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Witch hunt

  • Witch hunt is an idiom that is hundreds of years old. 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 witch hunt, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

     

    A witch hunt is an attempt to blame or punish someone who has an unpopular view or takes an unpopular stance. A witch hunt involves searching out, harassing, defaming, and punishing someone because he is different. A witch hunt is more than an attempt to unfairly punish someone; it involves frightening people until they engage in mob behavior. The term witch-hunting has been in use since the 1600s in a literal sense; however, the term took on a figurative, idiomatic meaning in the early 20th century, primarily in reference to political ideas. George Orwell used the term in the 1930s and the popularity of the term soared in the 1950s in reference to the McCarthy hearings on un-American activities. Arthur Miller wrote a play, The Crucible, which was set during the Salem witch trials but was in reality his commentary on the efforts of the McCarthy hearings. It may be the symbolism in this play that solidified the idiomatic use of the term witch hunt.

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    Examples

    “My view of this whole thing is that it is turning into a witch hunt directed at the police department by a few individuals,” Hicks wrote in a four-page letter to city leaders. (Cordova Times)

    Clare GAA secretary Pat Fitzgerald has hit out at a perceived “witch-hunt” that is brewing within the Association. (Clare Echo)

    In its anti-Trump witch hunt, the media managed to popularize speculations that weren’t true. (Bozeman Daily Chronicle)


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