Get a word in edgewise and get a word in edgeways are two versions of the same idiom. 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 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 in a blue moon, 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, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom get a word in edgewise or get a word in edgeways, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
Get a word in edgewise or get a word in edgeways means to try to join a conversation where no one pauses to allow one an opportunity to speak. Usually, the situation is one in which one person continues to talk without taking a breath or pause. Often, the person speaking is angry or excited and not does not allow someone else to get a word in edgewise or get a word in edgeways. The expression get a word in edgewise or get a word in edgeways came into use 1800s. The image is of one edging into a crowd through small gaps. The idiom get a word in edgewise is most often used in American English, the expression get a word in edgeways is most often used in British English.
I know I didn’t let him get a word in edgewise, but it was because I wanted him to feel me. (Variety)
His friends laughed that they could rarely get a word in edgewise when Jack was holding forth. (Martha’s Vineyard Times)
Spluttering with laughter at the joke, Bill couldn’t get a word in edgeways as Johnny mimicked a pet owner’s childish tone used to speak to their furry companions. (Daily Express)
With social distancing measures in place, he added that the family held a private gathering after his funeral “at which no-one could get a word in edgeways. I think we did him proud”. (The Belfast Telegraph)