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  1. vectra's Avatar
    English Teacher
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    be tied to someone's apron strings

    One of the idioms we are studying this semester is 'be tied to someone's apron strings'.
    The definition given in the book is 'to be too much under the influence/control'.
    But Longman Dictionary of English Idioms and give a bit different definition:
    'Wholly dependent on or controlled by a woman, especially one's mother or wife.'

    I agree with the definition provided by the latter sources, but here are example sentences from the book we use in the classroom:
    1. His inability to take the lead as well as being tied to the management's apron strings and too much influenced by their ideas are on the way of his promotion.
    2. In spite of ten-year experience in marketing, Michael is tied to his boss's apron strings.

    The question is whether we can use this idiom in the above examples?

    Thank you in advance.

  2. BobK's Avatar
    Harmless drudge
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    Re: be tied to someone's apron strings

    I agree with you. The person who coined the idiom obviously hadn't heard of butchers - and assumed only women wore aprons.

    And the implication goes further than that. The woman should be the object's mother, not wife. When a man is under the control of his wife/girlfriend/Significant Other.. he is 'under her thumb'. (There's an early Rolling Stones song - in the days when they did covers, so it may not have been original - called 'Under my thumb'.) The idiom is so well known that there's a dumb-show version: 'He's <mime-of-someone-pressing-down-with-her-thumb>'.

    In the case of your 2, there's an implication that the boss is a woman.

    But your 1 shows that the idiom is becoming unisex. It seems to me that there are two possible reasons for this.
    • The writer was not a native speaker, and was slavishly following your first definition because 'It's in the book'.
    • The writer was being politically correct

    (I'm not sure I've ever met the 'tied to' version; when I've met it it's been 'hanging on her apron strings'; the image is of a small child who does just that when introduced to a stranger.)


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