loose cannon meaning
- somebody whose activities are uncommon and out of control
- an uncontrolled person who can cause unintentional damage
- someone who behaves in an unexpected and uncontrolled way and is liable to cause problems
- He was a loose cannon and could not be risked in front of the press.
- I don’t think he’s just a loose cannon, sometimes he really makes sense.
- The candidate turned out to be a loose cannon, and most of the voters could not place their trust on him.
- He was considered to be a loose cannon due to his volatile temper.
- They did not share any secrets with him since he was seen as being something of a loose cannon.
- He is a loose cannon and would not be a good choice for a leader.
The phrase refers to cannons carried by wooden warships in the 17th to 19th century as their primary weapons.
In order to avoid the enormous recoil when fired, these cannons were mounted on rollers and secured with ropes. A cannon that was not thus restrained was called a loose cannon and was considered dangerous.
The phrase first appeared in French in Victor Hugo’s novel “Ninety Three” in 1874. Henry Kingsley’s novel “Number Seventeen” in 1875 refers to Hugo’s phrase and is the first usage in English. Both these citations were in the literal form. The earliest figurative use is from The Galveston Daily News in December 1889.
like a chicken with its head cut off
- act in a frenzied manner
- behave in a distracted, crazy way
- in a frantic and disorganized manner
- be in a frenzy
- act in a haphazard or aimless way
- not be in control
- Does he know how to handle the situation? He has been running around all morning like a chicken with its head cut off.
- He ran around the place looking for his missing bags like a chicken with its head cut off.
- When she realized that the child was not with her, she ran around looking for him like a chicken with its head cut off.
- He does not know what to do. He has been running around like a chicken with its head cut off all day.
- When he realized that he was being removed from his position, he started running around the building like a chicken with its head cut off.
- When he lost the match, he ran all over the ground like a chicken with its head cut off, venting his anger on anything he could get hold of.
This phrase literally refers to to decapitated chicken or poultry, which have been known to twitch and even stagger around for a few minutes after having their heads cut off. It was known in the USA by the late 19th century, with an early print recording being in July, 18802 from The Atlanta Constitution.
level playing field
- a situation that is fair to everyone
- where everyone gets the same opportunity
- a situation where everyone has an equal and fair chance of succeeding
- a fair competition, where no advantage is shown to one side
- These set of rules would provide a level playing field to all the competitors and all would have a fair chance of succeeding.
- The politician said in his speech that he wanted to provide for a level playing field to the downtrodden and marginalized sections of the society.
- Even today, women don’t have a level playing field in terms of opportunities to excel and succeed.
- It’s no use competing in that market; you don’t have a level playing field.
- If we start off with a level playing field, everyone would have an equal chance of succeeding.
- Since we don’t have a level playing field, we have to put in extra efforts in order to do well.
This phrase alludes to the fairness required in field games where a slope would clearly be an advantage for one side, for example, football and rugby. Figuratively, it has been used since the late 1900s, with the oldest record found being in 1977 from the Tyrone Daily Herald.
lend me your ear
also lend an ear
- ask for someone’s full attention
- listen to someone carefully
- pay attention to what someone is saying
- listen to someone with understanding
- Lend me your ear and I will tell you about my adventures in the mountains.
- Lend an ear to what I am saying; you might need to know all this when you start working on your project.
- When she was going through tough times, he lent a sympathetic ear to her troubles.
- Stuart lent an ear to the representatives of the worker’s body to understand their problems.
- Could you please lend me your ear for a minute? I need to tell you something really important.
- What I am going to say next is very important for your future with this company. I ask all of you to please lend me your ears for the next few minutes.
- Tracey was a very nice and caring person and would always lend an ear to everyone’s problems.
- Lend me an ear, will you? I need to make sure that you understand what I am saying.
The phrase is first used in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, where Mark Anthony says “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears”.
last but not least
- someone or something that is last in sequence, but not less in importance
- important, despite being mentioned at the end
- emphasizing that the item mentioned last in a list is equal in importance to the others
- as important as other in spite of being listed last
- After the success of his first book, the author thanked his publisher, editor, and, last but not the least, his family.
- That is the best restaurant in town because it has terrific food, a lovely ambiance, and, last but not the least, a great staff.
- Presenting the final speaker at the conference, the host said “And last but not the least, I would like to call upon Mr Smith to express his views.”
- Last but not the least, the final participant at the event came on to showcase his skills.
- At the end of his speech, he concluded by saying “and last but not the least, I thank you, my audience, for having patiently sat through my speech.”
- The new mall has some great stores, good places to eat, and, last but not the least, ample parking space.
The phrase is best known for its use in theatre. The last actor to be introduced was mentioned as being the “last, but the least.” Also it was a common practice to introduce the star of the theatre last. The exact origin is uncertain, but the earleast print reference can be found in John Lyly’s “Euphues and His England” in 1580.
knock on wood
or touch wood
- tap knuckle on wood in order to avoid bad luck
- said when you want good luck or a good situation to continue
- said when expressing hope for something to occur
- I am expecting a promotion and a big pay hike this year, touch wood.
- The team I support has been winning every game so far, knock on wood.
- We have had a great week so far and, touch wood, we will end it on a high note.
- We expect to close the deal by the end of this week, knock on wood.
- We have had a smooth journey so far, touch wood.
- Our new venture has got off to a great start and touch wood, we’ll be doing good business by the end of the year.
- Your health seems to be improving, knock on wood.
The phrase originated based on a superstition that knocking or touching wood will ward off evil spirits. Wood and trees have an association with good spirits in mythology. It was considered good luck to tap trees to let the good spirits know that you were there. The British version of the phrase is “touch wood”, while the American version is “knock on wood.” The phrase originated in Latin (absit omen) in the early 17th century, and came into English (British version touch wood) by 1850. The American version knock on wood was known from the early 20th century.
knee jerk reaction
- an automatic response to something
- an immediate reaction made without thinking
- a reflex reaction
- an instant reaction made without examining causes or facts
- a spontaneous and involuntary reaction
- It was a typical knee jerk reaction. He said no immediately without considering our proposal.
- In a knee jerk reaction after the big defeat, the coach dropped many of the players and fielded a new look team for the next match.
- We want to avoid a knee jerk reaction to this crisis, so we will have to sit down and plan our next course of action.
- Her remark was probably a knee jerk reaction to your comments, which were not very flattering.
- The actions of the police were a knee jerk reaction to the sudden rise in crime in the city.
- In a knee jerk reaction to the increase in costs, the company decided to shut down some of its operations.
- Megan was so afraid of the horror movie that she denied to recognise her father on phone call in a knee jerk reaction.
This phrase refers to the actual physical tendency of the knee to jerk involuntarily when when hit sharply just below the kneecap. Scientifically, this is called the patellar reflex. The phrase began to be used figuratively from the early 20th century onwards. An early reference is found in O. O. McIntyre’s column New York Day-By-Day in The Coshocton Tribune in October 1921.
keep body and soul together
- manage to stay alive with very little money
- earn barely enough to keep you alive
- just be able to pay for the basic necessities of life – food, clothing and a place to live
- to survive or exist, especially in difficult circumstances
- When he first came to the city, he earned barely enough to keep body and soul together.
- John said he would not be able to keep body and soul together on the salary he was being offered by that company.
- Artists and writers often do not earn enough to be able to keep body and soul together. They need a second job to sustain themselves.
- With rising costs and dwindling income, she had to take up two jobs to keep body and soul together.
- Those workers worked long hours in toxic conditions just to be able to keep body and soul together.
- He did not earn enough from his job to keep body and soul together, so he took up a small side business in order to supplement his income.
This phrase alludes to the belief that the soul gives life to the body and life continues as long as the soul inhabits the body. It has been used since the early 1700s.
it’s anyone’s call
- a competition where the outcome is difficult to predict or judge
- a situation where all possible outcomes are equally likely
- I think this year’s election would be anyone’s call. Both the candidates seem to have an equally divided support base.
- The fight between the two boxing champions could be anyone’s call. Both the boxers are equally matched.
- I guess its anyone’s call on who would win tonight’s game. Both the teams have been performing well and are in the form of their lives.
- “Who do you think will win the race today?” “Well, its anyone’s call, really.”
- Its anyone’s call on which way the results will go. Either way, we have to be prepared for the next step.
- At the halfway stage of the big match, it was anyone’s call on who would win. Both were playing well and were evenly placed.
The phrase most likely originated in sports where a referee had to “make a call”, or take a decision. When there was a close situation and a decision was difficult to make, it was referred to as “anyone’s call”, implying that no one’s information was better than any other person’s.
in your face
- a bold, defiant or aggressive manner
- aggressive or confrontational
- direct and forceful
- shocking or annoying in a manner difficult to ignore
- Unable to tolerate Jack’s in your face attitude anymore, his boss fired him from the job.
- That was a very in your face advertisement they showed last night on TV which made some very bold statements.
- Mark is just an in your face sort of a person and sometimes talks rough. He really means no harm.
- “In your faces, kids” shouted the footballer to his opponents after having scored his third goal of the match.
- It was going to be a high profile fight by the two boxers and was marked by in your face comments from either side before it began.
- No one liked him because he was always in your face and seemed to be at war with the world.
- Her performance yesterday at the dance show was very aggressive and in your face. Not many would have liked it.
- His defiant and in your face nature was a result of his difficult childhood.
The phrase originated in the USA around the 1970s and most of the early uses related to confrontation in sports. The phrase became popular outside of sports around the 1980s.