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Ask for the moon

  • Ask for the moon is an idiom with two interesting predecessors. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying ask for the moon, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

     

    To ask for the moon means to ask for something that is impossible to obtain or to ask for something that no one can give you. Obviously, no one owns the moon and no one can possess the moon. The expression ask for the moon evolved from the original idiom that was popular in the early 1800s: cry for the moon. In the mid-1800s, the expression wish for the moon came into use. Ask for the moon came into use in the latter-1800s. Today, the idiom ask for the moon is by far the most popular of the three phrases. Occasionally, the idiom is rendered as ask for the moon and stars.

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    Examples

    It’s a classic negotiating technique to ask for the moon (full retail) but settle for what you can get (medical). (Caspar Star-Tribune)

    And that, of course, would put Prescott in position to ask for the moon and stars from Seattle if such a trade were to be worked out. (Sports Illustrated)

    Dcn. Miller, a devoted family man, once led a Boy Scout troop and little league team for his son, adored his wife — she was careful not to ask for the moon for fear he would deliver — and doted on his daughter. (Catholic Sun)


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