Close shave is an idiomatic phrase that has been in use for over one hundred years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, 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 or expression 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom close shave, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.
A close shave is a narrow escape, a near disaster, an accident that was avoided. Someone who survives a close shave narrowly missed being mortally injured or subjected to some other type of calamity. The idiom a close shave refers to the image of a barber shaving a customer with a straightedge razor, which is very sharp and can be lethal if not used properly. The barber shaves a man’s beard as closely as possible without cutting him, avoiding disaster. The idiom a close shave came into use in the 1850s.
Close shave for DMCH dean, his family as SUV’s engine explodes in Ludhiana (The Hindustan Times)
Bomb squad has close shave with suspicious Pleasanton suitcase
Noisy electric razor inside led to evacuation of shopping-center businesses (The Mercury News)
“There were a few near misses and incidents where you think, ‘I could have died there, that was a close shave’ — like being next to a bomb that’s gone off or seeing some of your friends blown up and being shot at.” (The International Business Times)
Lemmy once checked himself into a hospital as “Justin Case”, threatened to turn his girlfriend’s dog into a mop, and, when his son broke down about the end of his marriage, replied: “well, that was a close shave, son.” (The Guardian)
- Faced with a lot of hard work (Have one’s work cut out)
- Have one’s work cut out