Though lab rat has a literal definition, it is also an 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 idiom lab rat, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
When used literally, the expression lab rat simply means a rat that is experimented on in a laboratory. Lab is an abbreviation of the word laboratory. However, the idiom lab rat refers to someone who has been experimented on or who has tried something out before it is put into general use. For instance, the first person to try a new product may be considered a lab rat. Someone who participates in drug trials is a lab rat. The expression laboratory rat came into use at the turn of the twentieth century and mostly referred to actual rats. The term lab rat, used as an idiom, became popular in the mid-twentieth century. The plural of lab rat is lab rats.
But it is an ideal lab rat for the deal Universal cut with AMC this past summer, a deal which would allow Universal theatrical releases to debut on PVOD in as little as 17 days after the theatrical release. (Forbes)
So I thought I would share my experience as a lab rat with Navajo Times readers so they can make a more informed decision on whether or not to participate in this historic moment in international scientific discovery. (The Navajo Times)
‘I’m the Lab Rat’: The Man Who Survived Three Deadly Cancers Thanks to Groundbreaking Israeli Research (Haaretz)