Head on the chopping block and on the chopping block

Head on the chopping block and on the chopping block are idioms that have a literal origin. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition.

We will examine the meaning of the idioms head on the chopping block and on the chopping block, where they came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To have one’s head on the chopping block means one is in danger of being fired or being singled out for criticism or reprimand. One may put one’s head on the chopping block by taking a risk or doing something stupid.

The idiom have one’s head on the chopping block is derived from the practice of executing criminals by severing their heads from their bodies by using an axe or a sword. The condemned would lay his head on a block of wood and stretch his neck so the executioner could sever his head from his body. Henry VIII of England was famous for executing two of his wives in this manner, sending to France for a professional executioner who would get the job done cleanly and quickly.

Today, a chopping block usually means a cutting board used in cooking.

On the chopping block may mean that one is in danger of being fired or singled out for criticism or reprimand, or it may mean that a program, idea, or system is being considered for termination.

For instance, a product line that is not selling well for a manufacturer may be on the chopping block. The idiom on the chopping block is an abbreviated form of the idiom head on the chopping block.

Examples in a Sentence

“He might have his head on the chopping block,” Dunn Tenpas said about Ross’ fate. (Fortune Magazine)

“I think we need to look closely at that if we expect him and his group to come here and give us the wonderful news that they do, and then he’s got his head on the chopping block,” Adcock said. (The Arkansas Times)

“We were growing at the time, and that’s something the people who made the decision of potentially putting us on the chopping block weren’t aware of,” Buller said. (The Lincoln Journal Star)

The Bluefield Blue Jays and Princeton Rays are two of the teams in minor league baseball that are on the chopping block under a new proposal from Major League Baseball. (The Bluefield Daily Telegraph)

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