illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge in silhouette walking toward a Christmas tree and followed by the three ghosts

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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What idioms are used in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens?

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Here are a few more idioms used in A Christmas Carol:

Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

The body of Marley's ghost is completely transparent, so Scrooge can see right through him. As a ghost, Marley lacks internal organs, just as when he was alive he lacked "the bowels of mercy," meaning compassion.

To sit, staring at those fixed, glazed eyes, in silence for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him.

Scrooge is staring into the eyes of Marley's ghost. He feels that doing this will "play the very deuce with him," meaning it will do him harm.

The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!

The ghost of Marley is warning Scrooge to change his ways in order to avoid his terrible fate, condemned to wander in chains throughout all eternity. Marley makes a distinction between "the dealings of his trade," meaning his business career, and the more important "ocean of business," that is to say compassion for humanity. Marley and Scrooge's business was just a mere drop in the ocean in terms of what's really important in life.

"Yo ho, my boys!" said Fezziwig. "No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Let's have the shutters up,” cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, "before a man can say, Jack Robinson!"

The Ghost of Christmas Past is showing Scrooge how Christmasses used to be when he was a young man working for the kindly old Mr. Fezziwig. It's Christmas Eve, and Fezziwig decides to shut up shop. Contrast that with how old man Scrooge behaves towards Bob Cratchit. In fact, so keen is Mr. Fezziwig to let the celebrations begin that he claps his hands, hurrying up Dick and Ebeneezer to put up those shutters without delay, "before a man can say, Jack Robinson!" This is an expression dating back to the 18th century meaning a very brief period of time.

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An idiom is a figurative expression, word, or phrase that is common enough or used often enough in a language that the literal meaning is no longer considered.

A Christmas Carol makes use of several idioms that were perhaps made more popular because of the fame of this short novel.

Here are a few of the more well known idioms used in the story to help you get your list started:

  • Dead as a doornail = irreverent way of saying dead a long time, or very dead.
  • Tight-fisted = cheap; won't open his hand to give money or anything else.
  • Solitary as an oyster = alone but not lonely, oysters have no sense of community.
  • Humbug = a phrase made popular by Scrooge's use of it; original meaning is "hoax" or "jest."  Scrooge uses "Bah Humbug" to declare Christmas a fraud or a hoax (an excuse to give to the poor, stay home from work, and be kind for no reason).

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