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With one’s tail between one’s legs

  • With one’s tail between one’s legs is an idiom that takes its inspiration from the animal kingdom. 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 with one’s tail between one’s legs, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


     

    Someone with his tail between his legs is someone who is chastised, someone who is ashamed of his actions or embarrassed by the reprimand he has received. Someone with his tail between his legs feels defeated. The expression is sometimes rendered as with one’s tail tucked between one’s legs. The phrase with one’s tail between one’s legs has been in use for hundreds of years. Though the exact origin is unknown, most experts believe it is an obvious reference to the behavior of a dog that has been scolded or simply knows that he has done something wrong. A dog who has been chastised or is in trouble in some way will tuck his tail between his legs to protect his physical vulnerability.

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    Examples

    No one knows exactly how long, but he came back with his tail between his legs having failed to be a writer and he tried again to go into comedy and play the working men’s clubs. (The Daily Mail)

    Then Colby comes crawling back to Dean with his tail between his legs and apologises for not being there while Jai was in hospital. (The West Australian)

    “I was that fourth grader, that brown child that walked away from there with his tail tucked between his legs,” Vásquez says. (The San Antonio Current)


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