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These adjectives mean exceeding a normal, usual, reasonable, or proper limit. Excessive has the widest range: excessive drinking; excessive debt. Immoderate and intemperate denote a lack of due moderation or restraint: immoderate political views; intemperate personal remarks. Inordinate adds to these words a sense of going beyond what is proper or deserved: inordinate self-regard; took an inordinate time to reply. Extravagant sometimes specifies lavish or unwise expenditure (extravagant gifts); often it implies overstepping the bounds of reason or prudence (extravagant claims; extravagant speculation in the stock market). Extreme suggests going far beyond what is normal, desirable, or generally acceptable: an extreme diet; an extreme ideology.
baker’s dozen Thirteen; a dozen plus one. Bakers at one time reputedly gave an extra roll for every dozen sold in order to avoid the heavy fines levied against those who short-changed their customers by selling lightweight bread. The phrase appeared in the early 17th century in Tu Quoque by John Cooke.
barnburner See ZEALOUSNESS.
break a butterfly on a wheel To employ a degree of force or energy disproportionate to the needs of a situation; to overkill. The wheel was formerly an instrument of torture upon which a criminal was stretched and beaten to death. Considering the fragile nature of a butterfly, the analogy is self-evident. The phrase appears in Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot:
Satire or sense, alas! can Sporus feel?
Who breaks a butterfly upon the wheel?
die for want of lobster sauce To die or suffer greatly on account of some minor disappointment, irritation, or disgrace. This expression is said to have had its origins in a sumptuous banquet given by Louis II de Bourbon (the great Condé) for Louis XIV at Chantilly. Legend has it that when the chef was informed that the lobsters which he had intended to make into a sauce had not been delivered in time for the feast, he was so overcome with humiliation that he committed suicide by running upon his sword.
drug on the market A commodity which is no longer in demand; anything which is so readily available that it tends to be taken for granted or undervalued; a glut on the market. Drug alone was used as early as the 1600s; in the market was introduced in the 1700s. The phrase “a drug in the market of literature” appeared in Thomas Walter’s A Choice Dialogue Between John Faustus, A Conjurer, and Jack Tory his Friend (1720). Today drug on the market is more frequently heard. Perhaps this expression derives from the fact that drugs induce a dulling effect similar to that caused by too much of anything—in other words, by any type of overindulgence.
enough [something] to choke Caligula’s horse A lot, a great deal, plenty, more than enough. Caligula, Roman emperor from 37-41 A.D., was thought to be insane because of his extravagant claims, his wholesale murdering and banishment of his subjects, and his wild, foolish spending. It is perhaps in reference to this last quality that the expression enough [something] to choke Caligula’s horse arose. There is, however, no evidence to substantiate this theory, and no theory at all regarding the rest of the phrase.
gingerbread Garish or tasteless ornamentation; superfluous embellishments. This term is derived from the ornate decorations a baker uses to adorn a gingerbread house. Figuratively, gingerbread describes excessive or tacky furnishings and decorations.
Some people would have crammed it full of gingerbread upholstery, all gilt and gaudy. (Lisle Carr, Judith Gwynne, 1874)
go overboard To go to great extremes; to express either overwhelming opposition to or support for a person or cause. One who shifts all his weight to one side of a small boat may literally go overboard. Likewise, one who radically directs all his energies toward one thing figuratively “goes overboard.” This very common phrase as used by Dwight MacDonald is cited in Webster’s Third:
… went overboard for heroes and heroines who don’t seem so heroic today.
out Herod Herod See OUTDOING.
overshoot the mark To exceed or go beyond prescribed limits; to be off base, irrelevant, or inappropriate. Literally, a missile or other projectile “overshoots the mark” when it misses its target by going above or beyond it. Figuratively, this expression is said of any attempt or idea which errs on the side of excess. Such use dates from the late 16th century.
The greatest fault of a penetrating wit is not coming short of the mark but overshooting it. (The English Theophrastus, 1702)
paint the lily To adorn or embellish an already beautiful object, thereby destroying its delicate balance and rendering it gaudy and overdone; to detract from the natural, full beauty of an object by trying to add ornamentation where none is required. This expression derives from Lord Salisbury’s speech in Shakespeare’s King John:
Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful, and ridiculous excess. (IV, ii)
Gild the lily is actually more familiar to most people, although few are aware that it is a corruption of gild refined gold and paint the lily.
run into the ground To overdo, to continue beyond a period of effectiveness to the point of counter-productivity; to beat to death. The expression frequently appears in contexts dealing with argument or with utilization of material objects. One runs a topic into the ground when he undermines a point already effectively made because his persistence and long-windedness antagonize his listeners. Objects are “run into the ground” when a user wrings the last ounce of service from them. In either case, what is “run into the ground” is effectively buried.
sow one’s wild oats Indulge in excesses during one’s youth; behave in a profligate manner. The origin of this expression is obscure, but it may have reference to the Biblical “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galations 6:7), with the implicit warning against irresponsible behavior, wild oats being utterly useless.
We meane that wilfull and unruly age, which lacketh rypeness and discretion, and (as wee saye) hath not sowed all theyre wyeld Oates. (Touchstone of Complexions, 1576)
tempest in a teapot A great commotion, disturbance, or hubbub over a relatively insignificant matter; excessive agitation or turmoil caused by something of trifling importance. This expression and variations thereof have been common at least since the time of Cicero (106-43 B.c.), as evidenced in De Legibus:
Gratidius raised a tempest in a ladle, as the saying is.
The implication, of course, is that something as small as a teapot (or ladle) is hardly an appropriate place for a tempest ‘violent or stormy disturbance.’
What a ridiculous tea-pot tempest. (Peterson Magazine, January, 1896)
Common variations are tempest in a teacup and storm in a teacup.
M. Renan’s visit … to his birthplace in Brittany has raised a storm in the clerical teacup. (Pall Mall Gazette, September 19, 1884)
throw out the baby with the bath water To reject the essential or valuable along with the unimportant or superfluous. This graphic expression appeared in print by the turn of the century. It is frequently used in reference to proposals calling for significant change, such as political and social reforms or large-scale bureaucratic reorganization.
Like all reactionists, he usually empties the baby out with the bath. (George Bernard Shaw, Pen Portraits and Reviews, 1909)
|Noun||1.||excessiveness - immoderation as a consequence of going beyond sufficient or permitted limits|
extravagance, extravagancy - the quality of exceeding the appropriate limits of decorum or probability or truth; "we were surprised by the extravagance of his description"