8- Not a leg to stand on With no chance of success He tried to get the town to change the street lights, but because there was no money in the budget he found himself without a leg to stand on.A related idiom is not having a leg to stand on Once the detective exposed his false alibi, he didn't have a leg to stand on.
This frequently used idiom comes from a story by Charles Miner, published in 1811, about a boy who was flattered into turning the grindstone for a man sharpening his axe.
He worked hard until the school bell rang, whereupon the man, instead of thanking the boy, began to scold him for being late and told him to hurry to school.
This term originally was and still is applied to unfair conduct in a sport or game and was being used figuratively by the late 1500s.
Shakespeare used it in The Tempest (1:2): "What foul play had we that we came from thence?
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We love food, lots of different food, just like you.The allusion in this metaphoric idiom is unclear, that is, why a thumb rather than a fist or some other anatomic part should symbolize control.[Mid-1700s] 10- The writing on the wall / handwriting on the wall If the writing's on the wall for something, it is doomed to fail.This expression alludes to turning the page of a book to a new page.[Early 1500s] 4- Burn the candle at both ends Exhaust one's energies or resources by leading a hectic life Joseph's been burning the candle at both ends for weeks, working two jobs during the week and a third on weekends.These phrases call up a vivid image of someone flailing away at nothing.[Late 1300s] 3- To break a lance with To engage in a tilt or contest 4- To foul of, (foul play) Unfair or treacherous action, especially involving violence The police suspected he had met with foul play.This metaphoric idiom transfers lack of physical support to arguments or theories.[Late 1500s] 9- Under the thumb of Controlled or dominated by someone He's been under his mother's thumb for years."Having an axe to grind" then came into figurative use for having a personal motive for some action.[Mid-1800s] 3- Turn a new leaf Make a fresh start, change one's conduct or attitude for the better He promised the teacher he would turn over a new leaf and behave himself in class.