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Tighten the Screws On (Someone)


What does the idiom “tighten the screws on” mean?

Definition: Increase the pressure on (someone)

Example: Japanese prosecutors are tightening the screws on Carlos Ghosn by charging him with tax evasion.

Death by a Thousand Cuts


What does the idiom “death by a thousand cuts” mean?

Definition: an effort or person that fails because of many small problems rather than one big disaster

Example: The Sears retail chain is suffering death by a thousand cuts—as recently as 2012 it was profitable, but since then they’ve had various difficulties.

Note: Thought to have referred originally to an ancient Chinese torture technique

Happy as a Clam


What does the expression “happy as a clam” mean?

Definition: completely contented

Example: My little son likes puzzles. Give him a big jigsaw puzzle, and he’ll be happy as a clam for hours.

Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They’re Hatched (They Hatch)


What does the idiom “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” mean?

Definition: Don’t count on gains before they have actually occurred

Example: “I’ll be getting a bonus, so we can plan our vacation!” —”Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. You may or may not get a bonus.”

Dead Center (Dead Centre)


What does the expression “dead center” mean?

Definition: the exact center, in the exact centre

Example: In Adams County, our town is dead center.

Note: The “centre” spelling is British.

The Sky’s the Limit


What does the idiom “the sky’s the limit” mean?

Definition: (The person under discussion) can accomplish anything.

Example: There’s so much demand for real estate in that part of the city right now that if we invest there, the sky’s the limit.