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Hang out to dry

  • Hang out to dry is an idiom that has been in use for decades. 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 hang out to dry, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


     

    Hang out to dry means to abandon someone, to desert someone who is in trouble, or to leave him behind. Often, the expression hang out to dry is used to mean to allow someone else to take all the blame for a situation that does not turn out well. The phrase hang out to dry is sometimes rendered as left out to dry. The expression came into use in the middle of the twentieth century and is presumed to be an allusion to clothes hanging on a line to dry. The phrase carries a connotation of helplessness, like clothes pinned to a line and at the mercy of the sunshine and wind. Related phrases are hangs out to dry, hung out to dry, hanging out to dry.

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    Examples

    Theresa May and Boris Johnson let the former chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins and other civil servants hang out to dry after they became “targets for political attacks”, an investigation into Whitehall’s role in the Brexit drama of the past four years has found. (The Guardian)

    He described long fights to get the IRF to pay his client’s claims, often leading to a stalemate — if he and his client wanted compensation above the IRF’s $1 million cap for civil rights claims, they’d have to sue individual employees, who are left to “hang out to dry” by the IRF if they’re sued, he said. (The Charleston Post and Courier)

    Unfortunately, working families and early childhood caregivers have been hung out to dry by the Trump administration from the beginning. (The Las Vegas Sun)


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