Today's idioms are brought to you by the letter 'T'. Ooh, and look, pretty pictures with this one! I actually studied the painting of Damocles' Sword in college, and icebergs are just so gorgeous. Google "Iceberg" and hit images. All these images of icebergs come up - all the beautiful blues and whites are almost hypnotic. :D
1. She’s not failing, yet. She’s just barely hanging by a thread.
Meaning: to be in a dangerous or unsafe position.
Origin: This is based on the tale of the sword of Damocles, which dates back to the reign of a Sicilian tyrant at the end of the fifth century, B.C. Dionysius II, the tyrant of Syracuse, had a courtier named Damocles who was more or less a professional flatterer. Damocles would lie around all day at opulent feasts saying nice things to Dionysius. He once commented about how great it must be to be king. So, Dionysius invited him to come sit in his thrown, which Damocles did. Dionysius made sure that he was well supplied with opulent food and great service and cute waiters and beautiful perfumes and scented candles going. Damocles was having a grand time, thinking the king’s life was the best, when he looked up and happened to notice that hanging above his head was a gleaming sword, suspended by a single horsehair. Damocles begged Dionysius to be allowed to leave the throne and to go back to his subservient position as a courtier. He obviously got the point, which is that anybody who gets to enjoy immense wealth, luxury and power also is living under a threat.
Meaning: to deserve the highest award or prize.
Origin: A cake has been a popular prize at contests for many centuries. In the time of the ancient Greeks, the winner of the cake was the person who could stay awake the longest at an all-night party. In the late 1800s in the U.S., the cake winners were the couple judged best in a dance contest (called a cake walk). Now, cake walks are a festival or carnival game (often at schools) similar to musical chairs, where you walk in a circle from numbered tile to numbered tile until the music goes off. A number is drawn at random from a bag, and the person standing on that number gets to take the cake being awarded for that round.
Meaning: just a small part of a larger problem or a worse situation.
Origin: An iceberg is a huge body of ice that has broken away from a glacier and is floating in the ocean. The “tip of the iceberg” is a well-known 20th century metaphor that points out that the top is only a tiny part of a mountain of floating ice. An estimated 90 percent of an iceberg is hidden under water.