When push comes to shove

Posted by Bob on December 09, 1999

In Reply to: When push comes to shove posted by HJR on December 09, 1999

: : :
: : : : What does "when push comes to shove" mean?

: : I always thought it meant that you need to be alert and more aware of a certain situation when things change and to possibly expect different reactions.
: : For instance:
: : Let's say you are at work and your team is doing very well working on a project together. Everyone is pleasant and things are going along just fine. Then, all of a sudden, upper management changes the parameters of the project, moving the due date much closer than your team had expected. Some team members can very easily adapt to the change and some can not. So in the future when the stress hits again, you will know which of your team members you can depend upon when "when push comes to shove".

: My spin on this is a bit different than the first definition and I think the second entry is an example rather than a definition, but, here's my shot. "Push comes to shove" is the use of a physically challenging situation to exemplify any situation where a yellow light status goes to red. This being called "the crunch" by many people. "When push comes to shove" indicates a time when whatever has been going on has just gone up a notch.

It's how a barroom brawl starts: somebody looks at someone the wrong way, and a nasty comment is made. Then an (escalating) reply. Then the two testosterone-soaked oafs stand up, face each other, puffing out their chests in an ancient ritual of male territorial dominance. But will it escalate further? Who's macho enough to carry out the threat when it goes two steps farther... when push comes to shove.