Tourist trap

Tourist trap is an idiom that has been in use since the mid-1900s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, 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 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, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom tourist trap, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

A tourist trap is a roadside attraction that caters to travelers. Generally, a tourist trap is a place where one may partake of an activity that is not considered edifying and then may buy cheap trinkets to take home as souvenirs. A tourist trap exists solely for entertainment that is usually lowbrow. For instance an art museum is not considered a tourist trap, but a museum dedicated to the world’s largest ball of string or a go-kart track are considered tourist traps. Most people who stop at tourist traps understand what they are getting into and enjoy the silliness of the attraction. The plural form is tourist traps. Primarily an American phenomenon in the early years, the idiom tourist trap came into use in the 1940s, presumably when the average family began to take vacations on the open road.


A red Jeep Grand Cherokee abandoned on Myrtle Beach became somewhat of a tourist trap on Thursday as Hurricane Dorian bore down on the Carolinas. (The Washington Examiner)

As a fortress, it was useless, but as an iconic tourist trap destination it’s been priceless. (The Herald Banner)

This weekend’s issue of The New York Times Magazine features the discarded Adickes remnants of a former tourist trap called President’s Park. (Houstonia Magazine)

A tourist trap can be a city (Prague), an attraction (Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco), a purpose-built resort (Cancun) or a cheap tuk-tuk ride that involves a detour to a gem shop. (The South China Morning Post)

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