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Scorched earth policy

  • The term scorched earth policy is an idiom with roots in ancient times. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. 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 possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase scorched earth policy, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    A scorched earth policy is a strategy that destroys anything that is useful to the enemy. The term originated as a military tactic; a retreating army would destroy any items that could be useful to the enemy like crops, weapons, bridges, etc. However, a scorched earth policy as a military tactic could also describe the advancing army’s practice of destroying crops, weapons, bridges, etc., to cripple a local populace. Today, the idiom scorched earth policy refers to any ruthless strategy that includes destruction in order to achieve a goal. For instance, a company that is threatened with a hostile takeover may engage in practices that make the company temporarily less viable, and therefore, less attractive for a takeover. The plural of the idiom scorched earth policy is scorched earth policies. Note that the word earth is not capitalized and scorched earth is often hyphenated, as in scorched-earth, though the Oxford English Dictionary prefers not to use the hyphen.

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    Examples

    Joe Gerth: Bevin employs scorched-earth policy in classless exit from role as governor (The Courier Journal)

    Unable to repulse the invading Japanese forces, the British practised a scorched-earth policy, destroying department stores, storage depots and warehouses along the port. (The Irrawaddy News Magazine)

    A-Rod’s scorched-earth policy included litigation against the club and its medical staff and an overacted appearance on WFAN radio, claiming that he shouldn’t serve “one inning″ of a suspension. (The Times Herald-Record)

    The “scorched earth policy” of the retreating Nazi army will serve only to multiply the suffering and hardships for the German people. (The Sandusky Register)


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