Words at Play

Words for When You're Not Holding Back

Sometimes you have to go all in.


image560803727

adverb : fully, completely

Scarcely had his hideous laugh rang out but once, when I was upon him. The brute was twelve feet in height and armed to the teeth, but I believe that I could have accounted for the whole roomful in the terrific intensity of my rage.
— Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, 1917

This phrase most often describes how someone is armed: we can only assume that if the teeth are involved in preparation for battle, surely it's only after all other weapons are ready. A similar but less common phrase, to one's teeth, means "to one's face; openly." In Shakespeare's "Hamlet" Laertes tells the King "It warms the very sickness in my heart / That I shall live and tell him to his teeth, / 'Thus didest thou.'"

image20874809

adverb : absolutely

We foregathered a numinous underground cell, a designer Hades of deep pile and green baize, all stone-cold sober at Saturday lunch-time.
— Anthony Holden, Big Deal, 1990

The words that join together in this stunner have abandoned their usual duties for the sake of a rather extreme meaning. Both also do this independently as stone and cold.

image712433044

adverb : absolutely, utterly

Whenever a person says to you that they are as innocent as can be in all concerning money, look well after your own money, for they are dead certain to collar it if they can.
— Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1853

Death does have a certain absolute quality to it, and it lends the adverb dead the same, especially in phrases like dead certain, dead quiet, and dead tired. The adverb also has other meanings: "suddenly and completely," as in "stopped dead in her tracks," and "directly," as in "dead ahead."

image1706600716

adverb : to a complete degree : absolutely

I want a little ranch-house in one of the prettiest bits of country God ever made, and I want to do the chores around that ranch-house—milk cows, and chop wood, and curry horses, and plough the ground, and all the rest of it; and I want you there in the ranch-house with me. I'm plumb tired of everything else, and clean wore out.
— Jack London, Burning Daylight, 1910

Plumb as an adverb can, in addition to this chiefly dialectal use, mean "straight down or up; vertically," as well as "in a direct manner; exactly" and "immediately." The adverb comes from the noun, which refers to a lead weight attached to a line and used to indicate a vertical direction, and which traces back to the Latin word plumbum, meaning "lead." (Plumbum is also the source of the word plumber.)

image635181192

adverb : with all possessions : completely

As though I stood in need of their money! I, who could have bought them out, bag and baggage, and the schooner and its equipment, a score of times over!
— Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, 1904

The Oxford English Dictionary reports that this chiefly British phrase originates in the military, where it referred to the property of an army and its soldiers. If an army marched out bag and baggage, it left without surrendering any of its property—that is, it made an honorable retreat.

image181969359

adverb : absolutely, downright

Father went crazy. We'd always wondered what would happen if we flat-out disobeyed him. Now we were fixing to see.
— Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible, 1998

Flat-out began life in the early 20th century as an adjective meaning "maximum, top," as in "flat-out speed"—just in time to describe the automobiles that were becoming widely accessible.

image669775953

adjective : possessing or exhibiting all the usual or necessary features or symptoms

… just before leaving London I got word that my examination was successful, and I am now a full-blown solicitor!
— Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897

In its original meaning, full-blown describes a flower that is at the height of bloom. That use comes from blown as used to describe a flower that's open.

Above, Jupiter hung like a full-blown jonquil, so bright as almost to throw a shade.
— Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, 1891

image661859727

adverb : without reservations : completely, wholly

The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit.
— Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818

Forget the body: doing something heart and soul is doing it completely. And it has been since the early 17th century.

image218995074

adverb : without hesitation or reservation : completely

Dostoevsky would never have put up with the Rousseauean nonsense that Melville swallowed hook, line, and sinker. In the end, Melville ends up with the eminently readable science fiction of Billy Budd, a queer mishmash of Schopenhauer and Rousseau. One hears that Billy Budd is about innocence and evil. It's both a lot better and a lot worse than that. The evil is the last vestige of Melville's Calvinism—man's depravity.
— Walker Percy, Signposts in a Strange Land, 1991

A well-hooked fish is a sure thing, and if you've done something hook, line and sinker you've done it completely. The phrase, which dates to the 19th century, may be styled with or without the serial comma. (Or, Merriam-Webster comma.)

image1266969162

adverb : completely

"Westburnflat hasna the means, e'en if he had the will, to make up our loss; there's nae mends to be got out o' him, but what ye take out o' his banes. He hasna a four-footed creature but the vicious blood thing he rides on, and that's sair trash'd wi' his night wark. We are ruined stoop and roop."
— Sir Walter Scott, The Black Dwarf, 1816

A dearth of information about the origin of a term should not prevent one from using said term. As far as we're concerned, if this (chiefly Scottish) phrase was good enough for Sir Walter Scott, it's good enough for us.




Comments

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!