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Re: Meanings of phrases

Posted by Masakim on February 07, 2002

In Reply to: Meanings of phrases posted by Ishita Mehta on February 07, 2002

: Can some one please help me with the meaning of the following phrases ? Thank you

: all thumbs
: hat in hand
: twiddling your thumbs
: hanging by one's fingurenails
: hand in hand
: by hand
: hands down
: all hands on deck

: Thank you

From _The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms_ by Christine Ammer:

all thumbs Physically awkward, especially with respect to the hands, as in "When it comes to knitting, Mary is all thumbs." The notion of this idiom derives from a proverb in John Heywood's collection of 1546: "When he should get aught, each finger is a thumb."

hat in hand Also, cap in hand. In a humble manner. For example, "They went to her, hat in hand, asking for a change of assignment." This expression alludes to removing one's headgear as a sign of respect and has survived the era of doffing one's hat. [c. 1700]

twiddle one's thumbs Be bored or idle, as in "There I sat for three hours, twiddling my thumbs, while he made call after call." This expression alludes to the habit of idly turning one's thumbs about one another during a period of inactivity. [Mid-1800s]

hand in hand In cooperation, jointly, as in "Industrial growth and urbanization often go hand in hand." This phrase, often put as go hand in hand with, was first recorded in 1576.

by hand With a hand or hands, manually (as opposed to a machine or some other means). For example, "This letter was delivered by hand," or "You can make these drawings by hand, but computer graphics are more efficient." [Mid-1500s]

hands down 1. Also, in a breeze; in a walk. Easily, without effort, as in "She won the election hands down", or "They won in a breeze, 10-0," or "The top players get through the first rounds of the tournament in a walk." All of these expressions originated in sports. Hands down, dating from the mid-1800s, comes from horse racing, where jockeys drop their hands downward and relax their hold when they are sure to win. In a breeze, first recorded in a baseball magazine in 1910, alludes to the rapid and easy passage of moving air; in a walk, also from baseball, alludes to taking a base on balls, that is, reaching first base without having hit a pitched ball because of the pitcher's mistakes. 2. Unquestionably, without a doubt, as in "Hands down, it was the best thing I've ever done."

on deck 1. Available, ready for action, as in "We had ten kids on deck to clean up after the dance." [Slang; second half of 1800s] 2. In baseball, scheduled to bat next, waiting near home plate to bat, as in "Joe was on deck next." [1860s] Both usages allude to crew members being on the deck of a ship, in readiness to perform their duties.

The second Mate, followed by German Charlie the cook-steward, came up the companionway to the poop as the cry was taken up forward, "All hands on deck!" (J.G. Bisset, Sail Ho!, 1958)

From _Longman Dictionary of English Idioms_ :

Hold/hang on (to) by one's gingernails/fingertips/teeth not fml to make a determined effort to keep one's position, e.ge. in one's job, an activity or situation, etc.: "this country has not been pushed out of the business of building aircraft yet. It's still holding on by its fingernails."