time to fold up and go           followed his father’s lead and became a
  home.                                               lawyer.
follow in someone’s footsteps Go to follow          follow suit to follow in the same pattern;
  in someone’s tracks.                                to follow someone else’s example. (From
                                                      card games.) Mary went to work for a
follow in someone’s tracks and follow in              bank, and Jane followed suit. Now they are
  someone’s footsteps to follow someone’s             both head cashiers. The Smiths went out
  example; to assume someone else’s role or           to dinner, but the Browns didn’t follow
  occupation. The vice president was fol-             suit. They stayed home.
  lowing in the president’s footsteps when he
  called for budget cuts. She followed in           follow the crowd to do what everyone else
  her father’s footsteps and went into                is doing. I am an independent thinker.
  medicine.                                           I could never just follow the crowd.
                                                      When in doubt, I follow the crowd. At least
follow one’s heart to act according to one’s          I don’t stand out like a fool.
  feelings; to obey one’s sympathetic or
  compassionate inclinations. I couldn’t            follow through (on something ) and carry
  decide what to do, so I just followed my            through (on something ) to complete a
  heart. I trust that you will follow your            task; to see a task through to its comple-
  heart in this matter.                               tion.     You must follow through on the
                                                      things that you start. Don’t start the job
follow one’s nose 1. to go straight ahead,            if you can’t follow through. Ask Sally to
  the direction that one’s nose is pointing.          carry through on her project.
  (Folksy.)    The town that you want is
  straight ahead on this highway. Just fol-         follow up (on someone or something ) to find
  low your nose. The chief ’s office is right         out more about someone or something.
  around the corner. Turn left and follow                Please follow up on Mr. Brown and his
  your nose. 2. to follow an odor to its              activities. Bill, Mr. Smith has a com-
  source. (Informal.) The kitchen is at the           plaint. Would you please follow up on it?

follow up (on something)

    We can take care of that when we follow        foot the bill. If the bank goes broke, don’t
  up.                                              worry. The government will foot the bill.
follow up (on something ) to check (on           footloose and fancy-free without re-
  something) and do what needs to be               sponsibilities or commitments. All the
  done. I will follow up on this matter and        rest of them have wives, but John is foot-
  make sure it is settled. There is a prob-        loose and fancy-free. Mary never stays
  lem with the bank account. Will you please       long in any job. She likes being footloose
  follow up?                                       and fancy-free.
fond of someone or something to like some-       for a lark and on a lark for a joke; as
  one or something. I’m fond of choco-             something done for fun. For a lark, I
  late. Mary isn’t fond of me, but I’m fond        wore a clown’s wig to school. On a lark,
  of her.                                          I skipped school and drove to the beach.
food for thought something to think              for all I care I don’t care if (something
  about. I don’t like your idea very much,         happens). (Informal.) For all I care, the
  but it’s food for thought.   Your lecture        whole city council can go to the devil.
  was very good. It contained much food for        They can all starve for all I care.
                                                 for all I know according to the informa-
A fool and his money are soon parted.              tion I have; I think; probably. (Informal.)
  A person who acts unwisely with money               For all I know, the mayor has resigned
  soon loses it. (Often said about a person        already. She may have gone to town for
  who has just lost a sum of money because         all I know.
  of poor judgment.)        When Bill lost a
                                                 for all intents and purposes virtually;
  $400 bet on a horse race, Mary said, “A
                                                   practically speaking; in effect. (Some-
  fool and his money are soon parted.”
                                                   times this expression has very little mean-
  When John bought a cheap used car that
                                                   ing.) He entered the room, looking for
  fell apart the next day, he said, “Oh, well,
                                                   all intents and purposes as if he would
  a fool and his money are soon parted.”
                                                   burst into song. She said that for all in-
fool around (with someone or something ) to        tents and purposes she had completed her
  fiddle, play, or mess with someone or            assignment.
  something; to waste time with someone
                                                 for all it’s worth and for what(ever) it’s
  or something. (Informal.) John is out
                                                   worth if it has any value. My idea—for
  fooling around with his friends again.
                                                   all it’s worth—is to offer them only $300.
  That child spends most of his time fooling
                                                       Here is my thinking, for whatever it’s
  around. Please don’t fool around with
                                                   worth. Ask her to give us her opinion,
  the light switch. You’ll break it. There
                                                   for what it’s worth.
  are lots of interesting things in here, but
  you must leave them alone. Don’t fool          for all practical purposes as might be rea-
  around.                                          sonably expected; essentially.       For all
                                                   practical purposes, this is simply a matter
fools rush in (where angels fear to
                                                   of right and wrong. This should be con-
  tread) people with little experience or
                                                   sidered final, for all practical purposes.
  knowledge often get involved in difficult
  or delicate situations that wiser people       for all something in spite of something; even
  would avoid. (Proverb.) I wouldn’t ask           with so much of something. For all her
  Jean about her divorce, but Kate did. Fools      complaining, she still seems to be a happy
  rush in, as they say.    Only the newest         person. For all my aches and pains, I’m
  member of the committee questioned the           still rather healthy.
  chairman’s decision. Fools rush in where
                                                 for all the world 1. exactly; precisely. (Es-
  angels fear to tread.
                                                   pecially with look.) She sat there look-
foot the bill to pay the bill; to pay (for         ing for all the world as if she was going to
  something).      Let’s go out and eat. I’ll      cry.    It started out seeming for all the

                                                                                    for starters

  world like a beautiful day. Then a storm          instance, she volunteers her time and gives
  came up. 2. everything. (Usually in the           money to charities.
  negative.) I wouldn’t give up my baby
                                                  for keeps forever; permanently. (Informal.
  for all the world. They wouldn’t sell their
  property for all the world.                       See also play for keeps. Compare this
                                                    with for good.) When I get married, it’ll
for better or for worse under any condi-            be for keeps. We’ve moved around a lot.
  tions; no matter what happens. I mar-             Now I think we’ll stay here for keeps.
  ried you for better or for worse. For bet-
  ter or for worse, I’m going to quit my job.     for kicks for fun; just for entertainment; for
                                                    no good reason. (Slang.) They didn’t
for chicken feed and for peanuts for                mean any harm. They just did it for kicks.
  nearly nothing; for very little money. (In-         We drove over to the next town for kicks.
  formal.) Bob doesn’t get paid much. He
  works for chicken feed. You can buy an          for life for the remainder of one’s life.
  old car for chicken feed. I won’t do that         The accident caused me to become blind
  kind of work for peanuts!                         for life. She will stay in prison for life.
For crying out loud! For heaven’s sake!; I        for one’s (own) part as far as one is con-
  am amazed! (An exclamation of surprise            cerned; from one’s point of view. For
  and mild shock.) For crying out loud!             my own part, I wish to stay here. For her
  I didn’t expect to see you here. For cry-         part, she prefers chocolate.
  ing out loud! What a time to call someone       for one’s (own) sake for one’s good or ben-
  on the telephone.                                 efit; in honor of someone.       I have to
for days on end for many days.       We kept        earn a living for my family’s sake. I did
  on traveling for days on end.    Doctor, I’ve     it for my mother’s sake. I didn’t do it
  had this pain for days on end.                    for my own sake.
for fear of something out of fear of some-        for openers and for starters to start with.
  thing; because of fear of something.              (Informal.) For openers, they played a
  He doesn’t drive for fear of an accident.         song everyone knows. For starters, I’ll
  They lock their doors for fear of being           serve a delicious soup.
                                                  for peanuts Go to for chicken feed.
for free for no charge or cost; free of any
  cost. They let us into the movie for free.      for real authentic; genuine; really. (Infor-
     I will let you have a sample of the candy      mal or slang.) Is this diamond for real?
  for free.                                          Are you for real? Are we there for real?
for good forever; permanently.        I finally   for safekeeping for the purpose of keep-
  left home for good. They tried to repair          ing someone or something safe. I put
  it many times before they fixed it for good.      my jewelry in the vault for safekeeping.
                                                    I checked my fur coat at the entrance to the
for good measure as extra; (adding) a lit-          bar for safekeeping.
  tle more to make sure there is enough.
  When I bought a pound of nails, the clerk       for sale available for purchase; buyable.
  threw in a few extra nails for good mea-          (Compare this with on sale.)        Is this
  sure. I always put a little extra salt in         item for sale? How long has this house
  the soup for good measure.                        been for sale? My car is for sale. Are you
for hours on end for many hours.         We
  sat and waited for the doctor for hours on      for short in a short form. (Usually refers to
  end. We listened to the speaker for hours         names of people or things.) My name
  on end.                                           is William. They call me Bill for short.
                                                    Almost everyone who is named Robert is
for instance for example.        I’ve lived in      called Bob for short.
  many cities, for instance, Boston, Chicago,
  and Detroit. Jane is very generous. For         for starters Go to for openers.

for sure

for sure certainly; surely. (Informal or            and usually having to do with one’s
  slang.)    MARY: Do you like my new               memory.) For the life of me, I don’t re-
  jacket? JANE: For sure. For sure, I want          member your name. She couldn’t recall
  to go on the picnic.                              the correct numbers for the life of her.
                                                    For the life of them, they couldn’t remem-
for that matter besides; in addition.       If
                                                    ber the way home.
  you’re hungry, take one of my doughnuts.
  For that matter, take two. I don’t like         for the moment and for the time being
  this house. The roof leaks. For that matter,      for the present; for now; temporarily.
  the whole place is falling apart. Tom is          This will have to do for the moment.
  quite arrogant. So is his sister, for that        This is all right for the time being. It’ll have
  matter.                                           to be improved next week, however. This
                                                    good feeling will last only for the time be-
[for the asking] Go to one’s for the asking.
                                                    ing. This solution is satisfactory for the
for the best Go to (all) for the best.              moment.
for the better better; an improvement.            for the most part mostly; in general. For
  (See also take a turn for the better.) A          the most part, the class is enjoying geom-
  change of government would be for the             etry.     I like working here for the most
  better.    A new winter coat would cer-           part.
  tainly be for the better.                       for the odds to be against one for things
for the birds worthless; undesirable.               to be against one generally; for one’s
  (Slang.) This television program is for           chances of success to be slim. You can
  the birds. Winter weather is for the              give it a try, but the odds are against you.
  birds.                                               I know the odds are against me, but I
                                                    wish to run in the race anyway.
for the devil of it and for the heck of
  it; for the hell of it just for fun; because    for the record so that (one’s own version
  it is slightly evil; for no good reason. (In-     of ) the facts will be known; so there will
  formal. Use caution with hell.)           We      be a record of a particular fact. (This of-
  filled their garage with leaves just for the      ten is said when there are reporters pre-
  devil of it. Tom tripped Bill for the heck        sent.) I’d like to say—for the record—
  of it. John picked a fight with Tom just          that at no time have I ever accepted a bribe
  for the hell of it.                               from anyone. For the record, I’ve never
                                                    been able to get anything done around city
for the duration for the whole time that            hall without bribing someone.
  something continues; for the entire pe-
  riod of time required for something to be       for the sake of someone or something for the
  completed; for as long as something               good of someone or something; for the
  takes. We are in this war for the dura-           honor or recognition of someone or
  tion. However long it takes, we’ll wait.          something. (Compare this with for one’s
  We are here for the duration.                     own sake.)        I did it for the sake of all
                                                    those people who helped me get through
for the good of someone or something for the        school. I’m investing in a house for the
  benefit, profit, or advantage of someone          sake of my children. For the sake of hon-
  or something. The president said the              esty, Bill shared all the information he had.
  strict drug laws were for the good of the
  country. David took a second job for the        for the time being Go to for the moment.
  good of his family.                             for what(ever) it’s worth Go to for all it’s
for the heck of it Go to for the devil of it.
                                                  forbidden fruit someone or something that
for the hell of it Go to for the devil of it.
                                                    one finds attractive or desirable partly
for the life of one even if one’s life were         because having the person or thing is im-
  threatened; even in exchange for one’s            moral or illegal. (From the fruit in the
  life. (Informal. Always with a negative,          Garden of Eden that was forbidden to

                                                                                   forty winks

  Adam by God.) Jim f lirts with his sis-         forever and ever and forever and a day
  ter-in-law only because she’s forbidden           forever. I will love you forever and ever.
  fruit.    The boy watches that program               This car won’t keep running forever and
  only when his parents are out. It’s forbid-       ever. We’ll have to get a new one sometime.
  den fruit.                                           We have enough money to last forever
                                                    and a day.
force someone or something down someone’s
  throat Go to shove someone or something         forget oneself to forget one’s manners or
  down someone’s throat.                            training. (Said in formal situations al-
                                                    luding to belching, bad table manners,
force someone out (of office) and drive             and, in the case of very young children,
  someone out (of office) to pressure some-         pants-wetting.) Sorry, Mother, I forgot
  one to leave an elective office. The city         myself. John, we are going out to din-
  council forced the mayor out of office.           ner tonight. Please don’t forget yourself.
  Please resign immediately, or I’ll have to
  drive you out.                                  forgive and forget to forgive someone (for
                                                    something) and forget that it ever hap-
force someone’s hand to force a person to           pened. I’m sorry, John. Let’s forgive and
  reveal plans, strategies, or secrets. (Refers     forget. What do you say? It was nothing.
  to a handful of cards in card playing.)           We’ll just have to forgive and forget.
  We didn’t know what she was doing until
  Tom forced her hand. We couldn’t plan           fork money out (for something) to pay (per-
  our game until we forced the other team’s         haps unwillingly) for something. (Infor-
  hand in the last play.                            mal. Often mention is made of the
                                                    amount of money. See the examples be-
force someone to the wall and drive some-           low.)     Do you think I’m going to fork
  one to the wall to push someone to an             twenty dollars out for that book? Fork-
  extreme position; to put someone into an          ing money out to everyone is part of life
  awkward position. He wouldn’t tell the            in a busy economy. T I like that stereo, but
  truth until we forced him to the wall.            I don’t want to fork out a lot of money.
  They don’t pay their bills until you drive
  them to the wall.                               fork something over to give something to
                                                    someone. (Refers to handing over money.
a force to be reckoned with someone or              Slang. Usually used in a command.)
   something that is important and power-           Now! Fork it over now! T Okay, Joe. Fork
   ful and must not be ignored. Walter is           over that twenty dollars you owe me.
   a force to be reckoned with. Be prepared
   to deal with him. The growing discon-          form and substance meaningful content;
   tent with the political system is a power-       structure and meaningful content. (See
   ful force to be reckoned with.                   also sum and substance.) The first act
                                                    of the play was one screaming match af-
fore and aft at the front and the back, usu-        ter another. It lacked form and substance
  ally of a boat or ship. They had to at-           throughout. Jane’s report was good. The
  tach new lights fore and aft because the old      teacher commented on the excellent form
  ones were not bright enough to meet the           and substance of the paper.
  new regulations. The captain ordered a
  watch stationed fore and aft.                   form an opinion to think up or decide on
                                                    an opinion. (Note the variation in the ex-
a foregone conclusion a conclusion al-              amples.) I don’t know enough about the
  ready reached; an inevitable result.              issue to form an opinion. Don’t tell me
  That the company was moving to Califor-           how to think! I can form my own opinion.
  nia was a foregone conclusion. That the              I don’t form opinions without careful
  mayor will win reelection is a foregone           consideration.
                                                  forty winks a short sleep; a nap. (Informal.
forever and a day Go to forever and ever.           See also catch forty winks.)    I had forty

foul one’s own nest

  winks on the plane. If you’re lucky you’ll      free as (the) air Go to (as) free as (the) air.
  get forty winks while the children are out.     free-for-all a disorganized fight or contest
foul one’s own nest to harm one’s own in-           involving everyone; a brawl. The pic-
  terests; to bring disadvantage upon one-          nic turned into a free-for-all after mid-
  self. He tried to discredit a fellow sena-        night. The race started out in an orga-
  tor with the president, but just succeeded        nized manner, but ended up being a
  in fouling his own nest. The boss really          free-for-all.
  dislikes Mary. She certainly fouled her own     free translation a translation that is not
  nest when she spread those rumors about           completely accurate and not well thought
  him.                                              out. John gave a free translation of the
foul play illegal activity; bad practices.          sentence, which did not help us at all.
  The police investigating the death suspect        Anne gave a very free translation of the
  foul play. Each student got an A on the           poem.
  test, and the teacher imagined it was the
                                                  fresh as a daisy Go to (as) fresh as a daisy.
  result of foul play.
                                                  fresh out (of something ) and clean out (of
foul someone or something up to cause disor-
                                                    something) just now having sold or used up
  der and confusion for someone or some-
                                                    the last of something. (Folksy.) Sorry,
  thing; to tangle up someone or some-
                                                    I can’t serve you scrambled eggs. We are
  thing; to mess someone or something up.
                                                    fresh out of eggs.      We are fresh out of
  (Informal.) Go away! Don’t foul me up
                                                    nails. I sold the last box just ten minutes
  any more. T You’ve fouled up my whole
                                                    ago.     Lettuce? Sorry. I’m fresh out.
  day. T Watch out! You’re going to foul up
                                                    Sorry. We are clean out of dried beans.
  my kite strings. T Stay off the field. You’re
  going to foul up the coach.                     A friend in need is a friend indeed. A
                                                    true friend is a person who will help you
foul up to do (something) badly; to mess
                                                    when you really need someone. (Com-
  something up. (Informal.) At the last
                                                    pare this with fair-weather friend.)
  minute, he fouled up and failed the course.
                                                    When Bill helped me with geometry, I
    Take your time. Plan your moves, and
                                                    really learned the meaning of “A friend in
  don’t foul up.
                                                    need is a friend indeed.” “A friend in
fouled up messed up; in disorder.        My         need is a friend indeed” sounds silly until
  fishing line is all fouled up. The foot-          you need someone very badly.
  ball team got fouled up and lost the game.
                                                  friend or foe a friend or an enemy.        I
fraught with danger [of something] full             can’t tell whether Jim is friend or foe.
  of something dangerous or unpleasant.             “Who goes there? Friend or foe?” asked the
  The spy’s trip to Russia was fraught with         sentry.
  danger. My escape from the kidnappers
                                                  frighten one out of one’s wits and scare
  was fraught with danger.
                                                     one out of one’s wits to frighten one very
free and clear without encumbrance, par-            badly. (See also frighten the wits out of
  ticularly in regard to the ownership of           someone .) Oh! That loud noise scared me
  something. After the last payment, Jane           out of my wits.      I’ll give him a good
  owned the car free and clear. If you can’t        scolding and frighten him out of his wits.
  prove that you own the house and the land
                                                  frighten someone to death and scare some-
  it stands on free and clear, you can’t sell
                                                     one to death to frighten someone se-
                                                    verely. (Also literal.) The dentist always
free and easy casual.       John is so free and     frightens me to death. She scared me to
  easy. How can anyone be so relaxed?               death when she screamed.
  Now, take it easy. Just act free and easy. No
                                                  frighten the (living) daylights out of
  one will know you’re nervous.
                                                     someone Go to frighten the wits out of
free as a bird Go to (as) free as a bird.            someone .

                                                            from the bottom of one’s heart

frighten the wits out of someone and               been passed from hand to hand, it was
   frighten the (living) daylights out of          crying.
   someone ; scare the (living) daylights
   out of someone ; scare the wits out of        from head to toe from the top of one’s
   someone to frighten someone very badly.         head to one’s feet; all over the body. (See
     We nearly had an accident. It frightened      also from tip to toe.) She was decked
  the living daylights out of me. The in-          out in f lowers from head to toe.       The
  cident scared the wits out of me.                huge parka covered the small child from
                                                   head to toe, assuring that she would be well
frightened to death and scared to death            protected against the cold.
  severely frightened. (Also literal.)      I
  don’t want to go to the dentist today. I’m     from near and far Go to from far and near.
  frightened to death. I’m frightened to         from overseas from a location on the
  death of dogs. She’s scared to death she’ll      other side of the Atlantic or Pacific
  fail algebra.                                    Ocean, according to the point of view of
fritter something away to waste something          someone located in the U.S. The latest
  little by little, especially time or money.      word from overseas is that the treaty has
  (Folksy.) Don’t stand around and frit-           been signed.     Is there any news from
  ter the whole day away. T Stop frittering        overseas about the war?
  away my hard-earned money!                     from pillar to post from one place to a se-
from dawn to dusk during the period of             ries of other places; (figuratively) from
  the day when there is light; from the ris-       person to person, as with gossip. My
  ing of the sun to the setting of the sun.        father was in the army, and we moved
  I have to work from dawn to dusk on the          from pillar to post year after year. Af-
  farm. The factory runs from dawn to              ter I told one person my secret, it went
  dusk to produce hats and gloves.                 quickly from pillar to post.
from day to day on a daily basis; one day        from rags to riches from poverty to
  at a time; occasionally.     We face this        wealth; from modesty to elegance. The
  kind of problem from day to day.       I’ll      princess used to be quite poor. She certainly
  have to check into this matter from day to       moved from rags to riches. After I in-
  day.    When you’re very poor, you live          herited the money, I went from rags to
  from day to day.                                 riches.
from door to door moving from one door           from side to side moving first to one side
  to another—typically, from one house to          and then to the other, repeatedly. The
  another. (See also door-to-door.) Anne           pendulum of the clock swings from side to
  went from door to door, selling books, to        side.    The singers swayed from side to
  earn money for college.     The children         side as they sang.
  went from door to door, saying “Trick or
  treat!” at each one.                           from start to finish from the beginning to
                                                   the end; throughout.     I disliked the
from far and near and from near and far            whole business from start to finish.
  from all around, both close by and far-          Mary caused problems from start to finish.
  ther away. (Reversible, but with a pref-
  erence for from far and near.) All the         from stem to stern from one end to an-
  young people from far and near gathered          other. (Refers to the front and back ends
  at the high school for the game. The ea-         of a ship.)      Now, I have to clean the
  gles gathered from near and far at the river     house from stem to stern. I polished my
  where the salmon were spawning.                  car carefully from stem to stern.
from hand to hand from one person to a           from the bottom of one’s heart sincerely.
  series of other persons. The book trav-          (Compare this with with all one’s heart
  eled from hand to hand until it got back         and soul.) When I returned the lost kit-
  to its owner. By the time the baby had           ten to Mrs. Brown, she thanked me from

from the cradle to the grave

  the bottom of her heart. Oh, thank you!         this day on. I’ll treasure your gift from
  I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart.       this day forward.
from the cradle to the grave from birth         from time to time occasionally.      We have
  to death; throughout one’s life.     The        pizza from time to time. From time to
  government promised to take care of us          time, a visitor comes to our door.
  from the cradle to the grave. You can feel    from tip to toe from the top to the bot-
  secure and well protected from the cradle       tom. (Not necessarily of a person. See
  to the grave.                                   also from head to toe.) She is wearing
from the ground up from the beginning;            all new clothes from tip to toe.      The
  from start to finish. (Refers to the build-     house needs to be cleaned thoroughly from
  ing of a house or other building.) We           tip to toe.
  must plan our sales campaign carefully        from top to bottom from the highest
  from the ground up.       Sorry, but you’ll     point to the lowest point; throughout.
  have to start all over again from the           (Compare this with from stem to stern.)
  ground up.                                         I have to clean the house from top to
from the heart from a deep and sincere            bottom today. We need to replace our
  emotional source.      I know that your         elected officials from top to bottom.
  kind words come from the heart.        We     from way back from far in the past; from
  don’t want your gift unless it comes from       an earlier time. (Informal.) Grandfa-
  the heart.                                      ther comes from way back. This antique
from the horse’s mouth Go to (straight)           clock is from way back.
  from the horse’s mouth.                       fruit(s) of one’s labor(s) the results of one’s
from the old school holding attitudes or          work. We displayed the fruits of our la-
  ideas that were popular and important in        bor at the convention. What have you
  the past, but which are no longer con-          accomplished? Where is the fruit of your
  sidered relevant or in line with modern         labors?
  trends. Grammar was not taught much           full as a tick Go to (as) full as a tick.
  in my son’s school, but fortunately he had
                                                full blast Go to (at) full blast.
  a teacher from the old school. Aunt Jane
  is from the old school. She never goes out    full of beans Go to full of hot air.
  without wearing a hat and gloves.             full of bull Go to full of hot air.
from the outset from the beginning.   We        full of hot air and full of beans; full of
  had problems with this machine from the         bull; full of it; full of prunes full of
  outset. We knew about the unfriendly            nonsense; talking nonsense. (Slang.)
  judge from the outset of our trial.             Oh, shut up, Mary. You’re full of hot air.
from the top from the beginning of some-             Don’t pay any attention to Bill. He’s full
  thing, such as a song or a script. Okay,        of beans. My English professor is full of
  let’s try it again from the top.   Play it      bull. You’re full of it. She doesn’t know
  from the top one more time.                     what she’s talking about. She’s just full of
from the word go from the beginning.
  (Informal.) I knew about the problem          full of it Go to full of hot air.
  from the word go. She was failing the         full of Old Nick Go to full of the devil.
  class from the word go.
                                                full of oneself conceited; self-important.
from this day forward Go to from this day         Mary is very unpopular because she’s so
  on.                                             full of herself.  She doesn’t care about
from this day on and from this day for-
                                                  other people’s feelings. She’s too full of
  ward from today into the future. (For-
  mal.)    We’ll live in love and peace from    full of prunes Go to full of hot air.

                                                                                funny peculiar

full of the devil and full of Old Nick al-         funny as a crutch Go to (as) funny as a
  ways making mischief. (Informal. Old               crutch.
  Nick is another name for the devil.)
  Tom is a lot of fun, but he’s sure full of the   funny business trickery or deception; il-
  devil. I’ve never seen a child get into so         legal activity. From the silence as she
  much mischief. He’s really full of Old Nick.       entered the room, the teacher knew there
                                                     was some funny business going on.
full steam ahead forward at the greatest             There’s some funny business going on at the
  speed possible; with as much energy and            warehouse. Stock keeps disappearing.
  enthusiasm as possible. (From an in-
  struction given to engineers on                  funny ha-ha amusing; comical. (Informal.
  steamships.) It will have to be full steam         Compare this with funny peculiar.) I
  ahead for everybody if the factory gets this       didn’t mean that Mrs. Peters is funny ha-
  order. It’s going to be full steam ahead           ha. She’s weird—funny peculiar, in fact.
  for me this year. I take my final exams.           Mike thinks his jokes are funny ha-ha, but
fun and games playing around; doing                  we laugh because they are so silly.
  worthless things. (Informal.) All right,         funny peculiar odd; eccentric. (Informal.
  Bill, the fun and games are over. It’s time        Compare this with funny ha-ha.)        I
  to get down to work. This isn’t a seri-            didn’t mean that Mary is funny ha-ha.
  ous course. It’s nothing but fun and games.        She’s weird—funny peculiar, in fact. His
funny as a barrel of monkeys Go to (as)              face is sort of funny—funny peculiar,
  funny as a barrel of monkeys.                      that is.

gain ground to make progress; to advance;
  to become more important or popular.
                                                  gaudy as a butterfly Go to (as) gaudy as
                                                    a butterfly.
  Our new product is gaining ground against
                                                  gear (oneself ) up (for something ) to prepare
  that of our competitor. Since the gov-
  ernment announced the new policies, the           for something; to get into shape for
  stock market is gaining ground.                   something. We are gearing up for a very
                                                    busy summer season. We are not ready
The game is up. and The jig is up. The              yet. We have to gear up. Tom is gearing
  deception is over.; The illegal activity has      himself up for his exams.
  come to an end. When the police were            gear something to someone or something to
  waiting for them inside the bank vault, the       cause something to match something else
  would-be robbers knew that the game was           or some group of people; to create or
  up. “The jig is up!” said the cop as he           adapt something for a specific purpose.
  grabbed the shoulder of the pickpocket.              Tim geared his speech to his audience.
a game that two can play a manner of                   The newspaper geared its language to
  competing that two competitors can use;           a fourth-grade reading level.
  a strategy that competing sides can both        generous to a fault too generous; overly
  use. (Also literal.) The mayor shouted            generous. My favorite uncle is gener-
  at the city council, “Politics is a game that     ous to a fault. Sally—always generous
  two can play.” “Flattery is a game that           to a fault—gave away her sandwiches.
  two can play,” said John as he returned
  Mary’s compliment.                              gentle as a lamb Go to (as) gentle as a
gang up (on someone ) to form into a group
  and attack someone. (Usually a physical         get a bang out of someone or something Go
  attack, but it can also be a verbal attack.)      to get a charge out of someone or something .
     We can’t win against the robber unless       get a bee in one’s bonnet to get an idea
  we gang up on him. All right, you guys,           or a thought that remains in one’s mind;
  don’t gang up on me. Play fair!                   to get an obsession. (Also with have. See
a gas [someone or something] wild or                the note at get a big send-off. See also put
  funny. You should have been at Susan’s            a bee in someone’s bonnet.) I have a bee
  party last night. It was a gas.    That           in my bonnet that you’d be a good man-
  movie was such a gas. I haven’t laughed           ager.    I got a bee in my bonnet about
  so hard in ages.                                  swimming. I couldn’t stop wanting to go
gas up to fill up one’s gasoline tank with
  gasoline. (Informal.) I have to stop at         get a big send-off to receive or enjoy a
  the next service station and gas up. The          happy celebration before departing.
  next time you gas up, try some of the gaso-       (Note: Get can be replaced with have.
  line with alcohol in it.                          Note the variation in the examples. Get
                                                    usually means “to become, to acquire,
gather a case (against someone ) Go to              or to cause.” Have usually means “to
  build a case (against someone ).                  possess, to be, or to have resulted in.”

                                                                    get a frog in one’s throat

  See also give someone a big send-off.) I        get a clean bill of health [for someone]
  had a wonderful send-off before I left.           to be pronounced healthy by a physician.
  John got a fine send-off as he left for           (Also with have. See the note at get a big
  Europe.                                           send-off.) Sally got a clean bill of health
                                                    from the doctor. Now that Sally has a
get a black eye 1. to get a bruise near the         clean bill of health, she can go back to
  eye from being struck. (The area around           work.
  the eye is darkened, not black. Also with
  have. See the note at get a big send-off.)      get a crush on someone to become infatu-
     I got a black eye from walking into a          ated with someone. (Also with have. See
  door. I have a black eye where John hit           the note at get a big send-off.) Mary
  me. 2. to have one’s character or reputa-         thinks she’s getting a crush on Bill. Sally
  tion harmed. Mary got a black eye be-             says she’ll never get a crush on anyone
  cause of her complaining.      The whole          again. John has a crush on Mary.
  group now has a black eye.                      get a dirty look from someone to get
                                                    frowned at by someone.            I stopped
get a break to have good fortune; to re-
                                                    whistling when I got a dirty look from Ann.
  ceive a bit of luck. (Often with lucky, nice,
                                                       I got a dirty look from the teacher. I
  etc. Also with have. See the note at get a
                                                    don’t know why.
  big send-off.)      Mary is going to get a
  break. I wish I’d get a lucky break.            get a feel for something Go to get the feel
  Why don’t I have a lucky break when I             of something.
  need one? She’s got a lucky break and           get a fix on something 1. to find out the ex-
  doesn’t even know it.                             act location of something. (Also with
get a bright idea for a clever thought or           have. See the note at get a big send-off.
  idea to occur (to someone). (Also with            See also give someone a fix on something .)
  have. See the note at get a big send-off.)        I can’t get a fix on your location. Where
     Now and then I get a bright idea.              are you? We are trying to get a fix on
  John hardly ever gets a bright idea. Lis-         your radio transmission. I have a fix on
  ten here! I have a bright idea!                   them now. 2. to begin to understand the
                                                    direction of a discussion. I can’t quite
get a charge out of someone or something            get a fix on what you’re trying to say. I
  and get a bang out of someone or some-            can’t get a fix on where you’re going with
  thing ; get a kick out of someone or some-        this argument.
  thing to receive special pleasure from
                                                  get a foothold (somewhere ) and get a toe-
  someone or something. (Informal.)
                                                    hold (somewhere ) an initial position of
  Tom is really funny. I always get a kick out
                                                    support; a starting point. It’s difficult
  of his jokes. Bill really got a bang out of
                                                    to get a foothold in the education market
  the present we gave him.       Mary got a
                                                    when schools are laying off teachers.
  charge out of Bob’s visit.
                                                    Max’s father helped him get a toehold in
get a charley horse to develop a cramp in           the textile industry.
  the arm or leg, usually from strain. (Also      get a free hand (with someone or something )
  with have. See the note at get a big send-        to be granted complete control over
  off.) Don’t work too hard or you’ll get a         something. (Also with have. See the note
  charley horse. Poor Tom is always get-            at get a big send-off. See also give some-
  ting a charley horse in his leg. Sally can’t      one a free hand (with something ).) I did-
  play. She has a charley horse.                    n’t get a free hand with the last project.
                                                    John was in charge then, but he didn’t have
get a checkup to have a physical exami-
                                                    a free hand either. I demand to have a
  nation by a physician. (Also with have.
                                                    free hand with my own child!
  See the note at get a big send-off.) She
  got a checkup yesterday. I going to have        get a frog in one’s throat to get soreness
  a checkup in the morning. I hope I’m okay.        or something else in one’s throat that pre-

get after someone

  vents one from talking well. (This often        get (a)hold of someone or something 1. [with
  leads to one clearing one’s throat. Also          someone] to make contact with someone;
  with have. See the note at get a big send-        to call someone on the telephone. (See
  off.) The speaker got a frog in his throat        also get one’s hands on someone or something ;
  and had to stop talking for a while. Ex-          get in touch (with someone ). Also with
  cuse me. I have a frog in my throat.              have. See the note at get a big send-off.)
                                                       I’ll try to get hold of you in the morn-
get after someone to remind, scold, or nag          ing. It’s very hard to get hold of John.
  someone (to do something). (Informal.             He’s so busy. 2. [with something] to ob-
  See also keep after someone .) John has-          tain something. I’m trying to get hold
  n’t taken out the garbage. I’ll have to get       of a glass jar. I need it for school. Does
  after him. Mary’s mother will get after           anyone know where I can get hold of a
  her if she doesn’t do the dishes.                 spare tire? I have hold of a very large
get a grasp of something to understand
                                                    piece of land. 3. Go to take (a)hold of
                                                    someone or something .
  something. (Also with good, solid, and
  sound, as in the examples. Also with have.      get a hurry on and get a move on to start
  See the note at get a big send-off.) Try          to hurry. (Informal.) We are going to
  to get a grasp of the basic rules.    You         leave in five minutes, Jane. Get a hurry on!
  don’t have a good grasp of the principles            Mary! Get a move on! We can’t wait all
  yet. John was unable to get a solid grasp         day.
  of the methods used in his work, and we         get a jump(start) Go to get a start.
  had to let him go.
                                                  get a kick out of someone or something Go
get a handle on something Go to have a              to get a charge out of someone or something .
  handle on something .
                                                  get a licking and take a licking to get a
get a hand with something to receive assis-         spanking; to get beat in a fight. (Folksy.)
  tance with something. (Also with have.               Billy, you had better get in here if you
  See the note at get a big send-off.)              don’t want to get a licking. Bob took a
  Mary would really like to get a hand with         real licking in the stock market.      Tom
  that. It’s too much for one person. I’d           took a licking in the fight he was in.
  like to have a hand with this.                  Get a life! Don’t act so stupid!; Get a pur-
                                                    pose for existing! (Slang. Usually rude.)
get ahead of oneself [for someone] to do or
                                                       Hey, stupid! You want to get run over?
  say something sooner than it ought to be          Get a life! You worthless jerk! Get a life!
  done so that the proper explanation or
  preparations have not been made.            I   get a line on someone or something to get an
  have to stick to my notes or I will get ahead     idea on how to locate someone or some-
  of myself in my lecture. When he bought           thing; to find out about someone who
  a new little bicycle before the baby was          can help find someone or something.
  born, he was getting ahead of himself.            (Also with have. See the note at get a big
                                                    send-off.)    I got a line on a book that
get a head start (on someone or something )         might help explain what you want to
  1. [with someone] to start (something)            know. Sally has a line on someone who
  earlier than someone else. (Also with             could help you fix up your apartment.
  have. See the note at get a big send-off.)
     Bill always gets there first because he      get (all) dolled up to dress (oneself ) up.
  gets a head start on everybody else. I’m             I have to get all dolled up for the dance
  doing well in my class because I have a           tonight. I just love to get dolled up in my
  head start. 2. [with something] to start          best clothes.
  something earlier (than someone else).          get a load off one’s feet and take a load
  I was able to get a head start on my read-        off one’s feet to sit down; to enjoy the re-
  ing during the holidays. If I hadn’t had          sults of sitting down. (Informal.) Come
  a head start, I’d be behind in my reading.        in, John. Sit down and take a load off your

                                                               get a rain check (on something)

  feet. Yes, I need to get a load off my feet.         standing around the corner while Jim and
  I’m really tired.                                    Mary were arguing and got an earful.
get a load off one’s mind to say what one            get an eyeful (of someone or something) to see
  is thinking; to talk about what is trou-             everything; to see a shocking or surpris-
  bling one; to speak one’s mind. (Infor-              ing sight. The office door opened for a
  mal.) He sure talked a long time. I guess            minute and I got an eyeful of the interior.
  he had to get a load off his mind. You                  Mary got an eyeful of the company’s ex-
  aren’t going to like what I’m going to say,          travagant spending when she peeked into
  but I have to get a load off my mind.                the conference room.
get a load of someone or something look at           get an in (with someone ) to develop a way
  someone or something. (Informal or                   to request a special favor from someone;
  slang.) Get a load of that guy. Have you             to gain influence with someone. (The in
  ever seen such arrogance? Get a load of              is a noun. Also with have. See the note
  that car. It’s got real wire wheels.                 at get a big send-off.) Did you get an
get along (in years) to grow older.                    in with the mayor? I have to ask him a fa-
  Grandfather is getting along in years.               vor. Sorry, I don’t have an in, but I know
  Yes, he’s really getting along.                      someone who does.
get along (on a shoestring) to be able to            get another guess coming Go to get an-
  afford to live on very little money. For             other think coming.
  the last two years, we have had to get along
                                                     get another think coming and get an-
  on a shoestring. With so little money, it’s
                                                       other guess coming to have to rethink
  hard to get along.
                                                       something because one was wrong the
get along (without (someone or something ))            first time. (Folksy. Think is a noun here.
  to manage without someone or some-                   Also with have. See the note at get a big
  thing; to do without someone or some-                send-off.)     She’s quite wrong. She’s got
  thing. I don’t think I can get along with-           another think coming if she wants to walk
  out my secretary. My secretary just quit,            in here like that. You have another guess
  and I don’t think I will be able to get along.       coming if you think you can treat me like
      I like steak, but I can’t afford it. I guess     that!
  I’ll have to get along without.
                                                     get ants in one’s pants to become nervous
get along (with someone or something ) Go to           and agitated. (Refers to the agitation
  get on (with someone or something ).                 caused by ants crawling into one’s pants.
get a lot of mileage out of something to get           Slang. Also with have. See the note at get
  a lot of use from something, as if it were           a big send-off.)    I always get ants in my
  a car. Bob always got a lot of mileage               pants before a test. I wonder if all actors
  out of one joke. I got a lot of mileage out          get ants in their pants before they go on
  of my TV before it broke down.                       stage.
get a lump in one’s throat to have the feel-         get a rain check (on something ) and take
  ing of something in one’s throat—as if               a rain check (on something ) 1. to accept
  one were going to cry. (Also with have.              a piece of paper allowing one to see an
  See the note at get a big send-off.)                 event—which has been canceled—at a
  Whenever they play the national anthem,              later time. (Originally said of sporting
  I get a lump in my throat. I have a lump             events that had to be canceled because
  in my throat because I’m frightened.                 of rain. Also with have. See the note at
                                                       get a big send-off.) The game was can-
get a move on Go to get a hurry on.                    celed because of the storm, but we all got
get an earful to hear or listen to a great             rain checks on it.    I didn’t take a rain
  amount of discussion, criticism, or com-             check because I’m leaving town for a
  plaint. She was really mad about some-               month. 2. to accept (or request) a reis-
  thing, and I sure got an earful. Sue was             suance of an invitation at a later date.

get a raw deal

  (Said to someone who has invited you to           a general idea; to receive an estimate.
  something that you cannot attend now,             (Also with have. See the note at get a big
  but would like to attend at a later time.)        send-off.)   I need to get a rough idea of
     We would love to come to your house,           how many people will be there. I don’t
  but we are busy next Saturday. Could we           need to know exactly. Just get a rough idea.
  take a rain check on your kind invitation?           Judy has got a rough idea about who’ll
     Oh, yes. You have a rain check that’s          be there.    I have a rough idea. That’s
  good anytime you can come by and visit.           good enough.
  3. to accept a piece of paper that allows
  one to purchase an item on sale at a later      get a rough idea (of something ) Go to get
                                                    a rough idea (about something ).
  date. (Stores issue these pieces of paper
  when they run out of specially priced sale      get around to be experienced; to know a
  merchandise.) The store was all out of            lot about life. (Informal. Use with cau-
  the shampoo they advertised, but I got a          tion—especially with females—since
  rain check. Yes, you should always take           this can also refer to sexual experience.
  a rain check so you can get it at the sale        See also have been around.) That’s a
  price later when they have more.                  hard question. I’ll ask Jane. She gets
get a raw deal to receive unfair or bad             around.     John knows a lot about New
  treatment. (Slang. Also with have. See the        York City. He gets around.
  note at get a big send-off. See also give       get around to doing something to find time
  someone a raw deal.)         Mary got a raw       to do something; to do something after
  deal on her traffic ticket. She was innocent,     a long delay. (Compare this with get
  but she had to pay a big fine. I bought           (around) to something .)    I finally got
  a used TV that worked for two days and            around to buying a new coat. It takes
  then quit. I sure got a raw deal. You sure        Sally years to get around to visiting her
  had a raw deal.                                   aunt. I finally got around to doing the
get a reputation (as a something ) to be-           breakfast dishes.
  come recognized for being something.            get (around) to something to manage to deal
  (Can be a good or a bad reputation. Also          with someone or something after a delay.
  with have. See the note at get a big send-        (Compare this with get around to doing
  off.) You’ll get a reputation as a cheater.       something .)   It was noon before I got
     She once had a reputation as a singer.         around to the breakfast dishes. The doc-
     Behave yourself, or you’ll get a reputa-       tor was not able to get to John, even though
  tion.     Unfortunately, Tom’s got a              John waited for three hours. I can’t get
  reputation.                                       around to you until tomorrow.
get a reputation (for doing something) to be-     get a run for one’s money 1. to receive
  come recognized for doing something.              what one deserves, expects, or wants.
  (Often a bad reputation, as in the exam-          (See also give one a run for one’s money.)
  ples. Also with have. See the note at get            I get a run for my money at a high
  a big send-off.)   You’ll get a reputation        school football game. I get a run for my
  for cheating. I don’t want to get a rep-          money in the stock market. 2. to receive
  utation. He’s got a bad reputation. I             a challenge. Bob got a run for his money
  have a reputation for being honest.               when he tried to convince Mary to go to
get a rise out of someone to get a reaction         college.    Bill got a run for his money
  from someone, usually anger or laughter.          playing cards with John.
  (Informal.) Mary really liked my joke.
                                                  get a shellacking and take a shellacking
  I knew I could get a rise out of her. I
                                                    1. to receive a beating. (Informal.) The
  got a rise out of him by telling him to go
                                                    boxer took a shellacking and lost the fight.
                                                      I got a shellacking when I broke the win-
get a rough idea (about something ) and             dow. 2. to be beaten—as in sports. (In-
  get a rough idea (of something) to receive        formal.) Our team played well, but got

                                                                     get a word in edgewise

  a shellacking anyway.     I practiced my         will have a tongue-lashing at home. I
  tennis game so I wouldn’t take a shellack-       never had a tongue-lashing like that before.
  ing in the tournament.
                                                 get at someone or something 1. to attack or
get a slap on the wrist to get a light pun-        strike someone or something. (Compare
  ishment (for doing something wrong).             this with go at someone or something . Also
  (Also with have. See the note at get a big       with have.)        The cat jumped over the
  send-off. See also give someone a slap on        wall to get at the mouse. Ok, you guys.
  the wrist.)    He created quite a distur-        There he is. Have at him! 2. [with some-
  bance, but he only got a slap on the wrist.      thing] to eat food; to gobble up food. (In-
     I thought I’d get a slap on the wrist for     formal. Also with have.) I can’t wait
  speeding, but I got fined $200. She had          to get at that cake. Dinner’s ready. Sit
  a slap on the wrist about that before.           down and have at it. 3. [with someone] to
                                                   find a way to irritate someone; to man-
get a start 1. and get a jump(start) to re-        age to wound someone, physically or
  ceive help starting one’s car. My car is         emotionally. Mr. Smith found a way to
  stalled. I need to get a start. I got my         get at his wife. John kept trying to get
  car going. I got a jump from John. 2. to re-     at his teacher. 4. [with something] to ex-
  ceive training or a big opportunity in be-       plain or try to explain something; to hint
  ginning one’s career. (The same as get           at something. We spent a long time try-
  one’s start. Also with have. See the note        ing to get at the answer. I can’t under-
  at get a big send-off.) She got a start          stand what you’re trying to get at. 5. [with
  in show business in Cincinnati. She had          something] to begin to do something; to
  a start when she was only four.                  get (around) to something . I won’t be able
                                                   to get at it until the weekend. I’ll get at
get a taste of one’s own medicine [for             it first thing in the morning.
  one] to receive difficulties of the same
  kind that one has been causing other           get at the heart of the matter Go to get
  people. (Also with have. See the note at         to the heart of the matter.
  get a big send-off. See also dose of one’s     get away (from it all) to get away from
  own medicine.)        Now you see how it         one’s work or daily routine; to go on a va-
  feels to have someone call you names! You        cation. I just love the summer when I
  are getting a taste of your own medicine!        can take time off and get away from it all.
     John, who is often rude and abrupt with          Yes, that’s the best time to get away.
  people, was devastated when the teacher
  treated him rudely. He doesn’t like having     get away with something to do something
  a taste of his own medicine.                     bad and not get punished or found out.
                                                      Tom did it again and didn’t get pun-
get a thing about someone or something to          ished. He’s always getting away with mur-
  develop strong likes or dislikes about           der.    Just because she’s so popular, she
  someone or something. (Also with have.           thinks she can get away with anything.
  See the note at get a big send-off.) I           You’ll never get away with it.
  have a thing about celery. I can’t stand it.
                                                 get a whiff of something and catch a whiff
     John can’t get enough celery. He’s got a
                                                   of something to learn about someone al-
  thing about it. John has a thing about
                                                   most accidentally. (Also literal.) The
  Mary. He thinks he’s in love.
                                                   boss got a whiff of the problems in the ac-
get a toehold (somewhere ) Go to get a             counting department. No one will get
  foothold (somewhere ).                           a whiff of your trouble with the police. I’ll
                                                   see to that.
get a tongue-lashing to receive a severe
                                                 get a word in edgeways Go to get a word
  scolding. (Folksy. Also with have. See the
                                                   in edgewise.
  note at get a big send-off. See also give
  someone a tongue-lashing.)     I really got    get a word in edgewise and get a word
  a tongue-lashing when I got home. Ted            in edgeways to manage to say some-

get back (at someone)

  thing when other people are talking and          last week, but it’s getting better.      I’m
  ignoring you. (Often in the negative.)           sorry you’re ill. I hope you get better.
  It was such an exciting conversation that
  I could hardly get a word in edgewise.         get busy to start working; to work harder
  Mary talks so fast that nobody can get a         or faster. The boss is coming. You’d bet-
  word in edgeways.                                ter get busy.     I’ve got to get busy and
                                                   clean this house up.      Come on, every-
get back (at someone ) and have back at            body. Let’s get busy and get this job done.
  someone to repay one for a bad deed; to get
  even (with someone ). (Have back at some-
                                                 get butterflies in one’s stomach to get a
  one is informal or folksy. Compare this          nervous feeling in one’s stomach. (Infor-
  with have at someone or something at get at      mal. Also with have. See the note at get
                                                   a big send-off. See also give one butterflies
  someone or something .)  Tom called me a
                                                   in one’s stomach.)     Whenever I have to
  jerk, but I’ll get back at him.    I don’t
  know how I’ll get back, but I will. Just         go on stage, I get butterf lies in my stom-
  wait. I’ll have back at you!                     ach. She always has butterf lies in her
                                                   stomach before a test.
get back into circulation to start being
  social with people again after a period of     get by (on something) to manage on the least
  being by oneself; to start dating again, es-     amount of money, supplies, goods, etc.
  pecially after a divorce or breakup with         (Compare this with get along (on a shoe-
                                                   string).)   We don’t have much money.
  a lover. Sally is anxious to get back into
  circulation after the nasty divorce she went     Can we get by on love? I’ll get by as long
  through. Todd could not bring himself            as I have you. We don’t have very much
  to get back into circulation after the death     food, but we’ll get by for the weekend.
  of his wife.                                   get by (with something ) 1. to satisfy the
get back into harness to return to one’s           minimum requirements. I was failing
  workplace, such as after a vacation or a         geometry, but managed to get by with a
  period of illness. (Refers to harnessing a       D. I took the bar exam and just barely
  horse so it can return to work.) I am            got by. 2. to do something bad and not
  not at all anxious to get back into harness      get caught or punished; to get away with
                                                   something. Tom cheated on the test and
  after spending two weeks in Mexico.
  Tom was eager to get back into harness af-       got by with it. Maybe you can get by like
  ter his illness.                                 that once or twice, but you’ll get caught.

get back on one’s feet to become inde-           get carried away to be overcome by emo-
  pendent again; to become able to get             tion or enthusiasm (in one’s thinking or
  around again. (Note the variations with
                                                   actions). (Also literal when someone or
  own and two in the examples.) He was             something is transported away.) Calm
  sick for a while, but now he’s getting back      down, Jane. Don’t get carried away.
  on his feet.     My parents helped a lot         Here, Bill. Take this money and go to the
  when I lost my job. I’m glad I’m back on         candy store, but don’t get carried away.
  my own feet now. It feels great to be back     get close (to someone or something ) 1. [with
  on my own two feet again.                        someone] to be close friends with some-
get back (to someone ) to continue talking         one; to get to know someone well. I
  with someone (at a later time); to find          would really like to get close to Jane, but
  out information and tell it to a person (at      she’s so unfriendly. We talked for hours
  a later time). I don’t have the answer           and hours, but I never felt that we were
  to that question right now. Let me find out      getting close. It’s very hard to get next to
  and get back to you. Okay. Please try            someone who won’t talk to you. 2. [with
  to get back early tomorrow.                      something] to almost equal something; to
                                                   be almost as good as something. (Often
get better to improve.       I had a bad cold,     in the negative.) I practiced and prac-
  but it’s getting better.   Business was bad      ticed, but my bowling couldn’t get close to

                                                                  get in (on the ground floor)

  Mary’s. Her performance was so good              get down to the nitty-gritty to get down
  that I couldn’t get close.                         to the facts; to get down to cases. (Slang.)
get cold feet and have cold feet to be-
                                                        Stop fooling around. Get down to the
  come timid or frightened; to have one’s            nitty-gritty. Let’s stop wasting time. We
  feet seem to freeze with fear. I usually           have to get down to the nitty-gritty.
  get cold feet when I have to speak in pub-       get down to work Go to get down to
  lic. John got cold feet and wouldn’t run           business.
  in the race.
                                                   get even (with someone) to repay someone’s
get cracking to get moving; to get busy.             bad deed; to get back (at someone ). Bill
  (Folksy.) Let’s go. Come on, get crack-            hit Bob, and Bob got even with Bill by hit-
  ing! Move it! We don’t have all day. Let’s         ting him back. Some people always have
  get cracking! We’ll never get finished if          to get even.
  you don’t get cracking.
                                                   get fresh (with someone ) to become overly
get credit (for something ) to receive praise        bold or impertinent with someone.
  or recognition for one’s role in some-             When I tried to kiss Mary, she slapped me
  thing. (Especially with a lot of, much, etc.,      and shouted, “Don’t get fresh with me!”
  as in the examples below.) Mary should               I can’t stand people who get fresh.
  get a lot of credit for the team’s success.
  Each of the team captains should get credit.     get goose bumps and get goose pim-
                                                     ples [for one’s skin] to feel prickly or be-
get down to brass tacks to begin to talk             come bumpy due to cold, fear, or excite-
  about important things; to get down to             ment. (Also with have. See the note at get
  business.      Let’s get down to brass tacks.      a big send-off.)    When he sings, I get
  We’ve wasted too much time chatting.               goose bumps. I never get goose pimples.
  Don’t you think that it’s about time to get           That really scared her. Now she’s got
  down to brass tacks?                               goose pimples.
get down to business and get down to               get goose pimples Go to get goose
  work to begin to get serious; to begin to          bumps.
  negotiate or conduct business.             All
  right, everyone. Let’s get down to business.     get gray hair(s) to have one’s hair turn gray
  There has been enough playing around.              from stress or frustration. (Also with
  When the president and vice president ar-          have. See the note at get a big send-off.)
  rive, we can get down to business.                    I’m getting gray hair because I have
  They’re here. Let’s get down to work.              three teenage boys. Oh, Tom, stop it! I’m
                                                     going to get gray hairs. I have gray hairs
get down to cases to begin to discuss spe-           from raising four kids.
  cific matters; to get down to business.
  When we’ve finished the general discus-          get hell Go to get the devil.
  sion, we’ll get down to cases. Now that          get in on something to become associated
  everyone is here, we can get down to cases.        with something, such as an organization
get down to (doing) something to begin do-           or an idea; to find out or be told about
  ing some kind of work in earnest.            I     special plans. (Also with be, as in the fi-
  have to get down to my typing. John,               nal example.) There is a party upstairs,
  you get in here this minute and get down           and I want to get in on it. I want to get
  to that homework!                                  in on your club’s activities. Mary and
                                                     Jane know a secret, and I want to get in
get down to the facts to begin to talk
                                                     on it. I’m happy to be in on your cele-
  about things that matter; to get to the
                                                     bration. There is going to be a surprise
  truth. The judge told the lawyer that the
                                                     party, and I’m in on it.
  time had come to get down to the facts.
  Let’s get down to the facts, Mrs. Brown.         get in (on the ground floor) to become
  Where were you on the night of January             associated with something at its start.
  16?                                                (Refers to getting into an elevator at the

get in someone’s hair

  lowest level when it is not yet crowded.)         Bill. Try to get into the swing of things.
     If you move fast, you can still get in on      John just couldn’t seem to get into the
  the ground f loor.     A new business is          swing of things.
  starting up, and I want to get in early.
                                                  get in touch (with someone ) to communi-
get in someone’s hair [for someone] to              cate with someone; to telephone or write
  bother or irritate someone. (Also literal.)       to someone. (See also keep in touch (with
    Billy is always getting in his mother’s         someone ).)  I have to get in touch with
  hair.    I wish you’d stop getting in my          John and ask him to come over for a visit.
  hair.                                                Yes, you must try to get in touch.
get into a jam Go to get into a mess.             get involved (with someone ) to become as-
                                                    sociated with someone. (Sometimes ro-
get into a mess and get into a jam to
                                                    mantically involved.) Sally is getting in-
  get into difficulty or confusion. (Infor-
                                                    volved with Bill. They’ve been seeing a lot
  mal. Compare this with get out of a
                                                    of each other. I hope they don’t get too
  mess.)    Try to keep from getting into a
                                                    involved.    He didn’t want his son in-
  mess. “Hello, Mom,” said John on the
                                                    volved with the gangs.
  telephone. “I’m at the police station. I got
  into a jam.”                                    get it Go to get something .
get into an argument (with someone ) to           get it (all) together to become fit or or-
  begin to argue with someone. Let’s try            ganized; to organize one’s thinking; to
  to discuss this calmly. I don’t want to get       become relaxed and rational. (Slang. Also
  into an argument with you.        Tom got         with have. See the note at get a big send-
  into an argument with John. Tom and               off.)    Bill seems to be acting more nor-
  John got into an argument. Let’s not get          mal now. I think he’s getting it all together.
  into an argument.                                     I hope he gets it together soon. His life
                                                    is a mess. When Jane has it all together,
get into full swing and get into high
                                                    she really makes sense. Sally is a lovely
  gear to move into the peak of activity; to
                                                    person. She really has it together.
  start moving fast or efficiently. (Infor-
  mal.)     In the summer months, things          get it in the neck to receive something
  really get into full swing around here.           bad, such as punishment or criticism.
  We go skiing in the mountains each win-           (Slang. Compare this with get it.)        I
  ter. Things get into high gear there in           don’t know why I should get it in the neck.
  November.                                         I didn’t break the window. Bill got it in
                                                    the neck for being late.
get into high gear Go to get into full swing.
                                                  get lost 1. to become lost; to lose one’s way.
get in(to) hot water to get into trouble or
                                                       We got lost on the way home. Follow
  difficulty; to get involved in something
                                                    the path, or you might get lost. 2. Go
  that is complicated or troublesome.
                                                    away!; Stop being an annoyance! (Slang.
  When you start trying to build your own
                                                    Always a command.)         Stop bothering
  computer, you are getting into hot water.
                                                    me. Get lost! Get lost! I don’t need your
     When Fred was caught cheating on his
                                                    help. Stop following me. Get lost!
  exam, he got into hot water.
                                                  get mad (at someone or something ) 1. to be-
get into the act to try to be part of what-
                                                    come angry at someone or something.
  ever is going on. (Refers to someone try-
                                                    Don’t get mad at me. I didn’t do it. I
  ing to get on stage and participate in a
                                                    got mad at my car. It won’t start. I get
  performance.) I can do this by myself.
                                                    mad every time I think about it. 2. [with
  There is no need for you to get into the act.
                                                    something] to muster all one’s physical
     Everyone wants to get into the act.
                                                    and mental resources in order to do
  Please let us do it. We don’t need your help!
                                                    something. (Informal or slang.) Come
get into the swing of things to join into           on, Bill. If you’re going to lift your end of
  the routine or the activities.    Come on,        the piano, you’re going to have to get mad

                                                                             get one’s bearings

  at it. The sergeant keep yelling, “Work,           on the wrong foot.) Bill and Tom got off
  work! Push, push! Come on, you guys, get           on the wrong foot. They had a minor car
  mad!”                                              accident just before they were introduced.
get married to become united as husband                 Let’s work hard to be friends. I hate to
  and wife.      Bill and Sally got married          get off on the wrong foot. Bill is getting
  when they were in college. We got mar-             off to a bad start in geometry. He failed the
  ried in Texas just after we graduated from         first test.
  college.                                         get off scot-free Go to go scot-free.
get mixed-up to get confused.           I get      Get off someone’s back! Go to Get off some-
  mixed-up easily whenever I take a test.            one’s case!
  Sorry, I didn’t say the right thing. I got       Get off someone’s case! and Get off some-
  mixed-up.                                          one’s back!; Get off someone’s tail! Leave
get nowhere fast not to make progress;               someone alone!; Stop picking on some-
  to get nowhere. (Informal or slang.) I             one! (Slang. Usually a command.) I’m
  can’t seem to make any progress. No mat-           tired of your criticism, Bill. Get off my
  ter what I do, I’m just getting nowhere fast.      case! Quit picking on her. Get off her
      Come on. Speed up this car. We’re get-         back! Leave me alone! Get off my tail!
  ting nowhere fast.
                                                   Get off someone’s tail! Go to Get off some-
get off 1. to escape or avoid punishment             one’s case!
  (for doing something wrong). (Also lit-
                                                   get off the hook to free oneself from an
  eral meaning to disembark.) It was a
                                                     obligation. They have asked you to lead
  serious crime, but Mary got off with a light
                                                     the parade, and I don’t think you can get
  sentence. I was afraid that the robber
                                                     off the hook. I couldn’t get off the hook
  was going to get off completely. 2. to start
                                                     no matter how much I pleaded.
  off (on a friendship). (See also get off on
  the wrong foot. Compare this with get            get off to a bad start Go to get off on the
  along (with someone ).) Tom and Bill had           wrong foot.
  never met before. They seemed to get off all     get off to a flying start to have a very suc-
  right, though. I’m glad they got off so            cessful beginning to something. The
  well. 3. to leave; to depart. The plane            new business got off to a f lying start with
  did not get off on time. We have to get            those export orders.        We shall need a
  off early in the morning before the traffic        large donation from the local citizens if the
  gets heavy.                                        charity is to get off to a f lying start.
get off easy and get off lightly to receive        get off your high horse to become less
  very little punishment (for doing some-            haughty. You should get off your high
  thing wrong). (See also get a slap on the          horse and pay attention more to what peo-
  wrist.) It was a serious crime, but Mary           ple think. If she would get off her high
  got off easy. Billy’s punishment was very          horse and try to be human, everyone
  light. Considering what he did, he got off         would like her better.
                                                   get one’s act together to get oneself orga-
Get off it! Don’t talk nonsense!; Don’t talk         nized, especially mentally. (Slang. Origi-
  like that! (Usually a command.) Get off            nally from theatrical use. Also with have.
  it, Tom! You don’t know that for a fact.           See the note at get a big send-off.) I’m
  Oh, get off it! You sound so conceited!            so confused about life. I have to get my act
get off lightly Go to get off easy.                  together.    Bill Smith had a hard time
get off on the wrong foot and get off
                                                     getting his act together after his mother’s
  to a bad start to start something (such
                                                     death. Mary really has her act together.
  as a friendship) with negative factors.            She handles herself very well.
  (Also literal. See also get off; be off on the   get one’s bearings to determine where one
  wrong foot; be off to a bad start; start off       is; to determine how one is oriented to

get one’s comeuppance

  one’s immediate environment. (Also with             fill of shrimp. I love it. Three weeks of
  have. See the note at get a big send-off.)          visiting grandchildren is enough. I’ve had
     After he fell, it took Ted a few minutes         my fill of them.
  to get his bearings. I don’t have my bear-
  ings yet. Wait a minute.                          get one’s fingers burned to have a bad ex-
                                                      perience. (Also literal. Also with have.
get one’s comeuppance to get a reprimand;             See the note at get a big send-off.) I
  to get the punishment one deserves.                 had my fingers burned the last time I did
  (Folksy.) Tom is always insulting peo-              this. I tried that once before and got my
  ple, but he finally got his comeuppance.            fingers burned. I won’t try it again. If
  Bill hit him. I hope I don’t get my come-           you go swimming and get your fingers
  uppance like that.                                  burned, you won’t want to swim again.
get one’s ducks in a row to get something           get one’s foot in the door to achieve a fa-
  into order or into line; to put one’s affairs       vorable position (for further action); to
  in order; to get things ready. (Informal.           take the first step in a process. (Refers to
  Also with have. See the note at get a big           people selling things from door to door
  send-off. Refers to a mother duck lead-             who block the door with a foot so it can-
  ing a row of ducklings.) Jane is orga-              not be closed on them. Also with have.
  nized. She really has all her ducks in a row.       See the note at get a big send-off.) I
     You can’t hope to go into a company and          think I could get the job if I could only get
  sell something until you get your ducks in          my foot in the door. It pays to get your
  a row. As soon as you people get your               foot in the door. Try to get an appointment
  ducks in a row, we’ll leave.                        with the boss.      I have a better chance
get (oneself ) into a stew (over someone or           now that I have my foot in the door.
  something ) to be worried or upset about          get one’s hands dirty and dirty one’s
  someone or something. Please don’t get              hands; soil one’s hands to become in-
  yourself into a stew over Walter. Liz is            volved with something illegal; to do a
  the kind of person who gets into a stew over        shameful thing; to do something that is
  someone else’s business.                            beneath one. (Also literal.) The mayor
get one’s feet on the ground and have                 would never get his hands dirty by giving
  one’s feet on the ground to get firmly              away political favors. I will not dirty my
  established or reestablished. (Also lit-            hands by breaking the law. Sally felt that
  eral.) He’s new at the job, but soon he’ll          to talk to the hobo was to soil her hands.
  get his feet on the ground. Her produc-           get one’s hands on someone or something and
  tivity will improve after she gets her feet         lay one’s hands on someone or something to
  on the ground again.                                get (a)hold of someone or something ; to get
get one’s feet wet to begin something; to             someone or something in one’s grasp.
  have one’s first experience of something.           (Informal. Sometimes said in anger, as if
  (Also literal. Informal. Also with have.            one may wish to do harm.) Just wait
  See the note at get a big send-off.) Of             until I get my hands on Tom. I’ll really give
  course he can’t do the job right. He’s hardly       him something to think about. When I
  got his feet wet yet. I’m looking forward           lay my hands on my book again, I’ll never
  to learning to drive. I can’t wait to get be-       lend it to anyone.
  hind the steering wheel and get my feet
  wet.      I’ve only been at this job for a        get one’s head above water to get ahead
  month, and I don’t have my feet wet yet.            of one’s problems; to catch up with one’s
                                                      work or responsibilities. (Also literal.
get one’s fill of someone or something to receive     Also with have. See the note at get a big
  enough of someone or something. (Also               send-off.)    I can’t seem to get my head
  with have. See the note at get a big send-          above water. Work just keeps piling up.
  off.) You’ll soon get your fill of Tom. He          I’ll be glad when I have my head above
  can be quite a pest. I can never get my             water.

                                                                   get one’s walking papers

get one’s hooks into someone or something to       gets his own way.     How often do you
  grasp someone or something; to acquire           have your way with your own money?
  someone or something; to get someone             Parents usually have their way with their
  or something in one’s grasp. (Slang. Said        children.
  of someone who is grasping and acquis-
  itive and who will not let go easily. Usu-     get one’s say to be able to state one’s posi-
  ally said about a person or about some-          tion; to be able to say what one thinks.
  thing that is small enough to grasp in           (Also with have. See the note at get a big
                                                   send-off. See also have a voice (in some-
  one’s hand.) I want to get my hooks into
  a copy of that book. She can’t wait un-          thing ).)  I want to have my say on this
  til she gets her hooks into George.              matter. He got his say, and then he was
get one’s just deserts to get what one de-
  serves. I feel better now that Jane got her    get one’s sea legs to become accustomed to
  just deserts. She really insulted me. Bill       the movement of a ship at sea; to be able
  got back exactly the treatment that he gave      to walk steadily on the constantly rolling
  out. He got his just deserts.                    and pitching decks of a ship. (Also with
                                                   have. See the note at get a big send-off.)
get one’s just reward(s) to get something             Jean was a little awkward at first, but in
  as bad as one deserves. The criminal             a few days she got her sea legs and was fine.
  who was sent to prison got his just rewards.        You may feel a little sick until you get
     I am sure that when he died, he got his       your sea legs. I will feel better when I
  just reward.                                     have my sea legs.
get one’s knuckles rapped to receive pun-        get one’s second wind 1. for one’s breath-
  ishment. (Also literal. Also with have. See      ing to become stabilized after exerting
  the note at get a big send-off.) I got my        oneself for a short time. (Also with have.
  knuckles rapped for whispering too much.         See the note at get a big send-off.) John
     You will have your knuckles rapped if         was having a hard time running until he
  you are not careful.                             got his second wind. Bill had to quit the
                                                   race because he never got his second wind.
get one’s money’s worth to get everything
                                                      “At last,” thought Ann, “I have my sec-
  that has been paid for; to get the best          ond wind. Now I can really swim fast.” 2.
  quality for the money paid. (Also with           to become more active or productive (af-
  have. See the note at get a big send-off.)       ter starting off slowly). I usually get my
     Weigh that package of meat before you         second wind early in the afternoon.
  buy it. Be sure you’re getting your money’s      Mary is a better worker now that she has
  worth. I didn’t get my money’s worth             her second wind.
  with my new camera, so I took it back.
  I will stay here and watch the movie over      get one’s start to receive the first major op-
  and over until I get my money’s worth.           portunity of one’s career.      I had my
                                                   start in painting when I was thirty. She
get one’s nose out of someone’s business to
                                                   helped me get my start by recommending
  stop interfering in someone else’s busi-         me to the manager.
  ness; to mind one’s own business. (See
  also keep one’s nose out of someone’s busi-    get one’s teeth into something to start on
  ness.) Go away! Get your nose out of my          something seriously, especially a difficult
  business! Bob just can’t seem to get his         task. (Informal. See also sink one’s teeth
  nose out of other people’s business.             into something .) Come on, Bill. You have
                                                   to get your teeth into your biology.        I
get one’s (own) way (with someone or some-
                                                   can’t wait to get my teeth into this problem.
  thing ) to have someone or something fol-
  low one’s plans; to control someone or         get one’s walking papers to get fired. (In-
  something. (Also with have. See the note         formal. See also give one one’s walking pa-
  at get a big send-off.) The mayor got his        pers.) Well, I’m through. I got my walk-
  way with the city council.   He seldom           ing papers today. They are closing down

get one’s wires crossed

  my department. I guess I’ll get my walking       along. 2. [with something] to continue
  papers soon.                                     with something. I must get on with my
                                                   work. Now that the crisis is over, I’ll get
get one’s wires crossed to get confused
                                                   on with my life.
  about something. (Informal. As if one’s
  brain were an electrical circuit. Also with    get out from under someone or something 1.
  have. See the note at get a big send-off.)       [with someone] to get free of someone’s
      You don’t know what you are talking          control. Mary wanted to get out from
  about. You really have your wires crossed!       under her mother. We started our own
     Joan got her wires crossed about who ar-      business because we needed to get out from
  rived first. It was Bob, not Gary.               under our employer. 2. [with something]
                                                   to get free of a burdensome problem.
get one’s wits about one to pull oneself to-
                                                   I can’t go out tonight until I get out from
  gether for action; to set one’s mind to          under this pile of homework. There is so
  work, especially in a time of stress. (Also      much work to do! I don’t know when I’ll
  with have. See the note at get a big send-       ever get out from under it.
  off.)   Let me get my wits about me so I
  can figure this out. I don’t have my wits      get out of a jam to get free from a prob-
  about me at this time of the morning.            lem or a bad situation. Would you lend
                                                   me five dollars? I need it to get out of a
get on someone to pester someone (about            jam. I need some help getting out of a
  something); to pressure someone. (Also           jam.
  literal.) John is supposed to empty the
  trash every day. He didn’t do it, so I will    get out of a mess to get free of a bad sit-
  have to get on him. It’s time to get on          uation. (Informal. Also with this, such a,
  Bill about his homework. He’s falling            etc. See the examples. Compare this with
  behind.                                          get into a mess.)     How can anyone get
                                                   out of a mess like this? Please help me
get on someone’s nerves to irritate some-          get out of this mess!
  one. Please stop whistling. It’s getting on
  my nerves. All this arguing is getting on      get out of someone’s way and get out
  their nerves.                                    of the way to move out of the path or
                                                   route.     Will you please get out of the
get on the bandwagon and jump on the               way? The dog got out of Jane’s way just
  bandwagon to join the popular side (of           before she stepped on it.
  an issue); to take a popular position.
  You really should get on the bandwagon.        get out of the way Go to get out of some-
  Everyone else is. Jane has always had her        one’s way.
  own ideas about things. She’s not the kind     get out of the wrong side of the bed Go
  of person to jump on the bandwagon.              to get up on the wrong side of the bed.
get on the good side of someone to get in        get out while the getting is good to leave
  someone’s favor. You had better behave           a place while it is still possible to do so;
  properly if you want to get on the good side     to withdraw from a place, position, or
  of Mary. If you want to get on the good          some organization at an opportune time.
  side of your teacher, you must do your              The party was getting noisy enough that
  homework.                                        one of the neighbors was bound to call the
get on (with someone or something ) and get        police, so we left. We always get out while
  along (with someone or something ) 1. [with      the getting is good. Everyone at my of-
  someone] to be friends with someone; to          fice was being required to do more and
  have a good relationship with someone.           more work. I decided to get out while the
  (The friendship is always assumed to be          getting was good. I quit.
  good unless it is stated to be otherwise.)     get over someone or something to recover from
     How do you get on with John? I get            someone or something. Now that Bob
  along with John just fine. We get along.         has left me, I have to learn to get over him.
     I don’t get on with John. We don’t get           It was a horrible shock. I don’t know

                                                get someone or something out of one’s mind

  when I’ll get over it. It was a serious ill-        going to start. Please get set. We are set.
  ness. It took two weeks to get over it.             Let’s go. Hurry up and get set!
get physical (with someone) 1. to use phys-         get sick 1. to become ill (perhaps with
  ical force against someone. The coach               vomiting). I got sick and couldn’t go to
  got in trouble for getting physical with            school. My whole family got sick with
  some members of the team. When the                  the f lu. 2. to vomit. (A euphemism.)
  suspect wouldn’t cooperate, the police were         Mommy, the dog just got sick on the car-
  forced to get physical. 2. to touch some-           pet. Bill got sick in the hallway.
  one in lovemaking. I’ve heard that Bill           get sidetracked to become diverted from
  tends to get physical with his dates.         I     one’s task; to start off on a second task
  don’t care if he gets physical—within               before the first one is finished.        I’m
  reason.                                             sorry the work is not completed. I got side-
get ready (to do something ) to prepare to do         tracked. Pay attention to what you are
  something. Get ready to jump! It’s                  doing and don’t get sidetracked.
  time to get ready to go to work. It’s time        get someone down to depress someone; to
  to get ready.                                       make someone sad. Try not to let all
get religion to become serious (about                 your problems get you down. She is very
  something), usually after a powerful ex-            cheerful and practically nothing gets her
  perience; to develop a strong religious be-         down.
  lief. (Folksy. Also with have. See the note       get (someone ) off the hook to free some-
  at get a big send-off.) I’ve always had             one from an obligation. (Informal. When
  religion. I don’t need a crisis to make me          someone is omitted, this refers to oneself.)
  get it. When I had an automobile acci-                 Thanks for getting me off the hook. I
  dent, I really got religion. Now I’m a very         didn’t want to attend that meeting.         I
  safe driver. Soldiers often say they got            couldn’t get off the hook by myself.
  religion in the midst of a battle.
                                                    get someone or something across Go to put
get rid of someone or something to get free of        someone or something across.
  someone or something; to dispose of or
  destroy someone or something.              I’m    get someone or something down 1. [with
  trying to get rid of Mr. Smith. He’s both-          something] to manage to swallow some-
  ering me. I’ll be happy when I get rid              thing, especially something large or un-
  of my old car.                                      pleasant. The pill was huge, but I got it
                                                      down. It was the worst food I have ever
get right on something to do something im-            had, but I got it down somehow. 2. [with
  mediately. I know it has to be done to-             someone] to depress a person; to make a
  day. I’ll get right on it. Please get right         person very sad. (Also with have. See the
  on these reports as soon as possible.               note at get a big send-off.) My dog ran
get rolling to get started. (Informal.)               away, and it really got me down. Oh,
  Come on. It’s time to leave. Let’s get rolling!     that’s too bad. Don’t let it get you down.
      Bill, it’s 6:30. Time to get up and get         All my troubles really have me down.
  rolling!                                          get someone or something out of one’s head
get second thoughts about someone or                  Go to get someone or something out of one’s
  something to have new doubts about some-            mind.
  one or something. (Also with have. See            get someone or something out of one’s mind
  the note at get a big send-off.) I’m be-            and get someone or something out of one’s
  ginning to get second thoughts about Tom.           head to manage to forget someone or
     Tom is getting second thoughts about it,         something; to stop thinking about or
  too. We now have second thoughts about              wanting someone or something. (Almost
  going to Canada.                                    the same as put someone or something out of
get set get ready; get organized. (Also with          one’s mind.)    I can’t get him out of my
  be, as in the examples below.) We are               mind. Mary couldn’t get the song out of

get someone or something out of the way

  her mind.     Get that silly idea out of your     made quite a fuss about it.      Tom really
  head!                                             had her goat for a while.
get someone or something out of the way to        get someone’s hackles up Go to get someone’s
  remove someone or something out of the            dander up.
  path or route. Get your big feet out of
  my way! Please get your child out of the        get someone’s Irish up Go to get someone’s
  way!                                              dander up.
get someone out of a jam to free someone          get someone’s number 1. to find out some-
  from a problem or a bad situation. (In-           one’s telephone number. (Also with have.
  formal. Compare this with in a jam.)              See the note at get a big send-off.) As
  I like John. He got me out of a jam once.         soon as I get Mary’s number, I’ll call her.
      I would be glad to help get you out of a         I have her number. Do you want me to
  jam.                                              write it down for you? 2. to find out about
get someone over a barrel and get someone
                                                    a person; to learn the key to understand-
  under one’s thumb [for someone] to be
                                                    ing a person. (Informal.) I’m going to
  put at the mercy of someone ; to get control      get your number if I can. You’re a real puz-
  over someone. (Informal. Also with have.          zle.      I’ve got Tom’s number. He’s
  See the note at get a big send-off.) He           ambitious.
  got me over a barrel, and I had to do what      get someone under one’s thumb Go to get
  he said. Ann will do exactly what I say.          someone over a barrel.
  I’ve got her over a barrel. All right, John.
  You’ve got me under your thumb. What do         get something and get it 1. to receive pun-
  you want me to do?                                ishment. (Also literal meaning to receive
                                                    something or to contract a disease.)
get someone’s back up Go to get someone’s           Bill broke the window, and he’s really go-
  dander up.                                        ing to get a scolding. John got it for ar-
get someone’s dander up and get someone’s           riving late at school. 2. to receive the
  back up; get someone’s hackles up; get            meaning of a joke; to understand some-
  someone’s Irish up to make someone get            thing. John told a joke, but I didn’t get
  angry. (Informal. Also with have. See the         it.    Bob laughed very hard, but Mary
  note at get a big send-off.) Now, don’t           didn’t get it.
  get your dander up. Calm down. I in-            get something across (to someone ) to convey
  sulted him and really got his hackles up.         information to someone; to teach some-
  Bob had his Irish up all day yesterday. I         one. I’m trying to get this across to you.
  don’t know what was wrong. She really             Please pay attention. I’ll keep trying un-
  got her back up when I asked her for              til I get it across.
  money. Now, now, don’t get your hack-
  les up. I didn’t mean any harm.                 get something into someone’s thick head Go
get someone’s ear to get someone to listen          to get something through someone’s thick
  (to you). (Also with have. See the note           skull.
  at get a big send-off. Compare this with        get something off one’s chest to tell some-
  bend someone’s ear.)       He got my ear and      thing that has been bothering you. (Also
  talked for an hour. While I have your             with have. See the note at get a big send-
  ear, I’d like to tell you about something I’m     off.)     I have to get this off my chest. I
  selling.                                          broke your window with a stone. I knew
get someone’s eye Go to catch someone’s eye.        I’d feel better when I had that off my chest.
get someone’s goat to irritate someone; to        get something off (the ground) to get some-
  annoy and arouse someone to anger.                thing started. (Also literal.) I can re-
  (Also with have. See the note at get a big        lax after I get this project off the ground.
  send-off.) I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get           You’ll have a lot of free time when you
  your goat. Jean got Sally’s goat and Sally        get the project off.

                                                                get the advantage of someone

get something on someone to learn something          up in time to make the purchase. I’ll get
  potentially damaging to someone. (Also             the loan wrapped up, and you’ll have the
  with have. See the note at get a big send-         car this week.
  off.)   Tom is always trying to get some-        get something straight to understand some-
  thing on me. I can’t imagine why. If he            thing clearly. (Informal. Also with have.
  has something on you, he’ll have you over          See the note at get a big send-off.) Now
  a barrel. If he gets something on you,             get this straight. You’re going to fail history.
  you ought to get something on him.                    Let me get this straight. I’m supposed
get something out in the open to make                to go there in the morning? Let me make
  something public; to stop hiding a fact or         sure I have this straight.
  a secret. We had better get this out in          get something through someone’s thick skull
  the open before the press gets wind of it.         and get something into someone’s thick
     I’ll feel better when it’s out in the open.     head to manage to get someone, includ-
  I can’t stand all of this secrecy.                 ing oneself, to understand something.
get something out of one’s system 1. to get          (Informal.)      He can’t seem to get it
  something like food or medicine out of             through his thick skull. If I could get this
  one’s body, usually through natural elim-          into my thick head once, I’d remember it.
  ination. He’ll be more active once he gets       get something to go Go to buy something to
  the medicine out of his system. My baby,           go.
  Mary, ate applesauce and has been crying
  for three hours. She’ll stop when she gets       get something under one’s belt 1. to eat or
  the applesauce out of her system. 2. to be         drink something. (This means the food
  rid of the desire to do something; to do           goes into one’s stomach and is under
  something that you have been wanting to            one’s belt. Informal. Also with have. See
  do so that you aren’t bothered by want-            the note at get a big send-off.) I’d feel
  ing to do it anymore. I bought a new               a lot better if I had a cool drink under my
  car. I’ve been wanting to for a long time.         belt. Come in out of the cold and get a
  I’m glad I finally got that out of my sys-         nice warm meal under your belt. 2. to
  tem. I can’t get it out of my system! I            learn something well; to assimilate some
  want to go back to school and earn a               information. I have to study tonight. I
  degree.                                            have to get a lot of algebra under my belt.
                                                        Now that I have my lessons under my
get something out of something to get some           belt, I can rest easy.
  kind of benefit from something. I did-
  n’t get anything out of the lecture. I’m         get something under way to get something
  always able to get something helpful out           started. (Also with have. See the note at
  of our conversations.                              get a big send-off.)     The time has come
                                                     to get this meeting under way. Now that
get something over (with) to complete                the president has the meeting under way,
  something, especially something you                I can relax.
  have dreaded. (Also with have. See the
  note at get a big send-off.) Oh, please          get something wrapped up Go to get some-
  hurry and get it over with. It hurts.              thing sewed up.
  Please get it over. When I have this over        get stars in one’s eyes to be obsessed with
  with, I can relax.                                 show business; to be stage-struck. (Also
get something sewed up and get something             with have. See the note at get a big send-
                                                     off.)    Many young people get stars in
  wrapped up to have something settled
  or finished. (See also wrap something up.          their eyes at this age. Ann has stars in
  Also with have. See the note at get a big          her eyes. She wants to go to Hollywood.
  send-off.)   I’ll take the contract to the       get the advantage of someone and get the
  mayor tomorrow morning. I’ll get the               advantage over someone ; get the edge
  whole deal sewed up by noon.           Don’t       on someone ; get the edge over someone
  worry about the car loan. I’ll have it sewed       to achieve a position superior to someone

get the advantage over someone

  else. (The word the can be replaced with      get the blues to become sad or depressed.
  an. Also with have. See the note at get a       (Also with have. See the note at get a big
  big send-off. See also take advantage of        send-off.)   You’ll have to excuse Bill. He
  someone or something .) Toward the end of       has the blues tonight.     I get the blues
  the race, I got the advantage over Mary.        every time I hear that song.
     She’d had an advantage over me since
  the start of the competition.      I got an   get the boot to be sent away (from some-
  edge on Sally, too, and she came in second.     where); to be dismissed from one’s em-
     It’s speed that counts. You can have the     ployment; to be kicked out (of a place).
  edge over everyone, but if you don’t have       (Slang. See also get the sack; give some-
  speed, you lose.                                one the boot.)     I guess I wasn’t dressed
                                                  well enough to go in there. I got the boot.
get the advantage over someone Go to get            I’ll work harder at my job today. I nearly
  the advantage of someone .                      got the boot yesterday.
get the air to be ignored or sent away. (See    get the brush-off to be ignored or sent
  also give someone the air.) Whenever I          away; to be rejected. (Slang.) Don’t talk
  get around Tom, I end up getting the air.       to Tom. You’ll just get the brush-off. I
     I hate to get the air. It makes me feel      went up to her and asked for a date, but I
  unwanted.                                       got the brush-off.
get the ax Go to get the sack.                  get the cold shoulder to be ignored; to
get the ball rolling and set the ball             be rejected. (Informal. See also give some-
  rolling; start the ball rolling to start        one the cold shoulder.) If you invite her
  something; to get some process going.           to a party, you’ll just get the cold shoul-
  (Informal. Also with have. See the note         der.     I thought that Sally and I were
  at get a big send-off.) If I could just get     friends, but lately I’ve been getting the cold
  the ball rolling, then other people would       shoulder.
  help.      Who else would start the ball
  rolling? I had the ball rolling, but no one   get the creeps and get the willies to be-
  helped me with the project. Ann set the         come frightened; to become uneasy.
  ball rolling, but didn’t follow through.        (Slang. Also with have. See the note at get
                                                  a big send-off.)    I get the creeps when I
get the benefit of the doubt to receive a         see that old house. I really had the willies
  judgment in your favor when the evi-            when I went down into the basement.
  dence is neither for you nor against you.
  (Also with have. See the note at get a big    get the day off to have a day free from
  send-off. See also give someone the bene-       working. (Also with have. See the note
  fit of the doubt.)   In my math course, I       at get a big send-off. See also take the day
  was right between a B and an A. I got the       off.)   The next time I get a day off, we’ll
  benefit of the doubt—an A. I thought I          go to the zoo. I have the day off. Let’s
  should have had the benefit of the doubt,       go to the zoo.
  but the judge made me pay a fine.             get the devil and catch hell; catch the
get the best of someone Go to get the bet-        devil; get hell to receive a severe scold-
  ter of someone .                                ing. (Informal. Use caution with hell.)
                                                  Bill is always getting the devil about some-
get the better of someone and get the             thing. I’m late. If I don’t get home soon,
  best of someone to win out over some-           I’ll catch hell! I caught the devil yester-
  one in a competition or bargain. (Also          day for being late.
  with have. See the note at get a big send-
  off.) Bill got the best of John in the box-   get the drift of something to understand the
  ing match.     I tried to get the better of     general idea of something.         I knew
  John, but he won anyway. I set out to           enough German to get the drift of this ar-
  have the better of Sally, but I didn’t have     ticle. I don’t get the drift of what you’re
  enough skill.                                   trying to tell me.

                                                                    get the jump on someone

get the edge on someone Go to get the ad-          get the goods on someone to find out
  vantage of someone .                               something potentially damaging or em-
                                                     barrassing about someone. (Slang. Also
get the edge over someone Go to get the              with have. See the note at get a big send-
  advantage of someone .                             off.) John beat me unfairly in tennis, but
get the facts straight to get a good un-             I’ll get even. I’ll get the goods on him and
  derstanding of the facts; to make sure             his cheating. The authorities have the
  that all the facts are accurate and prop-          goods on Mr. Smith. He has been selling
  erly stated. Ask a lot of questions and            worthless land again.
  get all of the facts straight. Please be sure
                                                   get the green light Go to get the go-ahead.
  you get the facts straight before you make
  a decision.                                      get the hang of something to learn how to
get the feel of something and get a feel for         do something; to learn how something
  something [for someone] to learn the way           works. (Informal. Also with have. See the
  something feels (when it is used). (Also           note at get a big send-off.) As soon as
  with have. See the note at get a big send-         I get the hang of this computer, I’ll be able
  off. See also have the feel of something .)        to work faster. Now that I have the hang
  I haven’t yet got the feel of this bat. I hope     of starting the car in cold weather, I won’t
  I don’t strike out. I can drive better now         have to get up so early.
  that I have the feel of this car’s steering.     get the hard sell to receive considerable
get the final word Go to get the last word.          pressure to buy or accept (something).
                                                     (Informal.)      I won’t go to that store
get the floor to receive official permission         again. I really got the hard sell. You’ll
  to address the audience. (Also with have.          probably get the hard sell if you go to a
  See the note at get a big send-off.)               used-car dealer.
  When I get the f loor, I’ll make a short
  speech. The last time you had the f loor,        get the high sign to receive a prearranged
  you talked for an hour.                            signal. (Often refers to a hand signal or
                                                     some other visual signal.) When I got
get the gate to be sent away; to be rejected.        the high sign, I pulled cautiously out into
  (Slang. See also give someone the gate.)           the roadway. The train’s engineer got the
  I thought he liked me, but I got the gate.         high sign and began to move the train out
     I was afraid I’d get the gate, and I was        of the station.
                                                   get the inside track to get the advantage
get the glad hand to receive an overly
                                                     (over someone) because of special con-
  friendly welcome; to receive insincere at-         nections, special knowledge, or fa-
  tention. (Informal.) Whenever I go into            voritism. (The inside track is the short-
  that store, I get the glad hand. I hate to         est track in an oval race track that is
  go to a party and get the glad hand.               divided into tracks. Also with have. See
get the go-ahead and get the green                   the note at get a big send-off.) If I could
  light to receive a signal to start or con-         get the inside track, I could win the con-
  tinue. (Also with have. See the note at get        tract. The boss likes me. Since I have the
  a big send-off. See also give someone the          inside track, I’ll probably be the new of-
  go-ahead.)    We have to wait here until           fice manager.
  we have the go-ahead. I hope we get the
  green light on our project soon.                 get the jump on someone to do something
                                                     before someone; to get ahead of some-
get the go-by to be ignored or passed by.            one. (Also with have. See the note at get
  (Slang.) It was my turn, but I got the go-         a big send-off.)   I got the jump on Tom
  by.    Tom stood on the road for fifteen           and got a place in line ahead of him.
  minutes trying to get a ride, but all he           We’ll have to work hard to get the contract,
  could get was the go-by.                           because they have the jump on us.

get the last laugh

get the last laugh to laugh at or ridicule          called “Heave-ho,” and all the sailors
  someone who has laughed at or ridiculed           would pull at the same time on the ho.
  you; to put someone in the same bad po-           Also with have. See the note at get a big
  sition that you were once in; to turn the         send-off. See also give someone or something
  tables (on someone). (Also with have.             the (old) heave-ho.) I went there to buy
  See the note at get a big send-off. See also      a record album, but I got the old heave-
  He who laughs last, laughs longest.)              ho. That’s right. They threw me out!
  John laughed when I got a D on the final          They fired a number of people today, but
  exam. I got the last laugh, though. He            I didn’t get the heave-ho. John had the
  failed the course. Mr. Smith said I was           old heave-ho last week. Now he’s
  foolish when I bought an old building. I          unemployed.
  had the last laugh when I sold it a month
  later for twice what I paid for it.             get the once-over to receive a quick visual
                                                    examination. (Note the variations in the
get the last word and get the final word            examples. See also give someone the once-
  to get to make the final point (in an ar-         over.) Every time John walks by I get the
  gument); to get to make the final deci-           once-over. Does he like me? I went to the
  sion (in some matter). (Also with have.           doctor yesterday, but I only had a once-
  See the note at get a big send-off.) The          over. I wanted a complete examination,
  boss gets the last word in hiring. Why do         not just a once-over.
  you always have to have the final word in
  an argument?                                    get the picture to understand the whole
                                                    situation. (Informal or slang.) Okay,
get the lead out and shake the lead out             Bob. That’s the whole explanation. You get
  to hurry; to move faster. (Slang. This            the picture? Yes, I got the picture.
  means to get the lead weights out of your
  pants so you can move faster.) Come             get the red-carpet treatment to receive
  on, you guys. Get the lead out! If you’re         very special treatment; to receive royal
  going to sell cars, you’re going to have to       treatment. (This refers—sometimes lit-
  shake the lead out.                               erally—to the rolling out of a clean red
                                                    carpet for someone to walk on. Also with
get the low-down (on someone or something )
                                                    have. See the note at get a big send-off.
  to receive the full story about someone or
                                                    See also give someone the red-carpet treat-
  something. (Slang. Also with have. See
                                                    ment; roll out the red carpet for some-
  the note at get a big send-off. See also give
                                                    one.)   I love to go to fancy stores where
  someone the low-down (on someone or some-
                                                    I get the red-carpet treatment.       The
  thing ).) I need to get the low-down on
                                                    queen expects to get the red-carpet treat-
  John. Is he still an accountant?    Sally
                                                    ment wherever she goes.
  wants to get the low-down on the new ex-
  pressway. Please tell her all about it.         get the runaround to receive a series of ex-
  Now I have the low-down on the princess!          cuses, delays, and referrals. You’ll get
get the message Go to get the word.                 the runaround if you ask to see the man-
                                                    ager. I hate it when I get the runaround.
get the nod to get chosen. (Informal. Also
  with have. See the note at get a big send-      get the sack and get the ax to get fired;
  off.)   The manager is going to pick the          to be dismissed (from one’s employ-
  new sales manager. I think Ann will get the       ment). (Slang. See also give someone the
  nod. I had the nod for captain of the             ax.) I got the sack yesterday. Now I have
  team, but I decided not to do it.                 to find a new job. I tried to work harder,
                                                    but I got the ax anyway.
get the (old) heave-ho to get thrown out
  (of a place); to get dismissed (from one’s      get the shock of one’s life to receive a se-
  employment). (Informal. From nautical             rious (emotional) shock. (Also with have.
  use, where sailors used heave-ho to co-           See the note at get a big send-off.) I
  ordinate hard physical labor. One sailor          opened the telegram and got the shock of

                                                                                   get time off

  my life. I had the shock of my life when          But, your honor. I shouldn’t get the works.
  I won $5,000.                                     I only drove too fast!
get the short end of the stick and end            get the worst of something to experience the
  up with the short end of the stick to             worst aspects of something. (Also with
  end up with less (than someone else); to          have. See the note at get a big send-off.)
  end up cheated or deceived. (Also with               No matter what happens at the office,
  have. See the note at get a big send-off.)        I seem to get the worst of it. He always
     Why do I always get the short end of the       gets the worst of the bargain. I got to
  stick? I want my fair share! She’s un-            choose which one I wanted, but I still got
  happy because she has the short end of the        the worst of the two.
  stick again. I hate to end up with the
  short end of the stick.                         get through something 1. to finish some-
                                                    thing; to work one’s way through some-
get the show on the road to get (some-
                                                    thing. (Compare this with get through
  thing) started. (Slang.) Hurry up, you
                                                    with something .)   If I read fast, I can get
  guys. Let’s get the show on the road. If
                                                    through this book in an hour.         I don’t
  you don’t get the show on the road right
                                                    think I can get through all this work by
  now, we’ll never finish today.
                                                    quitting time. 2. to survive something; to
get the slip [for someone] to elude or es-          go through something . This is a busy day.
  cape (someone). (Slang.) We followed              I don’t know how I’ll get through it.
  her for two blocks, and then got the slip.        Sally hopes to get through college in three
     The police got the slip, and the crimi-        years.
  nal got away.
                                                  get through (to someone ) 1. to reach some-
get the third degree to be questioned in            one; to manage to communicate to some-
  great detail for a long period. (Slang. See       one. I called her on the telephone time
  also give someone the third degree.)              after time, but I couldn’t get through to
  Why is it I get the third degree from you         her. I tried every kind of communica-
  every time I come home late? Poor Sally           tion, but I couldn’t get through. 2. to pass
  spent all night at the police station getting     through (something). The crowd was
  the third degree.                                 so thick that I couldn’t get through to him.
get the upper hand (on someone ) to get                I tried, but I couldn’t get through. The
  into a position superior to someone; to           crowd was too heavy. 3. to make someone
  get the advantage of someone . (Also with         understand something; to get something
  have. See the note at get a big send-off.)        through someone’s thick skull. Why don’t
     John is always trying to get the upper         you try to understand me? What do I have
  hand on someone.         He never ends up         to do to get through to you? Can any-
  having the upper hand, though.                    body get through, or are you just stubborn?
                                                       Ann is still too sick to understand what
get the willies Go to get the creeps.
                                                    I’m saying. Maybe I can get through to her
get the word and get the message to re-             tomorrow.
  ceive an explanation; to receive the final
  and authoritative explanation.            I’m   get through with something to get finished
  sorry, I didn’t get the word. I didn’t know       with something. (Compare this with get
  the matter had been settled. Now that             through something .) You can use this pen-
  I have gotten the message, I can be more          cil when I get through with it.     Can I
  effective in answering questions.                 have the salt when you get through with it?
get the works to receive a lot of some-           get time off to receive a period of time that
  thing. (Slang. The works can be a lot of          is free from employment. (Compare this
  food, good treatment, bad treatment, etc.         with get the day off. See also take time
  See also give someone the works.) BILL:           off. Also with have. See the note at get a
  Shall we order a snack or a big meal?             big send-off.) I’ll have to get time off for
  JANE: I’m hungry. Let’s get the works.            jury duty. I got time off to go downtown

get time off for good behavior

  and shop.     I don’t have time off from       get to the point Go to come to the point.
  work very often.                               get to the root of the problem to gain
get time off for good behavior to have             an understanding of the causes or basis
  one’s prison sentence shortened because          of a problem and propose a solution; to
  of good behavior. (Also with have. See           get to the bottom of something .       It will
  the note at get a big send-off.) Bob will        take a little more study to get to the root
  get out of jail tomorrow rather than next        of the problem. Let’s stop avoiding the
  week. He got time off for good behavior.         issue and get to the root of the problem.
     I know I will have time off for good        get tough (with someone ) to become firm
  behavior.                                        with someone; to use physical force
get time to catch one’s breath to find             against someone. (Compare this with get
  enough time to relax or behave normally.         physical (with someone ).)      The teacher
  (Also literal. Also with have. See the note      had to get tough with the class because the
  at get a big send-off.) When things slow         students were acting badly. I’ve tried to
  down around here, I’ll get time to catch my      get you to behave, but it looks like I’ll have
  breath. Sally was so busy she didn’t even        to get tough.
  have time to catch her breath.                 get two strikes against one to get a num-
get to first base (with someone or something)      ber of things against one; to be in a po-
  and reach first base (with someone or            sition where success is unlikely. (From
  something) to make a major advance with          baseball where one is “out” after three
  someone or something. (Informal. First           strikes. Also with have. See the note at get
  base refers to baseball.) I wish I could         a big send-off.) Poor Bob got two strikes
  get to first base with this business deal.       against him when he tried to explain
  John adores Sally, but he can’t even reach       where he was last night. I can’t win. I’ve
  first base with her. She won’t even speak to     got two strikes against me before I start.
  him. He smiles and acts friendly, but he       get under someone’s skin to bother or irri-
  can’t get to first base.                         tate someone. (Informal.)      John is so
get to one’s feet to stand up.    On a sig-        annoying. He really gets under my skin.
  nal from the director, the singers got to        I know he’s bothersome, but don’t let him
  their feet. I was so weak, I could hardly        get under your skin.
  get to my feet.                                get under way to start going; to start. (The
get to someone to affect someone emotion-          word get can be replaced with be. Com-
  ally in a bad way; to bother someone.            pare this with get something under way.)
  Working with abandoned children even-            The ship is leaving soon. It’s about to get
  tually got to David, and he had to trans-        under way. Let us get our journey un-
  fer to another department. Nothing gets          der way. I’m glad our project is under
  to me like seeing people litter.                 way.
get to the bottom of something to get an         get-up-and-go energy; motivation.           I
  understanding of the causes of some-             must be getting old. I just don’t have my
  thing. (Also literal.) We must get to the        old get-up-and-go. A good breakfast will
  bottom of this problem immediately.              give you lots of get-up-and-go.
  There is clearly something wrong here, and     get up enough nerve (to do something ) to
  I want to get to the bottom of it.               get brave enough to do something. I
get to the heart of the matter and get             could never get up enough nerve to sing in
  at the heart of the matter to get to the         public. I’d do it if I could get up enough
  essentials of a matter. We have to stop          nerve, but I’m shy.
  wasting time and get to the heart of the       get up on the wrong side of the bed and
  matter.     You’ve been very helpful. You        get out of the wrong side of the bed
  really seem to be able to get to the heart       to get up in the morning in a bad mood.
  of the matter.                                      What’s wrong with you? Did you get up

                                                                       give as good as one gets

  on the wrong side of the bed today? Ex-              about these things very easily. I try not
  cuse me for being grouchy. I got out of the          to get worked up.
  wrong side of the bed.                            a ghost of a chance even the slightest
get used to someone or something to become             chance; even the most insubstantial
  accustomed to someone or something.                  chance. She can’t do it. She doesn’t have
  I got used to being short many years ago.            a ghost of a chance. There is just a ghost
     John is nice, but I really can’t get used to      of a chance that I’ll be there on time.
  him. He talks too much.                           gild the lily to add ornament or decoration
get well to become healthy again.    Ann               to something that is pleasing in its orig-
  had a cold for a week, and then she got              inal state; to attempt to improve some-
  well. Hurry up and get well!                         thing that is already fine the way it is.
                                                       (Often refers to flattery or exaggeration.)
get wet to become soaked with water. (See                 Your house has lovely brickwork. Don’t
  also all wet.) Get out of the rain or you’ll         paint it. That would be gilding the lily.
  get wet. Don’t get wet, or you’ll catch a            Oh, Sally. You’re beautiful the way you are.
  cold.                                                You don’t need makeup. You would be gild-
get what’s coming to one to get what one               ing the lily.
  deserves. (See also give one what’s com-          gird (up) one’s loins to get ready; to pre-
  ing to one .)  If you cheat, you’ll get in           pare oneself (for something). Well, I
  trouble. You’ll get what’s coming to you.            guess I had better gird up my loins and go
  Billy got what was coming to him.                    to work. Somebody has to do something
get wind of something to hear about some-              about the problem. Why don’t you gird
  thing; to receive information about                  your loins and do something?
  something. (Informal.) I just got wind            give a blank check to someone Go to give
  of your marriage. Congratulations.                  someone a blank check.
  Wait until the boss gets wind of this. Some-
  body is going to get in trouble.                  give a good account of oneself to do
                                                      (something) well or thoroughly. John
get wise (to someone or something) to find out        gave a good account of himself when he
  about someone or something; to see                  gave his speech last night. Mary was not
  through the deception of someone or                 hungry, and she didn’t give a good account
  something. (Informal or slang.) Watch               of herself at dinner.
  out, John. Your friends are getting wise to
  your tricks.    John’s friends are getting        give-and-take flexibility; willingness to
  wise. He had better watch out.                      compromise.        Don’t expect any give-
                                                      and-take when you are negotiating with
get with something 1. to become alert.                Roger. There was no question of give-
  (Slang. Usually with it.) Hey, stupid.              and-take in the contract talks. They would
  Get with it!     Wake up, Bill. Get with            not budge on their demands one little bit.
  what’s going on! 2. to get up to date on
                                                    give (an) ear to someone or something and
  something. (Slang. Usually with it.)
                                                      give one’s ear to someone or something to lis-
  You’re too old-fashioned, Mary. Get with
  it! Tom just couldn’t get with the newest           ten to someone or to what someone is
  dance fad.                                          saying. (Compare this with get someone’s
                                                      ear.) I gave an ear to Mary so she could
get worked up (about something) Go to get             tell me her problems. She wouldn’t give
  worked up (over something ).                        her ear to my story. He gave ear to the
get worked up (over something ) and get               man’s request.
  worked up (about something ) to get ex-           give as good as one gets to give as much
  cited or emotionally distressed about               as one receives; to pay someone back in
  something. (See also all worked up (over            kind. (Usually in the present tense.)
  something ).) Please don’t get worked up            John can take care of himself in a fight. He
  over this matter.   They get worked up              can give as good as he gets. Sally usu-

give birth to someone or some creature

  ally wins a formal debate. She gives as good      argued and finally gave in to my demands.
  as she gets.                                         I thought he’d never give in.
give birth to someone or some creature to bring   Give it a rest. Stop talking and give your
  a baby or other offspring into the world          mouth a rest. (Informal.) Shut up, Bob!
  through birth.        Mary gave birth to a        Give it a rest! Give it a rest. You talk too
  lovely baby girl. The raccoon gave birth          much.
  to 6 little raccoons.                           give it the gun and give her the gun to
give birth to something to give rise to or          make a motor or engine run faster; to rev
  start something.      The composer gave           up an engine. (Informal or slang. The her
  birth to a new kind of music. They gave           is often pronounced “er.”)        BILL:
  birth to a new view of language.                  How fast will this thing go? BOB: I’ll give
                                                    it the gun and see.     Hurry up, driver.
give carte blanche to someone Go to give            Give ’er the gun. I’ve got to get there
  someone carte blanche.                            immediately.
give chase (to someone or something) to chase     Give it time. Be patient.; In time, things
  someone or something. The dogs gave               will change for the better or for the
  chase to the fox. A mouse ran by, but the         worse.     Things will get better. Don’t
  cat was too tired to give chase. The po-          worry. Give it time. Of course, things
  lice gave chase to the robber.                    will improve. Give it time.
give credence to something to believe some-       give it to someone (straight) to tell some-
  thing; to consider something believable.          thing to someone clearly and directly.
    He tells lies. Don’t give credence to what      (Informal.)       Come on, give it to me
  he says.     Please don’t give credence to        straight. I want to know exactly what hap-
  Mary. She doesn’t know what she’s talking         pened. Quit wasting time, and tell me.
  about.                                            Give it to me straight.
give credit where credit is due to give           Give it up. Give up.; Stop trying.      It’s no
  credit to someone who deserves it; to ac-         use trying any more. Give it up. You will
  knowledge or thank someone who de-                never get this car to start. Give it up.
  serves it.     We must give credit where        give of oneself to be generous with one’s
  credit is due. Thank you very much, Sally.        time and concern.        Tom is very good
     Let’s give credit where credit is due.         with children because he gives of himself.
  Mary is the one who wrote the report, not            If you want to have more friends, you
  Jane.                                             have to learn to give of yourself.
give free rein to someone and give some-          Give one an inch, and one will take a
  one free rein to allow someone to be              mile. A person who is granted a little of
  completely in charge (of something).              something (such as a reprieve or le-
  (See also get a free hand (with someone or        nience) will want more. (Proverb.) I
  something ).)   The boss gave the manager         told John he could turn in his paper one
  free rein with the new project. The prin-         day late, but he turned it in three days late.
  cipal gave free rein to Mrs. Brown in her         Give him an inch, and he’ll take a mile.
  classes.                                             First we let John borrow our car for a
give ground to retreat (literally or figura-        day. Now he wants to go on a two-week va-
  tively). When I argue with Mary, she              cation. If you give him an inch, he’ll take
  never gives ground.     I approached the          a mile.
  barking dog, but it wouldn’t give ground.       give one a run for one’s money 1. to give
give her the gun Go to give it the gun.
                                                    one what one deserves, expects, or wants.
                                                    (See also get a run for one’s money.)
give in (to someone or something ) to yield to      High school football gives me a run for my
  someone or something; to give up to               money. I invest in the stock market, and
  someone or something. He argued and               that really gives me a run for my money.

                                                                  give someone a bum steer

  2. give one a challenge. That was some          give someone a bang and give someone a
  argument. Bill gave John a run for his            charge; give someone a kick to give
  money.     Tom likes to play cards with           someone a bit of excitement. (Informal.)
  Mary because she always gives him a run             John always gives me a bang.           The
  for his money.                                    whole afternoon, with all its silliness, gave
                                                    me a charge anyway.
give one butterflies in one’s stomach to
  cause someone to have a nervous stom-           give someone a big send-off to see some-
  ach. (See also get butterflies in one’s stom-     one off on a journey with celebration and
  ach.)    Tests give me butterf lies in my         encouragement. (See also get a big send-
  stomach. It was not frightening enough            off.)     When I left for college, all my
  to give me butterf lies in my stomach, but        brothers and sisters came to the airport to
  it made me a little apprehensive.                 give me a big send-off. When the sailors
                                                    left, everyone went down to the docks and
give one one’s freedom to set someone free;
                                                    gave them a big send-off.
  to divorce someone.          Mrs. Brown
  wanted to give her husband his freedom.         give someone a black eye 1. to hit some-
     Well, Tom, I hate to break it to you this      one near the eye so that a dark bruise ap-
  way, but I have decided to give you your          pears. John became angry and gave me
  freedom.                                          a black eye. The door began to swing
                                                    closed as I approached and it gave me a
give one one’s walking papers to fire
                                                    black eye. 2. to harm the character or rep-
  someone; to give someone the sack. (In-           utation of someone. (See also get a black
  formal. See also get one’s walking papers.)       eye) The constant complaining gave the
     Tom has proved unsatisfactory. I de-           whole group a black eye. His behavior
  cided to give him his walking papers. We          gave him a black eye with the manager.
  might even give Sally her walking papers,
  too.                                            give someone a blank check and give a
                                                    blank check to someone to give someone
give one’s ear to someone or something Go to
                                                    freedom or permission to act as one
  give (an) ear to someone or something .
                                                    wishes or thinks necessary. (Refers to a
give one what’s coming to one to give one           signed bank check with the amount left
  what one deserves, either a punishment            blank.) He’s been given a blank check
  or a reward. (See also get what’s coming          with regard to reorganizing the work force.
  to one.)    I’m here to be paid. Give me             The manager has been given no in-
  what’s coming to me. Thank you. I will            structions about how to train the staff. The
  see that you get what’s coming to you.            owner just gave him a blank check. Jean
                                                    gave the decorator a blank check and said
give out to wear out; to become exhausted           she wanted the whole house done.
  and stop. The old lady’s heart finally
  gave out.     Our television set gave out       give someone a break to give someone a
  right in the middle of my favorite program.       chance; to give someone another chance
     Bill gave out in the middle of the race.       or a second chance.      I’m sorry. Don’t
                                                    send me home. Give me a break! They
give out with something to utter or say             gave me a nice break. They didn’t send me
  something. (Informal. Also with have.             home.
  See the examples below.) Suddenly, the
  dog gave out with a horrible growl. At          give someone a bright idea to give someone
  that point, John gave out with a comment          a clever thought or idea. That gives me
  about how boring it all was. Come on,             a bright idea! Thank you for giving me
  tell me. Have out with it!                        a bright idea.
give rise to something to cause something.        give someone a bum steer to give someone
     The bad performance gave rise to many          misleading instructions or guidance; to
  complaints. The new law gave rise to vi-          make a misleading suggestion. (Slang.
  olence in the cities.                             Bum = false; phony. Steer = guidance, as

give someone a buzz

  in the steering of a car.) Max gave Ted         somebody please give me a hand with this?
  a bum steer and Ted ended up in the wrong         Can you give me a hand with the baby?
  town. Someone gave me a bum steer and
  I paid far more than I needed to for a used   give someone a hard time to give someone
  car.                                            unnecessary difficulty. Please don’t give
                                                  me a hard time.     The clerk gave me a
give someone a buzz Go to give someone a          hard time, so I walked out.
                                                give someone a head start (on someone or
give someone a charge Go to give someone          something ) 1. [with someone] to allow
  a bang.                                         someone to start (something) earlier
give someone a clean bill of health [for a        than someone else.       They gave Bill a
  doctor] to pronounce someone well and           head start on everyone else, so he arrived
  healthy. The doctor gave Sally a clean          early.    Please give me a head start on
  bill of health. I had hoped to be given a       Charles. He is too fast! 2. [with some-
  clean bill of health, but there was some-       thing] to allow someone to start some-
  thing wrong with my blood test results.         thing earlier (than someone else). We’ll
                                                  give you a head start on the project. I
give someone a dirty look [for a person] to       need a head start on the test because I lost
  frown or make an angry face at someone.         my glasses.
     Ann gave me a dirty look. I gave her
  a dirty look back.                            give someone a kick Go to give someone a
give someone a fair shake to give someone         bang.
  fair treatment. He’s unpleasant, but we       give someone a licking to beat someone.
  have to give him a fair shake. We give          Bill give Tom a licking in a fight. I’ll give
  all our people a fair shake.                    you a good licking if you don’t leave me
give someone a fix on something to tell some-     alone.
  one the location of something. (See also      give someone a line and feed someone a
  get a fix on something .)Please give me a       line to lead someone on; to deceive
  fix on your location.     If you give the       someone with false talk. Don’t pay any
  tower a fix on where you are, they can ad-      attention to John. He gives everybody a
  vise you on runway selection.                   line. He’s always feeding us a line.
give someone a free hand (with something )
                                                give someone an earful 1. to scold someone.
  to give someone complete control over
                                                     I was so mad at her! I really gave her
  something. (See also get a free hand
                                                  an earful. When I find that little jerk
  (with someone or something ).)  They gave
                                                  I’m going to give him an earful. 2. to tell
  me a free hand with the project. I feel
                                                  someone a lot of gossip; to give someone
  proud that they gave me a free hand. That
                                                  a lot of information.     I just talked to
  means that they trust my judgment.
                                                  Margaret. Boy did she give me an earful.
give someone a (good) dressing-down a                She always gives me an earful. Other-
  scolding.     After that dressing-down I        wise I’d never know what’s going on.
  won’t be late again. The boss gave Fred
  a real dressing-down for breaking the         give someone a pain to annoy or bother
  machine.                                        someone. (Slang.)       Here comes Sally.
                                                  Oh, she gives me a pain. She’s such a
give someone a hand (for something ) to ap-       pest. She really gives me a pain.
  plaud someone for something.       After
  she sang, they gave her a nice hand.          give someone a pat on the back Go to pat
  Come on, give them a hand. They did very        someone on the back.
  well.                                         give someone a piece of one’s mind to bawl
give someone a hand (with someone or some-        someone out; to tell someone off; to rebuke
  thing ) to help someone with someone or         someone.      I’ve had enough from John.
  something, often with the hands.      Will      I’m going to give him a piece of my mind.

                                                                give someone carte blanche

    Sally, stop it, or I’ll give you a piece of   give someone a rough idea (of something) Go
  my mind.                                          to give someone a rough idea (about some-
                                                    thing ).
give someone a rain check (on something )
  1. to give someone a piece of paper al-         give someone a shellacking 1. to beat
  lowing admission to an event—which has            someone. (See also get a shellacking.)
  been canceled—at a later time.          The       My dad gave me a shellacking when I broke
  game was canceled because of the rain, but        his fishing rod. If you do that again, I
  they gave everyone rain checks.        They       will give you a shellacking. 2. to beat
  were not able to show the film, so everyone       someone (in a contest). The other team
  was given a rain check. 2. to tell some-          gave us a shellacking. The Bears gave the
  one that an invitation to a social event          Packers a shellacking.
  will be reissued at a later date.       We
                                                  give someone a slap on the wrist and slap
  couldn’t go to the Smiths’ party, so they
                                                    someone on the wrist; slap someone’s
  gave us a rain check. We are sorry we
                                                    wrist to give someone a light punishment
  cannot attend, but we would love for you
  to give us a rain check on another date. 3.       (for doing something wrong). (See also
                                                    get a slap on the wrist.) The judge gave
  to issue a piece of paper that allows one
  to purchase an item on sale at a later date.      her a slap on the wrist for speeding. The
     If you have no more of the sale sham-          judge should have done more than slap her
  poo, will you give me a rain check on it,         wrist. They should do more than just
  please? Can I have a rain check on this           slap his wrist.
  item? You don’t have enough of it in stock.     give someone a start 1. to help start some-
give someone a raw deal to treat someone
                                                    one’s car. John gave me a start when my
  unfairly or badly. (See also get a raw            car was stalled. Won’t someone please
  deal.)   The judge gave Mary a raw deal.          give me a start? 2. to give someone train-
    The students think that the teacher gave        ing or a big opportunity in beginning
  them a raw deal.                                  one’s career. No one gave me a start in
                                                    the theater, and I eventually gave up try-
give someone a reputation (as a something )         ing. My career began when my father
  to cause someone to be known for being            gave me a start in his act. 3. to startle
  something.      That evening gave him a           someone; to make someone jerk or jump
  reputation as a f lirt. Yes, it gave him a        from a sudden fright. (Often with quite.)
  reputation.                                          The thunderclap gave me quite a start.
                                                       I didn’t mean to give you a start. I
give someone a reputation (for doing some-          should have knocked before I entered.
  thing ) to cause someone to be known for
  doing something. Her excellent parties          give someone a swelled head to make
  gave Jane a reputation for entertaining           someone conceited. Fame gave John a
  well. You had better be careful or your           swelled head. Don’t let this success give
  behavior will give you a reputation.              you a swelled head.
give someone a ring and give someone a            give someone a tongue-lashing to give
  buzz to call someone on the telephone.            someone a severe scolding. (Folksy. See
  (Informal.) Nice talking to you. Give             also get a tongue-lashing.) I gave Bill
  me a ring sometime.  Give me a buzz               a real tongue-lashing when he got home
  when you’re in town.                              late. I will give you a real tongue-lashing
                                                    if you ever do that again.
give someone a rough idea (about some-
  thing ) and give someone a rough idea (of       give someone carte blanche and give
  something) to give someone a general idea         carte blanche to someone to give some-
  or an estimate about something. I don’t           one freedom or permission to act as one
  need to know exactly. Just give me a rough        wishes or thinks necessary. (Almost the
  idea about how big it should be. Let me           same as give someone a blank check.)
  give you a rough idea about my plan.              He’s been given carte blanche with the re-

give someone credit (for something)

  organization of the work force.        The        sunrise, it gives me pause. Witnessing an
  manager has been given no instructions            accident is likely to give all of us pause.
  about how to train the staff. The owner
                                                  give someone some skin [for two people]
  just gave him carte blanche. Jean gave
                                                    to touch two hands together in a special
  carte blanche to the decorator and said she
                                                    greeting, like a handshake. (Slang. One
  wanted the whole house done.
                                                    hand may be slapped down on top of the
give someone credit (for something ) to praise      other, or they may be slapped together
  or recognize someone for doing some-              palm to palm with the arms held verti-
  thing.     The coach gave Mary a lot of           cally. Usually said as a command.) Hey,
  credit.     The director gave John much           Bob, give me some skin! Come over here,
  credit for his fine performance.                  you guys. I want you to meet my brother
                                                    and give him some skin!
give someone free rein Go to give free rein
  to someone .                                    give someone the air to ignore someone; to
                                                    dismiss someone. (See also get the air.)
give someone goose bumps and give some-
                                                    Tom always gives me the air. Is there some-
  one goose pimples to cause someone to
                                                    thing wrong with me? Why is she giv-
  have prickly or bumpy skin owing to ex-
                                                    ing him the air? What did he do?
  citement or fear. It was a scary movie
  and it gave me goose bumps. I hate be-          give someone the ax and give someone the
  ing in that old house. It gives me goose          sack to fire someone; to terminate some-
  pimples.                                          one’s employment. (See also get the
                                                    sack.)   I gave Tom the sack, and he has
give someone goose pimples Go to give
                                                    to find a new job. I had to give three
  someone goose bumps.
                                                    people the ax yesterday. We are having to
give someone gray hair(s) to cause some-            reduce our office staff.
  one’s hair to turn gray from stress or
                                                  give someone the benefit of the doubt to
  frustration. (Usually an expression of fear
                                                    make a judgment in someone’s favor
  that one’s hair will turn gray.) My three
                                                    when the evidence is neither for nor
  teenage boys are giving me gray hair.
                                                    against the person. (See also get the ben-
  Your behavior is giving me gray hairs.
                                                    efit of the doubt.)    I’m glad the teacher
give someone hell Go to give someone the            gave me the benefit of the doubt. Please,
  devil.                                            judge. Give me the benefit of the doubt.
give someone or something a wide berth to         give someone the boot to dismiss someone;
  keep a reasonable distance from someone           to kick someone out (of a place). (Slang.
  or something; to steer clear (of someone          See also get the boot.) You had better
  or something ). (Originally referred to sail-     behave, or they’ll give you the boot. I
  ing ships.) The dog we are approach-              will give him the boot if he doesn’t
  ing is very mean. Better give it a wide           straighten up.
  berth. Give Mary a wide berth. She’s in
                                                  give someone the brush-off to send some-
  a very bad mood.
                                                    one away; to reject someone. (Slang.)
give someone or something the (old) heave-          Tom wouldn’t talk to her. He just gave her
  ho to throw someone or something out;             the brush-off. Please don’t give me the
  to get rid of someone or something; to            brush-off!
  fire someone. (Informal. See also get the
                                                  give someone the bum’s rush to hurry
  (old) heave-ho.)     We gave Jane the old
                                                    someone into leaving; to usher someone
  heave-ho today.       John was behaving
                                                    out of a place quickly. (As someone
  badly at our party, so my father gave him
                                                    might quickly escort a vagrant from a
  the heave-ho. This chair is completely
                                                    fancy restaurant.) The young customer
  worn out. Shall I give it the old heave-ho?
                                                    in the jewelry store was being given the
give someone pause to cause someone to              bum’s rush, so he pulled out an enormous
  stop and think.      When I see a golden          roll of bills and the clerk became much

                                                                     give someone the sack

  more helpful. The doorman gave Bill the          Give everybody the go-ahead.     They gave
  bum’s rush at the restaurant because Bill        us the green light to start.
  did not have a tie on.
                                                 give someone the go-by to pass by or ignore
give someone the business to harass some-          someone. (Slang.) I could see that Tom
  one; to give someone a bad time. (Infor-         wanted a ride, but I gave him the go-by.
  mal.) The people in that office can’t an-           There was no reason to give the me
  swer your question. They just give you the       go-by!
  business. I’ll get rid of her. I’ll give her   give someone the green light Go to give
  the business.                                    someone the go-ahead.
give someone the cold shoulder to ignore         give someone the hard sell to put pressure
  someone; to reject someone. (Informal.           on someone to buy or accept (some-
  See also get the cold shoulder.)      She        thing). (Informal.) They gave me the
  gave me the cold shoulder when I asked her       hard sell, but I still wouldn’t buy the car.
  to the party. Sally has been giving me               The clerk gave the customer the hard
  the cold shoulder.                               sell.
give someone the creeps and give someone         give someone the high sign to give some-
  the willies to make someone uneasy; to           one a prearranged signal. As the robber
  frighten someone. (Informal. See also get        walked past me, I gave the police officer a
  the creeps.) That old house gives me the         high sign. Then the officer arrested the
  creeps. That strange old man gives him           robber. Things got started when I gave
  the willies.                                     the conductor the high sign.
give someone the devil and give someone          give someone the low-down (on someone or
  hell to scold someone severely. (Infor-          something ) to tell someone the full story
  mal. Use caution with hell.) I’m going           about someone or something. (Slang. See
  to give Bill hell when he gets home. He’s        also get the low-down (on someone or some-
  late again. Bill, why do I always have           thing ).)  Please give Sally the low-down
  to give you the devil?                           on the new expressway. I do not know
give someone the eye to look at someone            what’s going on. Please give me the low-
  in a way that communicates romantic in-          down.
  terest. (Informal. See also catch someone’s    give someone the once-over to visually
  eye.)     Ann gave John the eye. It really       examine someone quickly. (See also get
  surprised him. Tom kept giving Sally the         the once-over.)    John gives me the once-
  eye. She finally left.                           over every time he walks by me. Why
give someone the gate to send someone              does he just give me the once-over? Why
  away; to reject someone. (Slang. See also        doesn’t he say hello?
  get the gate.)     Not only was he not         give someone the red-carpet treatment to
  friendly, he gave me the gate. He was            give someone very special treatment; to
  rude, so we gave him the gate.                   give someone royal treatment. (See also
give someone the glad hand to give some-           get the red-carpet treatment.)    We al-
  one an overly friendly welcome; to give          ways give the queen the red-carpet treat-
  someone insincere attention. (Informal.)         ment when she comes to visit.       They
     Here comes Tom. Watch him give us the         never give me the red-carpet treatment.
  glad hand and leave. These politicians         give someone the runaround to give some-
  give you the glad hand and ignore you af-        one a series of excuses, delays, and refer-
  ter they are elected.                            rals.     If you ask to see the manager,
give someone the go-ahead and give some-
                                                   they’ll give you the runaround. Stop giv-
  one the green light to give someone the
                                                   ing me the runaround!
  signal to start or continue. (See also get     give someone the sack Go to give someone
  the go-ahead.)      It’s time to start work.     the ax.

give someone the shirt off one’s back

give someone the shirt off one’s back to be         a promise. This time, Tom, comb your
  very generous or solicitous to someone.           hair. It looks as if you just gave it a lick and
     Tom really likes Bill. He’d give Bill the      a promise.
  shirt off his back. John is so friendly that
  he’d give anyone the shirt off his back.        give something a shot and take a shot at
                                                    something to try something. I have never
give someone the slip to escape from or             dived before, but I will give it a shot.
  elude someone. (Slang.) We followed               Tom decided to take a shot at writing a
  her for two blocks, and then she gave us the      poem.
  slip. Max gave Lefty the slip.
                                                  give something a whirl make a try at doing
give someone the third degree to question           something. If at first you don’t succeed,
  someone in great detail for a long period.        give it another whirl. John gave bowl-
  (Slang. See also get the third degree.)           ing a whirl last night.
  The police gave Sally the third degree.
  Stop giving me the third degree. I told you     give something one’s best shot to give a task
  what I know.                                      one’s best effort. I gave the project my
give someone the willies Go to give some-
                                                    best shot. Sure, try it. Give it your best
  one the creeps.
give someone the works to give someone            give the bride away [for a bride’s father]
  the full amount or the full treatment.            to accompany the bride to the groom in
  (Slang. See also get the works.)    The           a wedding ceremony. Mr. Brown is ill.
  judge gave her the works for driving too          Who’ll give the bride away? In the tra-
  fast.   I want everything on my ham-              ditional wedding ceremony, the bride’s fa-
  burger. Give me the works.                        ther gives the bride away.
give someone tit for tat to give someone          give the devil her due Go to give the devil
  something equal to what was given you;            his due.
  to exchange a series of things, one by one,
                                                  give the devil his due and give the devil
  with someone. (Informal.) They gave
                                                    her due to give your foe proper credit
  me the same kind of difficulty that I gave
                                                    (for something). (This usually refers to
  them. They gave me tit for tat.           He
                                                    a person who has been evil—like the
  punched me, so I punched him. Every time
                                                    devil.) She’s generally impossible, but I
  he hit me, I hit him. I just gave him tit for
                                                    have to give the devil her due. She bakes a
                                                    terrific cherry pie. John may cheat on
give someone to understand something to ex-         his taxes and yell at his wife, but he keeps
  plain something to someone; to imply              his car polished. I’ll give the devil his due.
  something to someone. (This may mis-
  lead someone, accidentally or intention-        give the game away to reveal a plan or
  ally.)    Mr. Smith gave Sally to under-          strategy. (Informal.)    Now, all of you
  stand that she should be home by                  have to keep quiet. Please don’t give the
  midnight. The mayor gave the citizens             game away. If you keep giving out hints,
  to understand that there would be no tax          you’ll give the game away.
  increase. He didn’t promise, though.            give up the ghost to die; to release one’s
give someone what for to scold someone.             spirit. (Considered formal or humorous.)
  (Folksy.) Billy’s mother gave him what               The old man sighed, rolled over, and
  for because he didn’t get home on time.           gave up the ghost. I’m too young to give
  I will really give you what for if you don’t      up the ghost.
  straighten up.                                  give vent to something to express anger; to
give something a lick and a promise to do           release one’s anger, irritation, emotion,
  something poorly—quickly and care-                etc. (The something is usually anger, ire,
  lessly. (Informal.)     John! You didn’t          irritation, etc.)   John gave vent to his
  clean your room! You just gave it a lick and      anger by yelling at Sally. Bill couldn’t

                                                                        go (a)round in circles

  give vent to his frustration because he had      go against the grain to go against the nat-
  been warned to keep quiet.                         ural direction or inclination. (Refers to
give voice to something to express a feeling         the grain of wood. See also rub someone (‘s
                                                     fur) the wrong way.)       You can’t expect
  or an opinion in words; to speak out
  about something. The bird gave voice               me to help you cheat. That goes against the
  to its joy in the golden sunshine. All the         grain. Would it go against the grain for
  people gave voice to their anger at                you to call in sick for me?
  Congress.                                        go all out to use all one’s resources; to be
a given a fact that is taken for granted; a          very thorough. (Informal. Compare this
  fact that is assumed. That Mary will               with make an all-out effort.) Whenever
  go to college is a given. The question is          they have a party, they really go all out.
  what she is going to study. It is a given             My cousin is coming for a visit, and she
  that the earth revolves around the sun.            expects us to go all out.
given to doing something likely to do some-        go all the way (with someone ) and go to
  thing; inclined to do something habitu-            bed (with someone ) to have sexual inter-
  ally.    Mary is given to singing in the           course with someone. (Euphemistic. Use
  shower. Bob is given to shouting when              with caution.) If you go all the way, you
  things don’t go his way.                           stand a chance of getting pregnant. I’ve
                                                     heard that they go to bed all the time.
given to understand made to believe.
  They were given to understand that there         go along for the ride to accompany
  would be no tax increase, but after the            (someone) for the pleasure of riding
  election taxes went up. She was given              along. Join us. You can go along for the
  to understand that she had to be home by           ride. I don’t really need to go to the gro-
  midnight.                                          cery store, but I’ll go along for the ride.
gloss something over to cover up or conceal        go a long way in doing something Go to go
                                                     a long way toward doing something .
  an error; to make something appear right
  by minimizing or concealing the flaws.           go a long way toward doing something and
  When I asked him not to gloss the f laws           go a long way in doing something almost
  over, he got angry. T When Mr. Brown               to satisfy specific conditions; to be almost
  was selling me the car, he tried to gloss over     right.     This machine goes a long way
  its defects.                                       toward meeting our needs.         Your plan
glutton for punishment someone who                   went a long way in helping us with our
  seems to like doing or seeking out diffi-          problem.
  cult, unpleasant, or badly paid tasks. If        go along (with someone or something ) 1.
  you want to work for this charity, you’ll          [with something] to agree to something.
  have to be a glutton for punishment and            (Also literal, meaning “to accompany
  work long hours for nothing. Jane must             someone.”) All right. I’ll go along with
  be a real glutton for punishment. She’s typ-       your plan. I’m sure that John won’t want
  ing Bill’s manuscript free of charge, and he       to go along with it. 2. [with someone] to
  doesn’t even thank her.                            agree with someone. I go along with
gnash one’s teeth to slash about with the            Sally. I’m sure she’s right.    I can’t go
  teeth. Bill clenched his fists and gnashed         along with John. He doesn’t know what he’s
  his teeth in anger. The wolf gnashed its           talking about.
  teeth and chased after the deer.                 go ape (over someone or something ) to be-
go about one’s business to mind one’s                come very excited and enthusiastic about
  business; to move elsewhere and mind               someone or something. (Slang.) I really
  one’s own business.     Leave me alone!            go ape over chocolate ice cream.    Tom
  Just go about your business! I have no             really goes ape over Mary.
  more to say. I would be pleased if you           go (a)round in circles 1. to keep going
  would go about your business.                      over the same ideas or repeating the same

go (a)round the bend

  actions, often resulting in confusion,            he’s in a military prison.       Tom went
  without reaching a satisfactory decision          AWOL once too often.
  or conclusion. We’re just going round in
                                                  go back on one’s word to break a promise
  circles discussing the problems of the party.
                                                    that one has made. I hate to go back on
  We need to consult someone else to get a
                                                    my word, but I won’t pay you $100 after
  new point of view. Fred’s trying to find
                                                    all. Going back on your word makes you
  out what’s happened but he’s going round
                                                    a liar.
  in circles. No one will tell him anything
  useful. 2. to be or act confused. (Infor-       go bad to become rotten, undesirable, evil,
  mal.) I’m so busy I’m going around in             etc. I’m afraid that this milk has gone
  circles.    I can’t work anymore. I’m so          bad. Life used to be wonderful. Now it
  tired that I’m going round in circles.            has gone bad.
go (a)round the bend 1. to go around a            go bananas to go crazy or become silly.
  turn or a curve; to make a turn or a              (Slang.) Whenever I see Sally, I just go
  curve. You’ll see the house you’re look-          bananas! She’s fantastic. This was a hor-
  ing for as you go round the bend. John            rible day! I almost went bananas.
  waved to his father until the car went          go begging to be unwanted or unused. (As
  round the bend. 2. to go crazy; to lose           if an object were begging for an owner or
  one’s mind. (Informal.) If I don’t get            a user.) There is still food left. A whole
  some rest, I’ll go round the bend. Poor           lobster is going begging. Please eat some
  Bob. He has been having trouble for a long        more. There are many excellent books in
  time. He finally went around the bend.            the library just going begging because peo-
go around with someone Go to hang around            ple don’t know they are there.
  (with someone ).                                go broke to completely run out of money
go astray to leave the proper path (literally       and other assets. This company is going
  or figuratively). Stay right on the road.         to go broke if you don’t stop spending
  Don’t go astray and get lost. Follow the          money foolishly. I made some bad in-
  rules I’ve given you and don’t go astray.         vestments last year, and it looks as if I may
  That’ll keep you out of trouble.                  go broke this year.
go at it hammer and tongs Go to fight             go by the board to get ruined or lost. (This
  someone or something hammer and tongs.            is a nautical expression meaning “to fall
                                                    or be washed overboard.”) I hate to see
go at it tooth and nail Go to fight some-           good food go by the board. Please eat up
  one or something hammer and tongs.                so we won’t have to throw it out. Your
go at someone or something to attack someone        plan has gone by the board. The entire pro-
  or something; to move or lunge toward             ject has been canceled.
  someone or something. The dog went              go by the book to follow the rules exactly.
  at the visitor and almost bit him. He             (Refers to a book of rules.) The judge
  went at the door and tried to break it            of the contest went by the book and dis-
  down.                                             qualified us in the first round. Everyone
go away empty-handed to depart with                 insisted that the chairman go by the book
  nothing. (Compare this with come away             and rule against the questionable motion.
  empty-handed.)     I hate for you to go         go chase oneself to go away (and stop be-
  away empty-handed, but I cannot afford            ing a bother). (Slang.) He was bother-
  to contribute any money.     They came            ing me, so I told him to go chase himself.
  hoping for some food, but they had to go             Get out, you pest! Go chase yourself!
  away empty-handed.
                                                  Go climb a tree! and Go fly a kite!; Go
go AWOL to become absent without leave.             fry an egg!; Go jump in the lake!; Take
  (See also absent without leave.) Private          a hike!; Take a walk! Go away and stop
  Smith went AWOL last Wednesday. Now               bothering me!      Go away and stop both-

                                                                                  go in a body

  ering me. Go climb a tree! Go climb a           Go fly a kite! Go to Go climb a tree!
  tree! You are a pain in the neck.
                                                  go for broke to risk everything; to try as
go cold turkey to stop (doing something)            hard as possible. (Slang.) Okay, this is
  without tapering off. (Slang. Originally          my last chance. I’m going for broke.
  drug slang. Now concerned with break-             Look at Mary starting to move in the fi-
  ing any habit.) I had to stop smoking,            nal hundred yards of the race! She is really
  so I went cold turkey. It’s awful! When           going for broke.
  heroin addicts go cold turkey, they get ter-
  ribly sick.                                     go for it to make a try for something; to de-
                                                    cide to do something. (Slang.) I have
go crazy to become crazy, disorientated, or         an offer of a new job. I think I’m going to
  frustrated. It is so busy here that I think       go for it. Hey, great. Go for it!
  I will go crazy. Bob went crazy because
  his car got a f lat tire.                       go for someone or something 1. to desire some-
                                                    one or something. (Also literal meaning
go down fighting to continue the strug-
                                                    to go in someone’s place. Usually with
  gle until one is completely defeated. I
                                                    could, as in the examples.) Look at that
  won’t give up easily. I’ll go down fighting.
                                                    cute guy. I could really go for him.        I
      Sally, who is very determined, went
                                                    could go for a nice cool glass of iced tea.
  down fighting.
                                                    2. to attack someone or something; to
go downhill [for something] to decline and          lunge at someone or something. The
  grow worse and worse. (Also literal.)             lion went for the antelope’s throat. Af-
  This industry is going downhill. We lose          ter the robber struck Bill, he went for John.
  money every year. As one gets older, one          3. to reach for a weapon.        The robber
  tends to go downhill.                             went for his gun and the cop shot him.
go down in history to be remembered as              The hunter went for his knife, but it was
  historically important. Bill is so great.         too late. The bear was upon him.
  I’m sure that he’ll go down in history.         go from bad to worse to progress from a
  This is the greatest party of the century. I      bad state to a worse state. This is a ter-
  bet it’ll go down in history.                     rible day. Things are going from bad to
go Dutch to share the cost of a meal or             worse. My cold is awful. It went from
  some other event. (See also Dutch treat.)         bad to worse in just an hour.
      JANE: Let’s go out and eat. MARY:           Go fry an egg! Go to Go climb a tree!
  Okay, but let’s go Dutch. It’s getting ex-
  pensive to have Sally for a friend. She never   go great guns to go fast or energetically.
  wants to go Dutch.                                (Folksy.)    I’m over my cold and going
go easy (on someone or something ) 1. to be         great guns. Business is great. We are go-
  kind or gentle with someone or some-              ing great guns selling ice cream.
  thing. (See also take it easy (on someone or    go haywire to go wrong; to malfunction;
  something ).) Go easy on Tom. He just got         to break down. (Folksy.) I was talking
  out of the hospital. Go easy on the cat.          to Mary when suddenly the telephone went
  It doesn’t like to be roughed up. Okay,           haywire. I haven’t heard from her since.
  I’ll go easy. 2. [with something] to use             There we were, driving along, when the
  something sparingly.         Go easy on the       engine went haywire. It was two hours be-
  mustard. That’s all there is. When you            fore the tow truck came.
  make my sandwich, please go easy on the
  onions. I don’t like them very well.            go hog-wild to behave wildly. (Folksy.)
                                                    Have a good time at the party, but don’t go
go fifty-fifty (on something ) to divide the        hog-wild. The teacher cannot control a
  cost of something in half with someone.           class that is going hog-wild.
      Todd and Jean decided to go fifty-fifty
  on dinner. The two brothers went fifty-         go in a body to move in a group.      The
  fifty on a replacement for the broken lamp.       whole team went in a body to talk to the

go in for something

  coach. Each of us was afraid to go alone,         go into effect and take effect [for a law
  so we went in a body.                               or a rule] to become effective; to start to
                                                      function. When does this new law go
go in for something to take part in some-             into effect? The new tax laws won’t go
  thing; to enjoy (doing) something.                  into effect until next year. This law takes
  John doesn’t go in for sports. None of              effect almost immediately.
  them seems to go in for swimming.
                                                    go into hiding to conceal oneself in a hid-
go in one ear and out the other [for                  den place for a period of time. The po-
  something] to be heard and then forgot-             litical dissident went into hiding. After
  ten. (See also in one ear and out (of) the          robbing the bank, the bandits went into
  other.) Everything I say to you seems to            hiding for months.
  go in one ear and out the other. Why don’t
  you pay attention? I can’t concentrate.           go into hock go into debt.     We will have
  Things people say to me just go in one ear          to go into hock to buy a house. I go fur-
  and out the other.                                  ther into hock every time I use my credit
go into action and swing into action to
  start doing something. I usually get to           go into one’s song and dance (about some-
  work at 7:45, and I go into action at 8:00.         thing ) to start giving one’s explanations
     When the ball is hit in my direction, you        and excuses about something. (One’s can
  should see me swing into action.                    be replaced by the same old.)      Please
                                                      don’t go into your song and dance about
go into a nosedive and take a nosedive                how you always tried to do what was right.
  1. [for an airplane] suddenly to dive                 John went into his song and dance about
  toward the ground, nose first. It was               how he won the war all by himself. He
  a bad day for f lying, and I was afraid we’d        always goes into the same old song and
  go into a nosedive. The small plane took            dance every time he makes a mistake.
  a nosedive. The pilot was able to bring it
  out at the last minute, so the plane didn’t       go into orbit to get very excited; to be in
  crash. 2. to go into a rapid emotional or           ecstasy. (Also literal. Slang.) When I got
  financial decline, or a decline in health.          a letter from my boyfriend in England, I
  (Informal.) Our profits took a nosedive             almost went into orbit. Tom goes into
  last year.    After he broke his hip, Mr.           orbit every time the football team scores.
  Brown’s health went into a nosedive, and
                                                    go into something to start something new.
  he never recovered.
                                                      (Especially a new career, project, prod-
go into a tailspin 1. [for an airplane] to            uct line, etc. Compare this with be into
  lose control and spin to the earth, nose            something .) I may quit selling and go into
  first.    The plane shook and then sud-             management. We are shifting produc-
  denly went into a tailspin. The pilot was           tion away from glass bottles, and we are
  not able to bring the plane out of the tail-        going into vases and other decorative con-
  spin, and it crashed into the sea. 2. [for          tainers. After she graduated, she went
  someone] to become disoriented or pan-              into law.
  icked; [for someone’s life] to fall apart.        go it alone to do something by oneself.
  (Informal.) Although John was a great               (Informal.) Do you need help, or will
  success, his life went into a tailspin. It took     you go it alone? I think I need a little
  him a year to get straightened out. Af-             more experience before I go it alone.
  ter her father died, Mary’s world fell apart,
  and she went into a tailspin.                     Go jump in the lake! Go to Go climb a
go into detail to give all the details; to pre-
  sent and discuss the details. The clerk           go like clockwork to progress with regu-
  went into detail about the product with the         larity and dependability. (Informal.)
  customer. I just want a simple answer.              The building project is progressing nicely.
  Don’t go into detail.                               Everything is going like clockwork. The

                                                                             go (out) on strike

  elaborate pageant was a great success. It        go on a fishing expedition to attempt to
  went like clockwork from start to finish.          discover information. (Also literal.)
                                                     We are going to have to go on a fishing ex-
go off [for something] to explode.        The        pedition to try to find the facts.    One
  fireworks didn’t go off when they were sup-        lawyer went on a fishing expedition in
  posed to. There was a bomb in the build-           court, and the other lawyer objected.
  ing, but it didn’t go off.
                                                   go on and on to (seem to) last or go for-
go off half-cocked to proceed without
                                                     ever. (Folksy.) You talk too much, Bob.
  proper preparation; to speak (about                You just go on and on. The road to their
  something) without adequate knowledge.             house is very boring. It goes on and on with
  (Informal or slang.) Don’t pay any at-             nothing interesting to look at.
  tention to what John says. He’s always go-
  ing off half-cocked.      Get your facts         go on an errand Go to run an errand.
  straight before you make your presenta-
  tion. There is nothing worse than going off      go on a rampage to have a rampage.
  half-cocked.                                       The angry bull went on a rampage and
                                                     broke the fence. My boss went on a ram-
go off on a tangent to go off suddenly in            page because the report wasn’t finished.
  another direction; suddenly to change
  one’s line of thought, course of action,         go on to a better land to die. (Euphe-
  etc. (A reference to geometry.) Please             mistic.) After a long illness, Reggie went
  stick to one subject and don’t go off on a         on to a better land. When I finally go on
  tangent. If Mary would settle down and             to a better land, I hope there is enough
  deal with one subject she would be all             money for a proper funeral.
  right, but she keeps going off on tangents.      go out (for something ) to try out for some-
go off the deep end and jump off the                 thing. (Usually refers to attempting to get
  deep end to become deeply involved                 onto a sports team. Also literal.) Mary
  (with someone or something) before one             went out for the soccer team. Tom went
  is ready; to follow one’s emotions into a          out for baseball. He didn’t go out last
  situation. (Informal. Refers to going into         year.
  a swimming pool at the deep end—rather           go out of fashion and go out of style to
  than the shallow end—and finding one-              become unfashionable; to become obso-
  self in deep water. Applies especially to          lete. That kind of furniture went out of
  falling in love.) Look at the way Bill is          style years ago. I hope this kind of thing
  looking at Sally. I think he’s about to go off     never goes out of fashion.
  the deep end. Now, John, I know you
  really want to go to Australia, but don’t go     go out of one’s way (to do something ) 1. to
  jumping off the deep end. It isn’t all per-        travel an indirect route in order to do
  fect there.                                        something. I’ll have to go out of my way
                                                     to give you a ride home. I’ll give you a
go on stop saying those things; not so; I            ride even though I have to go out of my
  don’t believe you. (Also literal, meaning          way. 2. to make an effort to do some-
  “to continue.” Always as a command.)               thing; to endure and accept the bother of
  Go on! You don’t know what you’re talking          doing something. We went out of our
  about! Oh, go on! You’re just trying to            way to please the visitor. We appreciate
  f latter me.                                       anything you can do, but don’t go out of
go on a binge to do too much of some-                your way.
  thing. (Slang. Especially to drink too           go out of style Go to go out of fashion.
  much.) Jane went on a binge last night
  and is very sick this morning. Bill loves        go (out) on strike [for a group of people]
  to spend money on clothes. He’s out on a           to quit working at their jobs until certain
  binge right now—buying everything in               demands are met. If we don’t have a
  sight.                                             contract by noon tomorrow, we’ll go out on

go out (with someone)

  strike.    The entire work force went on       go over with a bang to succeed spectac-
  strike at noon today.                            ularly. (Informal. Compare this with go
                                                   over like a lead balloon.)    The play was
go out (with someone ) 1. to go out with           a success. It really went over with a bang.
  someone for entertainment.           The            That’s a great joke. It went over with a
  Smiths went out with the Franklins to a          bang.
  movie. Those guys don’t have much time
  to go out. 2. to go on a date with some-       go places to have a good future. (Infor-
  one; to date someone regularly. Is Bob           mal.)     Sally shows great promise as a
  still going out with Sally? No, they’ve          scholar. She’s really going to go places.
  stopped going out.                               Tom is as good as we thought. He’s cer-
                                                   tainly going places now.
go over to succeed; to be accepted.    His
  idea went over well.   How did my joke go      Go play in the traffic! Go to Take a long
  over?                                            walk off a short pier.
                                                 go right through someone [for food] to pass
go over big with someone to be very much           through and out of the body very rapidly.
  appreciated by someone. Your jokes did           (Informal. Use with caution.)         Those
  not exactly go over big with my parents.         little apples go right through me, but I love
     We hope that the musical will go over         them. I can’t eat onions. They go right
  big with the audience.                           through me.
go overboard to do too much; to be ex-           go scot-free and get off scot-free to go
  travagant. (Also literal as on a ship.)          unpunished; to be acquitted of a crime.
  Look, Sally, let’s have a nice party, but        (This scot is an old word meaning “tax”
  don’t go overboard. It doesn’t need to be        or “tax burden.”) The thief went scot-
  fancy.    Okay, you can buy a big com-           free.   Jane cheated on the test and got
  fortable car, but don’t go overboard.            caught, but she got off scot-free.
go over like a lead balloon to fail; to go       go sky-high to go very high, as with a price
  over badly. (Slang. See also go over with        or a measurement. (Informal.) Prices
  a bang.) Your joke went over like a lead         go sky-high whenever there is inf lation.
  balloon. If that play was supposed to be         Oh, it’s so hot. The temperature went sky-
  a comedy, it went over like a lead balloon.      high about noon.
     Her suggestion went over like a lead
                                                 go so far as to say something to put some-
                                                   thing into words; to risk saying some-
go over someone’s head [for the intellectual       thing. I think that Bob is dishonest, but
  content of something] to be too difficult        I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s a thief.
  for someone to understand.         All that         Red meat may be harmful, but I can’t go
  talk about computers went over my head.          so far as to say it causes cancer.
     I hope my lecture didn’t go over the stu-   go someone one better and do someone one
  dents’ heads.                                    better to do something superior to what
go over something to review or explain             someone else has done; to top someone.
  something. (Also literal.) The teacher              That was a great joke, but I can go you
  went over the lesson. Will you please go         one better. Your last song was beauti-
  over this form? I don’t understand it.           fully sung, but Mary can do you one better.
                                                 go (somewhere ) by shank’s mare to travel
go over something with a fine-tooth comb
                                                   by foot; to go somewhere on foot. The
  and search something with a fine-tooth
                                                   car wouldn’t start so I had to go to work by
  comb to search through something very
                                                   shank’s mare. We enjoy walking and go
  carefully. I can’t find my calculus book.
                                                   by shank’s mare whenever we can.
  I went over the whole place with a fine-
  tooth comb. I searched this place with         go stag to go to an event (which is meant
  a fine-tooth comb and didn’t find my ring.       for couples) without a member of the op-

                                                                                       go to bed

  posite sex. (Informal. Originally referred        have to go through channels.   If you
  only to males.)      Is Tom going to take         know the answers, why do I have to go
  you, or are you going stag? Bob didn’t            through channels?
  want to go stag, so he took his sister to the
  party.                                          go through something 1. to examine some-
                                                    thing.       Give me a day or two to go
go steady (with someone ) to date someone           through this contract, and then I’ll call you
  on a regular basis. Mary is going steady          with advice. Don’t go through it too fast.
  with John. Bill went steady for two years         Read it carefully, or you might miss some-
  before he got married.                            thing. 2. to experience something; to
go stir-crazy to become anxious because             endure something unpleasant; to get
  one is confined. (Slang. Stir is an old           through something .         It was a terrible
  criminal word for “prison.”) If I stay            thing. I don’t know how I went through it.
  around this house much longer, I’m going             It’ll take four years to go through college.
  to go stir-crazy. John left school. He said     go through the changes to experience a
  he was going stir-crazy.                          rough period in one’s life. (Slang.)
go straight to begin to obey the law; to be-        Sally’s pretty upset. She’s really going
  come law-abiding. (Also literal. Slang.           through the changes.     Most teenagers
  Primarily criminal slang.) When John              spend their time going through the
  got out of prison, he decided to go straight.     changes.
     I promised the teacher that I would go       go through the motions to make a feeble
  straight and that I would never cheat             effort to do something; to do something
  again.                                            insincerely.      Jane isn’t doing her best.
go the distance to do the whole amount;             She’s just going through the motions. Bill
  to play the entire game; to run the whole         was supposed to be raking the yard, but he
  race. (Informal. Originally sports use.)          was just going through the motions.
  That horse runs fast. I hope it can go the
                                                  go through the roof to go very high; to
  distance. This is going to be a long, hard
                                                    reach a very high degree (of something).
  project. I hope I can go the distance.
                                                    (Informal.) It’s so hot! The temperature
go the extra mile to try harder to please           is going through the roof. Mr. Brown got
  someone or to get the task done cor-              so angry he almost went through the roof.
  rectly; to do more than one is required to
  do to reach a goal. I like doing business       go through with something to decide to do
  with that company. They always go the ex-         something; to finish something.         We
  tra mile. My teacher goes the extra mile          decided to go through with the new high-
  to help us.                                       way. I can’t do it. I just can’t go through
                                                    with it.
go the limit to do as much as possible.
  (Compare this with go whole hog.)               go to any length to do whatever is neces-
  What do I want on my hamburger? Go the            sary. I’ll go to any length to secure this
  limit! Don’t hold anything back. Go the           contract. I want to get a college degree,
  limit.                                            but I won’t go to any length to get one.
go through to be approved; to succeed in          go to bat for someone to support or help
  getting through the approval process.             someone. (Informal. From baseball. See
  (See also go through something .) I sent          pinch-hit (for someone ).)    I tried to go to
  the board of directors a proposal. I hope it      bat for Bill, but he said he didn’t want any
  goes through. We all hope that the new            help. I heard them gossiping about Sally,
  law goes through.                                 so I went to bat for her.
go through channels to proceed by con-            go to bed to go to where one’s bed is, get
  sulting the proper persons or offices. (See       into it, and go to sleep. It’s time for me
  also work through channels.)        If you        to go to bed. I want to go to bed, but
  want an answer to your questions, you’ll          there is too much work to do.

go to bed (with someone)

go to bed (with someone ) Go to go all the       go to pot and go to the dogs to go to
  way (with someone ).                             ruin; to deteriorate. (Informal.)      My
                                                   whole life seems to be going to pot. My
go to bed with the chickens to go to bed           lawn is going to pot. I had better weed it.
  at sundown; to go to bed very early                 The government is going to the dogs.
  (when the chickens do). Of course I get
  enough sleep. I go to bed with the chickens.   go to rack and ruin and go to wrack and
     Mr. Brown goes to bed with the chick-         ruin to go to ruin. (The words rack and
  ens and gets up with them, too.                  wrack mean “wreckage” and are found
                                                   only in this expression.) That lovely old
go to Davy Jones’s locker to go to the bot-        house on the corner is going to go to rack
  tom of the sea. (Thought of as a nauti-          and ruin. My lawn is going to wrack and
  cal expression.) My camera fell over-            ruin.
  board and went to Davy Jones’s locker.
  My uncle was a sailor. He went to Davy         go to seed Go to run to seed.
  Jones’s locker during a terrible storm.        go to someone ’s head to make someone
go together 1. [for two things] to look,           conceited; to make someone overly
  sound, or taste good together. Do you            proud. You did a fine job, but don’t let
  think that this pink one and this purple one     it go to your head. He let his success go
  go together? Milk and grapefruit don’t           to his head, and soon he became a com-
  go together. 2. [for two people] to date         plete failure.
  each other regularly. Bob and Ann have         go to the bathroom 1. to go into a rest
  been going together for months.        Tom       room, bathroom, or toilet.        BILL:
  and Jane want to go together, but they live      Where is Bob? JANE: He went to the bath-
  too far apart.                                   room.     John went to the bathroom to
go to (hell) and go to (the devil) to be-          brush his teeth. 2. to eliminate bodily
  come ruined; to go away and stop both-           wastes through defecation and urination.
  ering (someone). (Informal. Use caution            Mommy! The dog went to the bathroom
  with hell.) This old house is just going         on the carpet! Billy’s in there going to
  to hell. It’s falling apart everywhere.          the bathroom. Don’t disturb him.
  Leave me alone! Go to the devil! Oh, go        go to (the devil) Go to go to (hell).
  to, yourself!
                                                 go to the dogs Go to go to pot.
go to hell in a handbasket to become to-
  tally worthless; to go to (hell). (Informal.   go to the expense (of doing something ) to
  Use caution with hell. Not used as a com-        pay the (large) cost of doing something.
  mand.) The whole country is going to                I hate to have to go to the expense of
  hell in a handbasket.          Look at my        painting the house. It needs to be done,
  lawn—full of weeds. It’s going to hell in a      so you’ll have to go to the expense.
  handbasket.                                    go to the lavatory to go somewhere and
go too far to do more than is acceptable.
                                                   use a toilet. Bob requested to leave the
  (Also literal.) I didn’t mind at first, but      room to go to the lavatory. Please stop
  now you’ve gone too far. If you go too           the car. I have to go to the lavatory.
  far, I’ll slap you.                            go to the limit to do as much as is possi-
                                                   ble to do. (Compare this with go the
go to pieces 1. to break into pieces; to fall
                                                   limit.)   Okay, we can’t afford it, but we’ll
  apart.     My old winter coat is going to        go to the limit. How far shall I go? Shall
  pieces. I don’t want to see a nice vase like     I go to the limit?
  that go to pieces. 2. to break out in tears;
  to break down mentally. On hearing             go to the toilet to use a toilet for defeca-
  of the death, we just went to pieces. I          tion or urination.     Jimmy washed his
  couldn’t talk about it any longer. I went to     hands after he went to the toilet. Ex-
  pieces.                                          cuse me, I have to go to the toilet.

                                                                              the going rate

go to the trouble (of doing something ) and       tually buying anything. The clerks usu-
  go to the trouble (to do something) to en-      ally go window-shopping in their lunch
  dure the bother of doing something. I           hour, looking for things to buy when they
  really don’t want to go to the trouble to       get paid. Joan said she was just going
  cook. Should I go to the trouble of cook-       window-shopping, but she bought a new
  ing something for her to eat? Don’t go          coat.
  to the trouble. She can eat a sandwich.
                                                go without (something ) to manage to get
go to the trouble (to do something ) Go to        along without something. (Compare this
  go to the trouble (of doing something ).        with do without (someone or something ).)
go to the wall to be defeated; to fail in         I went without food for three days. Some
  business. (Informal.) We really went to         people have to go without a lot longer than
  the wall on that deal.     The company          that.
  went to the wall because of that contract.    go with something 1. to go well with some-
  Now it’s broke.                                 thing. Milk doesn’t go with grapefruit.
go to town to work hard or fast. (Also lit-          Pink doesn’t go with orange. 2. to
  eral. Informal.) Look at all those ants         choose something (over something else).
  working. They are really going to town.         (Informal.) I think I’ll go with the yel-
  Come on, you guys. Let’s go to town. We         low one. We decided to go with the oak
  have to finish this job before noon.            table rather than the walnut one.
go to waste to be wasted; to be unused          go with the flow [for someone] to pro-
  (and therefore thrown away). Eat your           ceed easily and cooperatively in the same
  potatoes! Don’t let them go to waste. We        manner that other people or processes
  shouldn’t let all those nice f lowers go to     are moving. (Informal.) John is very
  waste. Let’s pick some.                         easy to get along with. He just goes with
                                                  the f low. I try to cooperate. I go with the
go to wrack and ruin Go to go to rack and         f low where possible.
                                                go wrong to fail; [for something bad] to
go under to fail.   The company was weak          happen. The project failed. I don’t know
  from the start, and it finally went under.      what went wrong. I’m afraid that every-
     Tom had a lot of trouble in school, and      thing will go wrong.
  finally he went under.
                                                goes to show you [something] serves to
go under the knife to have a surgical op-         prove a point to you. It just goes to show
  eration. (Informal.) Mary didn’t want           you that too much sugar is bad for you.
  to go under the knife, but the doctor in-       Of course you shouldn’t have married her.
  sisted. If I go under the knife, I want to      It goes to show you that your parents are
  be completely asleep.                           always right.
go up in flames and go up in smoke to           goes without saying [something] is so ob-
  burn up. The whole museum went up               vious that it need not be said. It goes
  in f lames.    My paintings—my whole            without saying that you are to wear formal
  life’s work—went up in f lames. What a          clothing to dinner each evening.        Of
  shame for all that to go up in smoke.           course. That goes without saying.
go up in smoke Go to go up in flames.           the going the condition of a path of travel
go whole hog to do everything possible; to        or progress.      The going was rough
  be extravagant. (Informal. Compare this         through the mountains. I decided to sell
  with go the limit.) Let’s go whole hog.         my stock while the going was still good.
  Order steak and lobster. Show some re-
                                                the going rate the current rate.        The
  straint. Don’t go whole hog all the time.
                                                  going interest rate for your account is 10
go window-shopping to go about look-              percent. Our babysitter charges us the
  ing at goods in store windows without ac-       going rate.

a gold mine of information

a gold mine of information someone or            good enough for someone or something ade-
  something that is full of information.           quate for someone or something. This
  Grandfather is a gold mine of information        seat is good enough for me. I don’t want
  about World War I. The new encyclo-              to move. I’m happy. It’s good enough for
  pedia is a positive gold mine of useful          me. That table is good enough for my
  information.                                     office.
gone but not forgotten gone or dead but          good-for-nothing 1. worthless.           Here
  still remembered.         The good days we       comes that good-for-nothing boy now.
  used to have together are gone, but not for-     Where is that good-for-nothing pen of
  gotten. Uncle Harry is gone but not for-         mine? 2. a worthless person. Tell that
  gotten. The stain where he spilled the wine      good-for-nothing to go home at once.
  is still visible in the parlor carpet.           Bob can’t get a job. He’s such a good-for-
gone goose someone or something that
  has departed or run away. Surely, the          the good old days back in an earlier time,
  burglar is a gone goose by now.   The            which everyone remembers as a better
  child was a gone goose, and we did not           time, even if it really wasn’t. Back in
  know where to look for him.                      the good old days, during WWII, they used
                                                   real cactus needles in record players. The
gone on died. (Euphemistic.)      My hus-          good old days didn’t start until they had
  band, Tom—he’s gone on, you know—was             indoor bathrooms.
  a great one for golf.  Let us remember         good riddance (to bad rubbish) [it is]
  those who have gone on before.                   good to be rid (of worthless persons or
gone to meet one’s Maker died. (Eu-                things). She slammed the door behind
  phemistic.) Poor old Bob has gone to             me and said, “Good riddance to bad rub-
  meet his Maker.     After a long illness,        bish!” “Good riddance to you, madam,”
  Reggie went to meet his Maker.                   thought I.
gone with the wind gone; mysteriously            good to go all ready to go; all checked and
  gone. (A phrase made famous by the               pronounced ready to go. I’ve checked
  Margaret Mitchell novel and film Gone            everything and we are good to go. Every-
  with the Wind. The phrase is used to             thing’s good to go and we will start
  make gone have a stronger force.)                immediately.
  Everything we worked for was gone with         goof off to waste time. (Informal or slang.)
  the wind. Jean was nowhere to be found.             John is always goofing off. Quit goof-
  She was gone with the wind.                      ing off and get to work!
a goner dead or finished; as good as dead        the gospel truth [of truth] undeniable.
  or nearly dead. (Informal. Preceded by           The witness swore he was telling the gospel
  be, become, seem like, or act like.) The         truth. I told my parents the gospel truth
  boy brought the sick fish back to the pet        about how the vase broke.
  store to get his money back. “This one is a    grab a bite (to eat) to get something to
  goner,” he said. John thought he was a           eat; to get food that can be eaten quickly.
  goner when his parachute didn’t open.            (Not usually done by grabbing.) I need
good and something very something. (The            a few minutes to grab a bite to eat. Bob
  something can be ready, mad, tired, worn-        often tries to grab a bite between meetings.
  out, etc.) Now I’m good and mad, and           grace someone or something with one’s pres-
  I’m going to fight back.    I’ll be there        ence to honor someone or something
  when I’m good and ready. He’ll go to             with one’s presence. “How nice of you
  bed when he’s good and tired.                    to grace us with your presence,” Mr. Wil-
good as done Go to (as) good as done.              son told Mary sarcastically as she entered
                                                   the classroom late.    The banquet was
good as gold Go to (as) good as gold.              graced with the presence of the governor.

                                                       groan under the burden of something

graced with something made elegant by              the greatest thing since sliced bread the
  means of some ornament or decoration.              best thing there ever was. (Usually sar-
      The altar was graced with lovely white         castic.)     To hear her talk, you would
  f lowers. The end of the beautiful day             think she had found the greatest thing since
  was graced with a beautiful sunset.                sliced bread. Todd thinks he is the great-
                                                     est thing since sliced bread.
graceful as a swan Go to (as) graceful as
  a swan.                                          Greek to me Go to (all) Greek to me.

a grain of truth even the smallest amount          green around the gills Go to pale around
  of truth. The attorney was unable to               the gills.
  find a grain of truth in the defendant’s tes-    green with envy envious; jealous.     When
  timony. If there were a grain of truth             Sally saw me with Tom, she turned green
  to your statement, I would trust you.              with envy. She likes him a lot.      I feel
                                                     green with envy whenever I see you in your
grasp at straws to depend on something
                                                     new car.
  that is useless; to make a futile attempt
  at something. John couldn’t answer the           grin and bear it to endure something un-
  teacher’s question. He was just grasping at        pleasant in good humor. There is noth-
  straws. There I was, grasping at straws,           ing you can do but grin and bear it. I
  with no one to help me.                            hate having to work for rude people. I guess
                                                     I have to grin and bear it.
grate on someone (‘s nerves) to annoy
  someone; to bother someone. My ob-               grind to a halt to slow to a stop; to run
  noxious brother is grating on my nerves.           down. By the end of the day, the factory
  Your whining really grates on me.                  had ground to a halt. The car ground
                                                     to a halt, and we got out to stretch our legs.
gray area an area of a subject or question
                                                   grip someone’s attention to attract and hold
  that is difficult to put into a particular
  category because it is not clearly defined         someone’s attention. The scary movie
  and may have connections or associations           gripped my attention.       The professor’s
  with more than one category. The re-               interesting lecture gripped the attention of
  sponsibility for social studies in the college     all the students.
  is a gray area. Several departments are in-      grist for someone ’s mill something that can
  volved. Publicity is a gray area in that           be put to good use or that can bring ad-
  firm. It is shared between the marketing           vantage or profit. Some of the jobs that
  and design divisions.                              we are offered are more interesting than
                                                     others, but each one is grist for my mill.
gray matter intelligence; brains; power of              The company is having to sell some
  thought. (Brain tissue is grayish in color.)       tacky-looking dresses, but they are grist for
     Use your gray matter and think what             their mill and keep the company in
  will happen if the committee resigns.              business.
  Surely they’ll come up with an acceptable
  solution if they use a bit of gray matter.       grit one’s teeth to grind one’s teeth together
                                                     in anger or determination.      I was so
grease someone ’s palm and oil someone ’s            mad, all I could do was stand there and
  palm to bribe someone. (Slang.) If you             grit my teeth. All through the race, Sally
  want to get something done around here,            was gritting her teeth. She was really
  you have to grease someone’s palm. I’d             determined.
  never oil a police officer’s palm. That’s
  illegal.                                         groan under the burden of something to
                                                     suffer under the burden or domination of
a great deal much; a lot. You ca