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Breaking the mould

Posted by TheFallen on March 13, 2003

In Reply to: Breaking the mould posted by Kerry Sanchez on March 13, 2003

: my Mum used to use the term to describe a child that looked like a parent or siblings that looked like each other. It woul make more sense if it was to describe a child or sibling that didn't look like a family member.

: "they broke the mould when they made that one"

: does anybody have any idea where this came from or what is the correct meaning?

If that was the way that your mother used the phrase, then I'm afraid that she used it incorrectly. The expression comes from manufacturing, and probably from casting, where moulds are created to shape molten metal into repeated identical form. If something "breaks the mould" during its creation, then it is free to form itself into an unexpected or new shape, not similar in any way to its predecessors. This is not necessarily always a bad thing - eg "a method of scientific investigation that broke the mould and led to a new discovery".

However the expression can also used with a post-creation intent, where you're worried, displeased or concerned about whatever it is that you've created, and so you claim you've "broken the mould", thus ensuring that another identical thing cannot be created.