Violent Metaphors in Everyday Paralance

Violent Metaphors in Common Parlance

As the anniversary of Sandy Hook draws near — and as I witness an ongoing rash of gun-related violence in our culture — I have been thinking about violent metaphors in everyday language. When I recently tried to collect some of them, I quickly found over 80 commonly used phrases, and I am sure there are more. It turns out gun-related and other violent metaphors permeate the English language. Many of them are phrases I have commonly used myself. But now I am trying to choose different and non-violent verbiage instead.

Can you try to eliminate these phrases from your everyday conversation?

I’m shooting for Tuesday.

A bullet proof argument

March 16 is the target date

He hit the mark

There is no silver bullet

They took off with guns blazing

I won’t hold a gun to your head

Keep your powder dry

The White House is under fire

A shot in the dark

He is taking aim at his detractors

Worth a shot

They went postal

Aim higher/lower

That product was a misfire

Can’t hit the side of a barn

She went ballistic

Trigger happy

They have their opponents in the cross hairs

Shoot your mouth off

He told me, point blank, I was wrong

Shoot me now

She shoots straight from the hip

Bull’s eye

It blew me away

Mexican standoff; at a standoff

Hair-trigger temper

They overshot the runway

She is a straight shooter

Shoot first; ask questions later

There is no smoking gun


He is top gun

He shelled out for the rest of us

He pulled out the heavy artillery

I was shooting blind

She’s a big gun

Flash in the pan

Don’t jump the gun

Ramrod straight

Stick to your guns

It was a turkey shoot

I am under the gun

She has a short fuse

You are staring down the barrel of a gun

Shoot the moon

They are gun shy

She has a good shot at it

I want to beat the gun

I have it in my sights

We are going great guns

Faster than a speeding bullet

Gun the engine

Going off half-cocked

Son of a gun

Hot as a pistol

He is gunning for you

She’s a pistol

Don’t shoot the messenger

You can’t miss fast enough to win

They are firing blanks

He got shot off his horse

It’s like shooting fish in a barrel

Face the firing squad

Shoot the bull

Loaded for bear

Shoot the breeze

Shoot me an email

I shot myself in the foot

Pull the trigger on it

He shot his wad

She’s a hot shot

That’s the whole shooting match

Reload and try again

It’s all shot to hell

They were cleaned out lock, stock, and barrel

Her idea got shot down

Out of ammo

Armed to the teeth

Fully armed

The full nine yards (refers to a full belt of ammo from a World War II fighter plane’s wing gun)

Give it to him with both barrels

He came out with both barrels blazing

I dodged that bullet

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