Also found in: Thesaurus, Legal.
any port in a storm Any refuge in a difficulty; any recourse in an emergency. The nautical meaning of this expression has given way to its figurative use, which implies that pressure limits choice, forcing one to abandon plans, principles, or standards.
Band-aid treatment See FLIMSINESS.
by hook or by crook By any means necessary—direct or indirect, right or wrong, fair or foul. Most of the stories invented to explain the origin of this phrase are not plausible because of chronological inconsistencies; however, one recurring story stands out as being more convincing. Apparently, there was an ancient forestal custom giving manorial tenants the right to take as much firewood as could be reached by a crook and cut with a billhook. Various sources state that this “right” appears in old records: “a right, with hook and crook, to lop, crop, and carry away fuel.” However, the following citation from the late 14th century seems to be the earliest recorded use of the phrase and may predate the “forestal right” story.
So what with hepe and what with croke
They [false Witness and Perjury] make her maister ofte winne. (John Gower, Confessio Amantis, 1390)
catch-as-catch-can See UNRESTRAINT.
cut corners To take the shortest, most convenient route; to do something in the quickest, easiest way possible; to choose a particular course of action in the hopes of saving time, money, or effort. This expression is used almost literally when describing driving habits.
The careless driver … cuts corners or tries to pass another car at the top of a hill. (Kansas City Times, November 7, 1931)
Figuratively, cut corners often refers to any effort or behavior which represents a compromise for the sake of expediency, often without regard for quality or sincerity.
He could cut a sharp corner without letting it bother his conscience. (S. Ransome, Hidden Hour, 1966)
However, cutting corners can also be used positively to describe the most viable and efficient mode of action.
fair-weather friend A person who is friendly only when convenient; someone who is a friend during favorable times and an acquaintance (at best) during adverse times.
Am I to be only a fair-weather wife to you? (Rhoda Broughton, Nancy, 1873)
jury-rigged See FLIMSINESS.
know on which side one’s bread is buttered To be aware of what is and what is not in keeping with one’s own best interests; to recognize what is to one’s advantage in a given situation. This expression appears in John Hey wood’s Works (1562):
I know on which syde my bread is buttred.
The implication is that a person will take care not to offend or alienate someone who has the power to grant or withhold favors. One who knows on which side his bread is buttered will do nothing to jeopardize his position.
paper over the cracks To use stopgap or makeshift measures to give the outward appearance that all is well; to create an illusion of order or accord by means of a temporary expedient while ignoring the basic questions or issues. The expression is usually attributed to Otto von Bismarck, who reputedly used it in regard to the temporary nature of the Austro-Prussian settlement reached at the Convention of Gastein in August, 1865; war broke out between the two countries the next year.
Mr. Bevan agreed to paper over the cracks for the period of the election. (Annual Register, 1952)
politics makes strange bedfellows An adage implying that expedience—political or otherwise—often dictates the formation of alliances, however temporary, between two or more highly unlikely parties. In the Middle Ages, it was not unheard of for political allies to share the same bed, especially after long hours of negotiations or strategic planning. As a result, these collaborators came to be known as “bedfellows,” a term which persisted even when this custom fell into disfavor. Popularized by Charles Dudley Warner in My Summer in a Garden (1870), politics makes strange bedfellows is no longer limited to application in political contexts. The expression is sometimes used jocularly to describe a romance between disparate people whose sole attraction seems to be shared political or activist interests.
pull out all the stops See UNRESTRAINT.
rob Peter to pay Paul To take from one person to give to another; to satisfy one obligation by leaving another unsatisfied. The popular theory explaining the origin of this expression is that in 1550, the Order which had advanced the Church of St. Peter to the status of a cathedral was revoked, and St. Peter’s was not only reunited with St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, but its revenues went toward the expenses of the latter. However, a chronological inconsistency refutes this theory, since Wyclif used the expression almost 200 years earlier in his Selected Works (1380):
How should God approve that you rob Peter, and give this robbery to Paul in the name of Christ.
Peter and Paul were popular apostles and saints, but even this fact does little to explain the use of their names in this expression.
trim one’s sails See ADAPTION.
|Noun||1.||expedience - the quality of being suited to the end in view|
advantage, vantage - the quality of having a superior or more favorable position; "the experience gave him the advantage over me"
|2.||expedience - taking advantage of opportunities without regard for the consequences for others|
selfishness - stinginess resulting from a concern for your own welfare and a disregard of others