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Rap on the knuckles

  • Rap on the knuckles is an idiom that has been in use for some time. 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 common saying rap on the knuckles, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

     

    A rap on the knuckles is a mild rebuke, a scolding, a reprimand. The expression a rap on the knuckles is used when the punishment being discussed is not terribly severe. The phrase a rap on the knuckles came into use in the mid-1700s and evokes the imagery of a child receiving a literal rap on the knuckles with a ruler or switch from a teacher as a rebuke for making a mistake in his lessons or engaging in naughty behavior. Today, a rap on the knuckles is a noun phrase that is often used when the speaker believes someone received a lighter punishment than he should have received.

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    Examples

    Since we all know by now how UP functions, we don’t expect them to get anything more than a rap on the knuckles. (Times of India)

    Usually, errants are let off with an apology or a minor rap on the knuckles. (Daily Pioneer)

    The rap on the knuckles of the media and the Government for communalising the Tablighi Jamaat and demonising the Muslims could, and indeed should, have come from the Supreme Court. (National Herald India)


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