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Keep under wraps

  • Keep under wraps is an idiom that was first used in an unlikely sport. 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. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as chip on your shoulder, kick the bucket, let the cat out of the bag, under the weather, barking up the wrong tree, piece of cake, beat a dead horse, let sleeping dogs lie, don’t count your chickens, 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 figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the expression keep under wraps, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    Keep under wraps means to conceal something, to hide something from view, to make something secret. Related verbal phrases are keeps under wraps, kept under wraps, keeping under wraps. The term keep under wraps was first used in a literal sense in the sport of horse racing, dating back to at least the 1890s. The practice of keeping a horse under wraps in a horse race means to slow a horse down in order to hide the true speed that the horse can attain. The phrase refers to the practice of wrapping the reins of the bridle around the hand in order to hold the horse back and slow it down. This may allow the horse to save its strength for a sudden burst of energy near the end of the race, taking the other riders by surprise. The term keep under wraps was used in other sports around the turn of the twentieth century, to mean to keep secret. Within several decades, keep under wraps became an idiom used by the general public to mean to conceal something or to make something secret.

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    Examples

    They can keep under wraps most personnel records, criminal investigative reports, information related to economic development projects, just to name some of the most commonly shielded documents. (The Northside Sun)

    It almost feels like a secret society, but with members numbering in the hundreds of thousands in 191 countries and on all seven continents, geocaching is difficult to keep under wraps. (The Clinton Herald)

    Investigators returned to Tewksbury Tuesday for the third time as they search for evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation, the details of which law enforcement are keeping under wraps for now. (The Boston Globe)

    For three weeks, a secret construction project, which has been kept under wraps in the courtyard of the DeVos Center, had students and faculty alike questioning its purpose. (The Grand Valley Lanthorn)


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