A striking headline from The Daily Beast got me thinking about all the expressions that make use of the noun belt:
The Rustbelt Roars Back From the Dead
I thought a post about belt idioms might be especially useful to ESL speakers.
A belt is a strip of flexible material, such as leather, plastic, cloth, used with or without a buckle for wear (usually) around the waist. Some idioms are based on a belt’s narrow shape, like the following epithets for different sections of the United States.
This term refers to the region in the north-central Midwest of the United States where corn (maize) and corn-fed livestock are raised. The Corn Belt extends from western Ohio to eastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas.
This is the region of the South and Southwestern sections of the United States where much cotton is grown.
Regions in the Midwest and Northeast that were once centers of manufacturing but which have become the sites of obsolete, abandoned factories are collectively known as the Rust Belt.
Sections of the United States, especially in the South and in Middle West, where many residents hold fundamentalist religious beliefs, has long been referred to as the Bible Belt. The AP Stylebook warns journalists to use the term with care “because in certain contexts it can give offense.”
Those states in the South and West, ranging from Florida and Georgia through the Gulf states into California are often referred to as the Sun Belt.
Other belt idioms are based on the use of the belt as an article of clothing.
to tighten one’s belt
The meaning is “to spend less money.” A person who must spend less money on groceries may be forced to eat less and lose weight as a result. Losing weight makes it possible to fasten a belt more tightly.
Example: Just as families and businesses across the nation have tightened their belts, so must the federal government.
to get something under your belt
This means “to complete some endeavor seen as necessary.”
Example: Aled Davies has his first Grand Prix under his belt.
to hit below the belt
The meaning is “to take unfair advantage of someone.” In boxing, striking an opponent below the belt is against the rules.
Example: Sarkozy hits below the belt as race for Elysée hots up
a belt and braces approach (British)
a belt and suspenders approach (American)
This refers to a way of doing things that involves more than the usual amount of caution. Either a belt or a pair of braces or suspenders is sufficient to hold up one’s trousers. Using both is excessive.
Example: The combination of these factors—change in key staff and rapid growth—meant that there needed to be a “belt and braces” approach to quality management and staffing.
Constitutional protections seem to represent a belt and suspenders approach.
put a notch on one’s belt
This idiom can mean “to defeat an opponent” or t”o add something to a collection.” According to the lore of the Old West, every time a gunfighter killed a man, he cut a notch on his gun handle or along the edge of his gun belt.
Example: For DeMint, the Moran victory is another notch on the belt.