Rub someone’s nose in it

Rub someone’s nose in it 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 rub someone’s nose in it, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To rub someone’s nose in it means to shame someone, to remind him of his past mistakes, to remind him of his failures. Harping on his past failures is unnecessary; it either saps his confidence and makes him more likely to fail again, or it makes him angry and unwilling to cooperate. The expression rub someone’s nose in it is derived from an unkind and ineffective manner of housebreaking a dog, in which the owner rubs the dog’s nose in his feces. This method of housebreaking a dog came into use in the 1900s, and the idiom rub someone’s nose in it came into use in the mid-1900s. Related phrases are rubs someone’s nose in it, rubbed someone’s nose in it, rubbing someone’s nose in it.


“She very kindly sent me these messages to rub my nose in it so you might have seen her on the street seven months pregnant with his kid.” (The Daily Express)

And just to rub my nose in it, everyone stopped paying attention to me when he came along. (Esquire Magazine)

Everywhere he went in school the boy rubbed his nose in it and intimidated him. (The Scottish Daily Record)

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