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Bring one’s A-game

  • Bring one’s A-game is an idiom that has been in use for about half a century. 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, 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 idiom bring one’s A-game, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


     

    To bring one’s A-game means to do one’s best, to perform at the highest level that is possible for that person. Someone who is demonstrating his peak ability in a certain arena is said to bring his A-game. The expression bring one’s A-game was first used to describe an athlete who is turning in his best performance possible. The term bring one’s A-game originated in the United States in the mid-twentieth century. Related phrases are brings one’s A-game, brought one’s A-game, bringing one’s A-game. Alternatively, the term is rendered without a hyphen, as in bring your A game or even bring your “A” game. Note that the “A” in A-game is capitalized; it is a reference to the letter grade “A” awarded to students for excellent work. The word A-game or A game was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2020.

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    Examples

    They play really well, and you have to bring your A-game at all times to compete with them. (The St. Augustine Record)

    Gordon’s motto for living is, “You only live once, so make sure you bring your A-game so there are no regrets looking back when you are older.” (Chicago Agent Magazine)

    Farage brought his A game to South Thanet, by which I mean he courted the area with the most obnoxious manoeuvres his imagination could yield. (The Guardian)


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