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Phrases about machines.
February 18, 2011 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Do you know (un)common phrases about machines?

Things like "gearing up" or "like clockwork". Need to come up with a title for a thing and I'm looking for relative inspiration. Searching this morning turned up very little, and I'm sure there has to be a wealth of these.
posted by curious nu to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I should probably say phrases derived from machines, in case there's any confusion.
posted by curious nu at 7:43 AM on February 18, 2011


"a well-oiled machine"
posted by crocomancer at 7:43 AM on February 18, 2011


"Humming along"
"Clunking along"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:51 AM on February 18, 2011


"Blue screen of death"
"A short circuit/ short circuited" (sometimes applied to non-electrical situations)
"Three sheets to the wind" comes form sailing - and a sailboat could be a simple machine.
posted by Brodiggitty at 7:53 AM on February 18, 2011


"Winding up" and "winding down" both refer to clock mechanisms. Looking at the guts of anything can be referred to as "looking under the hood".

Probably a little more specialized, but I'm constantly hearing people talk about departure times as "wheels-up time". It refers to airplanes taking off and stowing the landing gear.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:54 AM on February 18, 2011


Oh! How about "leverage"? Been hearing a lot about that lately.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:55 AM on February 18, 2011


"geared up"
posted by Neiltupper at 7:59 AM on February 18, 2011


Putting a spoke in one's wheel.

I could jump over the side. That would put a spoke in their wheel.

Unless they're counting on it.

I shall remain on board. That will put a spoke in their wheel.

posted by methroach at 8:07 AM on February 18, 2011


"grist to the mill"
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:07 AM on February 18, 2011


The real McCoy.

Firing on all cylinders.

Steam coming out of his ears.

All fired up.

Shiver me timbers. (I am assuming that's the timbers on an old wooden boat.)

Broken down.

Kick the tires.

Full steam ahead.

Crank the engine. (From when they had literal cranks.)
posted by gjc at 8:08 AM on February 18, 2011


"a spanner in the works"
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:09 AM on February 18, 2011


Probably a little more specialized, but I'm constantly hearing people talk about departure times as "wheels-up time". It refers to airplanes taking off and stowing the landing gear.

I always thought it was when the wheels got off the ground, the instant it stops being a land-based vehicle. Maybe I'm getting that from "wheels down" as the instant of landing. Since the landing gear is out much earlier in the landing cycle.


On the other hand, retracting the gear is only 30 seconds after takeoff, so it really makes no difference.
posted by gjc at 8:12 AM on February 18, 2011


I always liked "balls to the wall".
posted by drlith at 8:14 AM on February 18, 2011


On remote control/auto pilot
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2011


"You can set your watch by it", "failure to launch", "full head of steam"
posted by electroboy at 8:35 AM on February 18, 2011


A broken spoke in the wheel of progress.
posted by SamanthaK at 8:36 AM on February 18, 2011


"He has a screw loose."
posted by TheGoodBlood at 8:44 AM on February 18, 2011


No worky.
Horked.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:16 AM on February 18, 2011


tuneup, finely tuned
deus ex machina
posted by theora55 at 9:16 AM on February 18, 2011


Sabotage, shoes stopping machines.
posted by mareli at 9:26 AM on February 18, 2011


A (monkey) wrench in the works.
"That really grinds my gears" (i.e. upsets me)
posted by leapfrog at 12:09 PM on February 18, 2011


Ghost in the machine.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:28 PM on February 18, 2011


"Run out of steam"
"Go off at half-cock" (from flintlock guns)
"Go haywire" (referring to the wire used by bailing machines to tie up hay, which would tend not to stay in a neat coil for very long)
"Ratchet up the tension"
"Pull out all the stops" (referring to the knobs that control how much air flows through a pipe organ)
"Grind to a halt"
"Grist to the mill"
"Push the envelope" (the envelope being the stated upper or lower design limits for the performance of an aircraft or machine)
"Rack your brains" (rack = machine used to torture by applying strain/pulling)
posted by Rhomboid at 4:04 PM on February 18, 2011


Ticking over nicely
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:35 PM on February 18, 2011


Don't bust a valve man.
posted by woodjockey at 7:21 AM on February 19, 2011


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