Line in the sand (phrase)

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A line in the sand is a metaphor with two similar meanings:

Origin[edit source | edit]

Biblical link to John 8:6, Jesus draws a line in the sand in order to address those who are about to stone a women caught in adultery.

The exact origin of the phrase is unknown: the Oxford English Dictionary suggests a transitional use from 1950, but a definitely figurative use only as late as 1978:

He drew a line in the sand with the toe of his boot, and said, ‘It's as though I told you “I can punch you in the nose, but you can't reach across that line to hit me back”’.
Washington Post, 19 December 1950
Notwithstanding the supposed public revulsion toward more federal spending, waste and bureaucracy-building, Congress seems to have gone out of its way to draw a wide line in the sand in front of Carter.
Washington Post, 29 October 1978[1]

There is reference to an actual line being drawn in several historical, or legendary, military events:

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, line n.2, Draft additions June 2003
  2. ^ Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to Roman Conquest, 2nd ed Cambridge University Press 2006, p. 374.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mike Cox, "Line in the Sand"