Macquarie Dictionary


Mind-bogglingly visceral reactions

We often describe reactions in terms of the effect they have on our bodies, both real and imagined.

So something that is scary is hair-raising – our hair stands on end, or is bloodcurdling – we imagine our blood solidifying like curdled milk.

Something puzzling is mind-boggling and something amazing is mind-blowing. Something boring is soul-destroying. Something exciting is spine-tingling. Something terrifying is spinechilling.

We can describe someone we don’t like as a pain in the neck or arse or gut, particularly if they get under our skin.

The heart is seen particularly as the seat of emotion so we have many phrases that express this. A person can have a heart of stone, or wear their heart on their sleeve. If you are down in the mouth you might be said to have one’s heart in one’s boots, or to eat one’s heart out. Something sad can tug at the heartstrings, or be heart-rending – we feel as if our heart is being torn in two. Equally we can feel emotion in the pit of our stomach so we describe it as gut-wrenching.

Recently there has been an addition to this set which is a blend of the previous two. I am not sure that everyone approves of heart-wrenching but there seems to be enough of it about, so we will have to, heart-wrenchingly, add it to the dictionary.

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