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Fall through the cracks and slip through the cracks

  • Fall through the cracks and slip through the cracks are versions of an idiom that may not be as old as you think. 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 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 such as beat around the bush, ballpark figure, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, Achilles heel, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, a dime a dozen, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, 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 expressions fall through the cracks and slip through the cracks, their etymology, and some examples of their use in sentences.


     

    To fall through the cracks or to slip through the cracks means to remain unnoticed or unaddressed, to not receive the attention or the help that one needs, to be overlooked or ignored. Sometimes something falls through the cracks or slips through the cracks accidentally, though other times something falls through the cracks or slips through the cracks because no one wishes to take the time or effort to address it. The idiom fall through the cracks or slip through the cracks is often used to explain a situation that is mismanaged. It is usually meant as an excuse or to mitigate responsibility. The expressions fall through the cracks and slip through the cracks came into use in the mid-twentieth century. The exact origin is unknown, but it reflects the idea that something that should have been contained or captured somehow seeped away, unnoticed. Related phrases are falls through the cracks, fell through the cracks, falling through the cracks, slips through the cracks, slipped through the cracks, slipping through the cracks. According to Google Ngram, fall through the cracks is about twice as popular as slip through the cracks. Fall between the cracks is an eggcorn, which is a misheard phrase that retains the original meaning.

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    Examples

    By eliminating funding for these programs, President Trump and Secretary DeVos are systematically targeting poor and minority children who are statistically more likely to fall through the cracks in our education system. (The Concord Monitor)

    Districts without a lot of property wealth to tax, but also without a high population of low-income students who generate added state aid, fall through the cracks under the various formula fixes. (Commonwealth Magazine)

    “I think we need to make sure we are not letting kids who are in the high-functioning zone slip through the cracks,” Elly Henderson said. (The Daily Astorian)

    U.S. research institutions, including the University of Iowa, often benefit from international cooperation, but opening those doors could allow some information to slip through the cracks via intellectual theft. (The Daily Iowan)


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