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burn one’s bridges See DECISIVENESS.
cross the Rubicon See DECISIVENESS.
cry over spilt milk To regret or bemoan what cannot be undone or changed, to lament or grieve over past actions or events. This proverbial expression, in common use in both America and Britain, was apparently first used by the Canadian humorist Thomas C. Haliburton in The Clockmaker; or the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville (1835), in which a friend of the hero says, “What’s done, Sam, can’t be helped, there is no use in cryin’ over spilt milk.”
the die is cast A statement meaning that a decisive and irrevocable step has been taken, that the course has been decided once and for all and that there will be no going back. The original Latin alea jacta est would have more meaning for modern ears if rendered in the plural—‘the dice have been thrown.’ The phrase is attributed to Julius Caesar at the time of his famous crossing of the Rubicon. Although the OED dates this specific expression from 1634, Shakespeare’s Richard III contains a similar concept:
I have set my life upon a cast, And I will stand the hazard of the die. (V, iv)
the fat’s in the fire What’s done is done, and the negative consequences must be paid; usually used in reference to an irrevocable, potentially explosive situation; also all the fat is in the fire. The allusion is probably to the way fat spits when burning. This expression, in use since 1644, appeared in an article by William Dean Howells in the February, 1894, issue of Harper’s Magazine:
The die is cast, the jig is up, the fat’s in the fire, the milk’s spilt.
let the dead bury the dead Let bygones be bygones; don’t dwell on past differences and grievances. The implication in this expression is that one should not be tied down by things in the past, but should begin anew and look toward favorable prospects in the future.
Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. (Matthew 8:22)
point of no return A situation or predicament from which there is no turning back; a crucial position or moment in an argument, project, or other matter which requires total commitment of one’s resources. This expression was first used by aircraft pilots and navigators to describe that point in a flight when the plane does not have enough fuel to return to its home base, and so must continue on to its destination.
that’s water over the dam A proverbial phrase expressing the sentiment that what’s past is past and nothing can be done about it; also that’s water under the bridge.