Come up for air, other meanings of

Posted by P on December 01, 2001

In Reply to: Come up for air, other meanings of posted by Denis on November 29, 2001

: Dictionaries define "come up for air" as 'to have rest.' Has anybody seen it used in other meanings, e.g. 'come to the surface, become visible'?

Well, no. The significant point to understand is that "come up for air" is a metaphor. When an animal holds its breath underwater it absolutely needs to come to the surface to get air to breathe. It may want to keep on fishing underwater or whatever, but after a certain amount of underwater activity in needs to get oxygen, and the only way to do it is to come to the surface, or it will die. So the 'rest' meaning is just saying that rather than keep on doing something that you really want to do, it may be better to have a break, go for a walk, or whatever, and then come back to it later.

If someone used the metaphor "come up for air" to mean 'come to the surface' or 'become visible', they would simply be missing the point of metaphor.

'Come up for air' also does not literally mean "come to the surface" or "become visible". A dead fish may come to the surface, but its not coming up for air, its just dead!