Posted by R. Berg on September 06, 2005
In Reply to: Holding on by a thread posted by j on September 05, 2005
: : : Hello! New Orleans Mayor said "The people of our city are holding on by a thread". I have never come across this expression. Does it mean the people are in a very difficult situation?
: : 'Hanging on by a thread' would, I think, be more common this (the Eastern) side of the Atlantic. I have always assumed the allusion is to a rope which has frayed until there is only a single thread still intact. A perilous situation.
: : DFG
: Perhaps connected to "The sword of Damocles" ?
"Hanging (not "holding") on by a thread" is pretty common west of the Atlantic. The hanging/holding difference is slight enough that US speakers would have understood the mayor.
~rb in US