Run it up the flagpole

| Grammarist

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| Idiom

Run it up the flagpole is an American 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 run it up the flagpole, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Run it up the flagpole is an idiom that means to float an idea and see what the reaction is, to try something out and see how it works. Run it up the flagpole is the first half of a longer idiom, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it. The expression was coined by American advertising executives in the mid-nineteenth century. The idiom is an allusion to raising the American flag upon a flagpole; the assumption is that if one respects it, one will salute it.


“But the individuals involved have done some innovative things in Salem, so they deserve the chance to run it up the flagpole.” (The Salem News)

And even if he has, Jerry Jones needs to at least run it up the flagpole and see how many draft picks it would take to get Payton to Dallas. (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

If someone really believes in something, then let ’em run it up the flagpole and see what happens. (Billboard Magazine)

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