Vocabulary Quiz #4: Idiomatic Expressions
Each of these sentences includes an erroneous version of an idiomatic expression based on misunderstanding of the phrase’s meaning. Revise each sentence by using the expression’s standard form.
1. His resignation played a factor in the controversy.
2. She’s simply grasping for straws.
3. His compliment was a real boost in the arm for my confidence.
4. With all do respect, I disagree.
5. That description fits you to a tee.
Answers and Explanations
Original: His resignation played a factor in the controversy.
Correct : His resignation was a factor in the controversy.
Alterna.: His resignation played a role in the controversy.
An action can play a role regarding another action, or it can be a factor, but “played a factor” is a mixed metaphor.
Original: She’s simply grasping for straws.
Correct : She’s simply grasping at straws.
This expression means that one is making a desperate attempt as if trying to get a hold on something substantial but ending up with only straws in one’s hands, not that one is trying to get a hold on straws.
Original: His compliment was a real boost in the arm for my confidence.
Correct : His compliment was a real shot in the arm for my confidence.
One can get a boost from a shot in the arm (if the injection provides energy), but “boost in the arm” doesn’t make sense.
Original: With all do respect, I disagree.
Correct : With all due respect, I disagree.
This expression refers to respect that is due, not “doing” respect, in the sense of demonstrating it.
Original: That description fits you to a tee.
Correct : That description fits you to a T.
This expression, whose origin is uncertain, refers to the letter T (or perhaps something with that shape), not to the spike on which a golf ball is placed or anything else spelled tee.
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