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You crossed the line

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 20, 2010 at 04:48

In Reply to: You crossed the line posted by Victoria S Dennis on February 17, 2010 at 19:07:

: : 'You crossed the line' - does anybody know where this originated from please?

: From the metaphor contained in the phrase "draw a line in the sand", for which see here. (VSD)

May I humbly disagree about the connection between "You crossed the line" and "line in the sand." The line in the sand has to be drawn, either physically or so plainly and specifically that it might as well be literally drawn. However, one may cross the line of a social convention without anyone ever having drawn such a line. If you've gone too far (as I have often done), it doesn't mean that you've disobeyed a specific injunction. More likely, there is an unspoken, and sometimes flexible, understanding of what constitutes going too far, or crossing the line.

It's true that one may cross a line in the sand, and one may also cross the fine line that exists between the acceptable and the unacceptable. Such "fine lines" are not very often to be found in written rules and by-laws, but are determined case by case, by fallible human judgment.

If you tell someone that they have crossed the line, it's very unlikely to be a line drawn in the sand. It's more likely to mean that they have passed from the acceptable to the unacceptable, possibly crossing a "fine line" in the process.