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Get the lead out

  • Get the lead out is a twentieth century idiom. 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 get the lead out, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

     

    Get the lead out is an exhortation to hurry, to move faster, to stop procrastinating. Related phrases are gets the lead out, got the lead out, have gotten the lead out, getting the lead out; however, these forms are rarely used. The expression get the lead out is the abbreviated version of two variations of the idiom: get the lead out of your feet or get the lead out of your pants. The term get the lead out came into use in the 1920s, and its popularity zoomed during World War II. Though the exact origin is unknown, most believe it is simply an allusion to the fact that lead is heavy and weighs one down.

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    Examples

    Instead, Hansberry told him to get the lead out and do more.  (NPR)

    “I know there’s nothing much to do in Shepherdstown, but get the lead out of your boots/ You better stop hangin’ ’round,” Lloyd sings. (Wide Open Country Magazine)

    Prime Minister, get the lead out of your PNM backside and use the Big stick to beat COVID 19 spreaders and law breakers into submission. (Loop News)


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