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Men in white coats

  • Men in white coats is 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 men in white coats, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.



     

    Men in white coats is a reference to psychiatric workers. Usually, the image referred to is of multiple orderlies dressed in white coats who descend upon a psychiatric patient to subdue him and take him to a mental health facility. Health workers in general and especially doctors are depicted as wearing white lab coats. Doctors wore black coats as they worked until the latter part of the nineteenth century, when cleanliness became a major concern in health care. Also, a sick patient reacts more favorably to someone dressed in white than someone who is dressed in black, which is the symbol of death in many cultures. The expression men in white coats to specifically refer to mental health workers seems to have become popular mid-twentieth century.

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    Examples

    All of Trump’s recent utterances point towards the need for the men in the white coats to be sent posthaste to see to the man in the White House. (The Belfast Telegraph)

    Had anyone said back then in 2020 we’d be playing Manchester United in the Premier League, the men in white coats would have been due to turn up. (The Sussex Express)

    You might think that once voters were alerted to this, they’d shrink from Greene as Mandrake did from Ripper, asking her to go nicely with the men in white coats who are here to help her. (The Omaha World-Herald)


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