Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Looking for a needle in a haystack

needle and button in Midtown NYC Garment district
Needle & button in Midtown Manhattan
If you're in New York City, you'll find this enormous (huge) needle and button leaning against an information booth in Midtown Manhattan. I walk by this sculpture in the city's Garment district everyday and have often thought of the expression "like looking for a needle in a haystack." (Yes, I do think of idioms now and then.) A haystack is a pile of cut grass that is often used to feed horses. You can imagine how hard it would be to find a needle in a stack of hay although, of course, not this one.

Understandably, we use this expression as a metaphor to talk about how difficult it would be to find something. For example, if you're looking for someone in the middle of Time Square on New Year's Eve, when the square is packed with hundreds of thousands of people, you can say, "We probably won't be able to find him; that's like looking for a needle in a haystack." Similarly, if you dropped your ring in the sand at the beach, it would probably be close to impossible to recover the ring, and you can say, "Looking for that ring is like looking for a needle in a haystack, so we might as well forget it."

So, can you think of a situation in the past when you could have used this expression? Perhaps you had to look for an old friend online who has a common name or perhaps you left a book on a shelf in a huge library, but you're not sure where you left it. In these two situations, searching for the book or your friend would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Alright, folks. Thanks for checking out this small lesson. If you haven't yet, please join us on Facebook, and follow me, Joe, on Twitter @joeyu2nd for more quick, small English lessons. Catch you later!

No comments:

Post a Comment