Idioms relating to Authority, Power

by Prashant Kumar Sharma

  1. Big fish in a small pond This term is used to refer to an important or highly-ranked person in a
    small group or organization.
    “He could get a job with a big company but he enjoys being a big fish
    in a small pond
    .”
  2. Bulldoze somebody (into doing
    something)
    A person who is bulldozed into doing something is forced to
    do it, especially by being bullied or intimidated.
    “The immigrants were bulldozed into accepting the work”
  3. Call the shots If you call the shots, you are in command of the situation and
    make all the important decisions. (Also : call the tune.)
    “Ask Julie – she’s the one who calls the shots.”
  4. Call the tune The person who calls the tune is the one who decides and is
    in control of the situation.
    “He shows a lot of authority but in fact it’s his wife who calls
    the tune.”
  5. Carry weight If a person or organization carries weight, they are influential or
    important.
    “I’m glad she’s on our side – her opinion carries a lot of weight.”
  6. Too many chiefs, not enough Indians This expression refers to a situation where there are too many
    people giving instructions and not enough people doing the work.
    “The business wasn’t successful. There were too many chiefs
    and not enough Indians.”
  7. The corridors of power This term refers to the higher levels of government or administration
    where important decisions are made.
    The matter is the subject of much discussion in the corridors of
    power
    at the present time. “
  8. Crack the whip If you crack the whip, you use your authority to make someone
    obey you or work more efficiently, usually by threatening them.
    “Every so often I’ve got to crack the whip to make sure we meet the
    deadline.”
  9. Dance to someone’s tune If you dance to someone’s tune, you do whatever that person tells
    you to do.
    “He is the company’s major shareholder so the management has to
    dance to his tune.”
  10. Draw a line in the sand If you draw a line in the sand, you establish a limit beyond which a
    certain situation or activity will not be accepted.
    “That’s it!  We’re going to draw a line in the sand and make this our final
    proposal.”
  11. Force someone’s hand If you force someone’s hand, you make them do something
    unwillingly or sooner than planned.
    “The interviewer forced his hand and made him reveal his relocation
    plans.”
  12. Get/have someone by the short hairs
    (also: by the short and curlies)
    If you get or have someone by the short hairs, you put them in a  difficult situation from which they cannot escape, so you have complete
    control over them.
    “They are in no position to refuse; we’ve got them by the short hairs!”
  13. Get your skates on If you tell someone to get their skates on, you want them to hurry up.
    “You’d better get your skates on or you’ll be late! ”
  14. With a heavy hand Dealing with or treating people with a heavy hand means acting with
    discipline and severity, with little or no sensitivity.
    “He ran the juvenile delinquent centre with a heavy hand.”
  15. Iron fist/hand in a velvet glove This expression is used to describe someone who, behind an
    appearance of gentleness, is inflexible and determined.
    “To impose the necessary reforms, the leader used persuasion
    followed by force – an iron fist in a velvet glove.”
  16. Lay down the law Someone who lays down the law tells people very forcefully and
    firmly what to do.
    “The volunteers helped in a disorganized way. They needed someone
    to lay done the law.”
  17. My way or the highway! If you say to someone “it’s my way or the highway” you are
    telling that person that either they accept what you tell them to do
    or they leave the project.
    “You don’t have much choice when someone says :
    “It’s my way or the highway.”
  18. Pull the plug (on something) If you pull the plug on something, you put an end to it or provide
    no more support for it.
    “There were so few enrolments that the school decided to pull
    the plug on the yoga class.
  19. Pester power This expression refers to the power children exert over their parents
    by continually nagging or pestering them until they accept to buy
    advertised toys or fashionable products.
    Pester power leads busy parents to buy more and more for their
    children.”  
  20. Pull the plug (on something) If you pull the plug on something, you put an end to it or provide
    no more support for it.
    “There were so few enrolments that the school decided to pull
    the plug on the yoga class.
  21. Put one’s foot down. To put one’s foot down means to exert authority to prevent
    something from happening.
  22. Put the squeeze on someone If you put the squeeze on somebody, you put pressure on them
    to force them to act in a particular way.
    “Bob was reluctant to replace his colleague until the boss put the
    squeeze on him.”
  23. Rule the roost If you rule the roost, you are the most important and powerful person
    in a group or community.
    “Officially David runs the company, but it’s his father who really rules
    the roost.”
  24. Seal of approval If a project or contract receives a seal of approval, it receives formal
    support or approval from higher authorities.
    “We can’t conclude the deal without the director’s seal of approval.”
  25. The tail wagging the dog This expression is used to refer to a situation where there is a reversal
    of roles, with a small  or minor element of something having a controlling
    influence on the most important element.
    “If you let your children decide on everything, it will be a case of the tail
    wagging the dog
    .”
  26. Take it upon yourself If you take something upon yourself, you do it without asking for
    permission or agreement.
    “My colleague took it upon herself to redecorate the office during my
    absence.”
  27. Top dog To say that a person, group or country is top dog means that they are
    better or more powerful than others.
    “She’s top dog in cosmetics today.”
  28. Under your thumb If someone is under your thumb, they are completely under your
    control or influence.
    Nobody ever protests.  He has the whole group under his thumb.”  
  29. The upper hand.   If a person or organization gains the upper hand, they take
    control over something.
  30. Wear the trousers The partner in a couple who wears the trousers is the one who makes
    the important decisions.
    “The salesman hesitated.  It was difficult to see who wore the trousers
    in the couple.”
  31. Wipe that smile off your face! This expression is often used by parents, or people in authority,
    to indicate that the situation is not considered amusing at all.
    “This is a very serious matter, so wipe that smile off your face!”
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