One-size-fits-all 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 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 such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, in the same boat, bite the bullet, 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, as 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom one-size-fits-all, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

The idiom one-size-fits-all describes an item, situation, or policy designed to accommodate a large amount of people. Something that is one-size-fits-all will not be an exact fit and is not tailored for every circumstance, but it will suffice. For instance, many municipalities have rules about how large a yard must be to accommodate a dog. A small dog will need less space and a large dog will need more space; a sedentary dog will need less space and an active dog will need more space; but the rule will only consider the minimum needs of an average dog. This one-size-fits-all solution will be sufficient for most dogs; however, outliers must revise the standards for themselves. The expression one-size-fits-all comes from the garment industry. By the 1970s, many retailers carried items that were oversized or billowing; they were designed to fit a range of sizes. By the 1990s, companies experienced a backlash from people who did not fall within the range of sizes for a one-size-fits-all item. Most ready-to-wear designers began using the designation: one-size-fits-most. It was just about this time when the popularity of the idiom one-size-fits-all really took off. Note that one-size-fits-all is hyphenated.


Sen. Jim Perry, a Republican from Kinston who represents two of the eight eastern counties asking Cooper to reopen more quickly, said the state no longer needs a one-size-fits-all approach to coronavirus. (The Raleigh News & Observer)

“The people of North Carolina will suffer needless health and economic harm if the State continues to treat its diverse population with a one-size-fits-all approach.” (The Charlotte Observer)

“One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is blindly following a prescriptive list of one-size-fits-all tips and solutions for remote work,” says Stan Vlasimsky, Vice President at consultancy Pariveda Solutions—a firm focused on digital transformation, helping clients leveraging technology to achieve business outcomes. (Forbes Magazine)

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