When you do something hammer and tongs, you do it with force and determination.
It's as if you're holding onto something tight with your tongs, then slamming your hammer down onto it. Like this:
Image used with the kind permission of the artist, Marc Lapierre.
Like you'd expect: "HAM ur and TONGS."
Part of speech:
It’s a phrase that acts like an adverb.
(Adverbs usually describe actions:
that is, they tell when, where, how, and to what extent
something is being done.
You usually put them close to the action they describe:
“Let’s go at this hammer and tongs.”
“Hammer and tongs, we went for it.”)
How to use it:
This phrase evokes powerful imagery; you're comparing someone's passionate, intense work to that of a blacksmith using skill, manual labor, force, sweat, and fire to produce something strong and useful. (Wow!) So, "hammer and tongs" is a great alternative for "heart and soul," "with zeal," "110%," etc., and is especially useful for talking about tough tasks, fierce competitions, and bitter rivalries.
Talk about doing something hammer and tongs, going at a task/object hammer and tongs or going after a goal hammer and tongs, or going at people hammer and tongs (meaning you're attacking them, physically or verbally, or you're engaging in serious competition.) You might go hammer and tongs with someone (your competitor) or over something (the issue, goal, or prize.) And if your meaning is clear, you can simply "go hammer and tongs" or "go at it hammer and tongs."
Occasionally you'll see the phrase used as an adjective rather than an adverb: "a hammer and tongs competition," "a hammer and tongs fight for first place." Some folks use hyphens for this purpose, "hammer-and-tongs," which seems logical enough.
Through the wearying heat of the summer months, I didn't really go at my house projects hammer and tongs like I usually do.
This essayist goes after his critics' objections hammer and tongs, not really refuting them so much as slamming them into obliteration.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "hammer and tongs" means when you can explain it without saying “gung-ho" or "violently."
Think of a vigorous task or activity you look forward to, and fill in the blank: "I can't wait to go hammer and tongs at/on/with _____."
Example: "I can't wait to go hammer and tongs on the weeds around our pineapple plants. It's the perfect way to let out any pent-up frustration."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don’t go straight to the review now—let your working memory empty out first.
We’re starting off with easy questions, then working our way toward some whoppers at the end of the month, all the while focusing on funny, unusual words; surprising word histories; and cool tidbits about the language.
When we’re talking about scissors, what is a “bite”?
“Bite” is the distance that scissors cut in a single stroke.
Try this one today:
This common English word, “d _ _ _ _ _ t,” comes from a French one meaning “clear the table.” What is it?
A Point Well Made:
Sophocles: “The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”
1. The opposite of HAMMER AND TONGS is
A. FULL STEAM
B. TOOTH AND NAIL
C. WITH RESTRAINT
2. He's still working hammer and tongs at his startup: _____.
A. at least four hours a day after getting home from his current full-time job
B. making sure not to use his current company's time or resources
C. kicking around ideas with several friends
Answers are below.
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Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Answers to review questions:
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