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Waiting in the wings

  • Waiting in the wings is an idiom with an interesting origin. 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, 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 waiting in the wings, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


     

    Waiting in the wings describes someone who is available on short notice, someone who is ready to step into a situation, someone who can be called upon to help quickly. The idiom waiting in the wings is derived from the world of theater. The wings of a theater are the areas on each side of the stage where one may observe the activity on the stage without being seen by the audience. Actors stand in the wings before it is their time to go on the stage. Understudy actors often stand in the wings watching the performance in anticipation of taking over a role from the main actor. The expression waiting in the wings came into use before the twentieth century. Related phrases are wait in the wings, waits in the wings, waited in the wings.

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    Examples

    Even better news: the best dandruff shampoo formulas for every hair type are waiting in the wings to ensure a soft, supple, and flake-free scalp. (Vogue Magazine)

    There are people waiting in the wings to get full performances back on during the crucial Christmas period – and I want to support them. (The Daily Mail)

    Bart and I were waiting in the wings to take over, so Peter asked us to get involved. (The Detroit Free Press)


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