Run out the clock

Run out the clock is an American idiom that dates back decades. 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 idiom run out the clock, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Run out the clock means to stall or cause a delay that gives one an advantage; for instance, if a worker is going home soon and does not want to begin a new task, he may run out the clock by checking emails or chatting with co-workers. Often, politicians will defeat an initiative not by directly opposing it, but by simply not taking action and running out the clock on a legislative session. The expression run out the clock is derived from American sports that depend on timed periods or quarters, such as basketball or football. In sports, a team may run out the clock by making safe, meaningless plays so the players may maintain their lead. The expression came into use in the mid-twentieth century; related phrases are runs out the clock, ran out the clock, running out the clock.


“You have put our children terribly at risk, and the only way you are being creative right now is to come up with ways to not do it, to run out the clock,” parent June Raegner said.  (Montclair News)

The Raiders are still in good position but the score no longer reflects how lopsided the game has felt — and they can’t simply run out the clock with 3:50 still to play. (Las Vegas Sun)

Congressional committee on Jan. 6 has plenty to investigate, as Trump tries to run out the clock (Chicago Sun-Times)

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