Rock the boat

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The origin of the idiom rock the boat is attributed to an American statesman. We will examine the meaning of the idiom rock the boat, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To rock the boat means to make trouble, to upset the status quo, to disturb the harmony. It is often expressed in the negative as a warning, don’t rock the boat. The origin of the idiom rock the boat is attributed to William Jennings Bryan, a politician and talented public orator. Bryan was a Democrat from Nebraska who unsuccessfully ran for president three times. In a speech in 1914, he coined the idiom: “The man who rocks the boat ought to be stoned when he gets back on shore.” William Jennings Bryan is probably most remembered today for his role as prosecutor in the Scopes Monkey Trial, in which John T. Scopes, a teacher, was prosecuted for teaching evolution in Tennessee. He was defended by Clarence Darrow. Rock the boat and don’t rock the boat are still popular idioms today, often used as a rallying cry for political or social change. Related phrases are rocks the boat, rocked the boat, rocking the boat.


The only issue is whether any of these schools — Arkansas, most likely — will have the institutional fortitude to make a hire that is going to rock the boat in ways that are both thrilling and potentially embarrassing. (USA Today)

With one of his signature policy initiatives facing a delicate political moment, you might have thought President Donald Trump would refrain from doing anything to rock the boat. (Milford Daily News)

With so much of their advertising coming from airlines, car companies and retail conglomerates, it’s no wonder they don’t want to rock the boat. (The Irish Times)

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