Wednesday 3 October 2007

Phrase of the Day 150: 'out on a limb'

"to go out on a limb"

definition: to put oneself in an isolated or disadvantaged position in one's support of someone or something.

origin: The clear allusion in this phrase is to climbing trees. All of us must remember that feeling of not wanting to go further out to reach that apple/ball or whatever for fear that the branch (limb) would break under us. The first uses of it in a figurative sense, with no reference to actual trees or climbing, come from the USA at the end of the 19th century. For example, the Steubenville Daily Herald, October 1895:
"We can carry the legislature like hanging out a washing. The heft [main part] of the fight will be in Hamilton country. If we get the 14 votes of Hamilton we've got 'em out on a limb. All we've got to do then is shake it or saw it off."

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