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On The Ropes

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On The Ropes

They're trying to raise the stakes. Putin's on the ropes. He's massively weakened after he lost huge amounts of territory in northeastern Ukraine, up around Kharkiv, where we are. And he's in trouble. He's being increasingly isolated internationally. In recent days it's been really interesting at home. It's hard to read right back in Russia. We don't know what public opinion's like.

On the ropes is one of many idioms with origins in the sporting world. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of the phrase on the ropes, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

On the ropes means defeated or very near to defeat, ruined, close to giving up. The idiom on the ropes comes from the world of boxing. A boxing ring is enclosed by large, heavy ropes. When a boxer has backed his opponent into the ropes, that opponent has no means of escape. His ability to punch and defend himself is restricted. In addition, a boxer who is near collapse may grab the ropes in order to support himself and stay on his feet. The term on the ropes to mean a boxer who is in trouble and near collapse was first used in the early 1800s. On the ropes moved into mainstream English as an idiom in the 1920s, a time when many sports terms became everyday idioms.

Just 15 days ago, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was on the ropes, battered by huge street protests and facing discontent within his own ranks and possible economic sanctions amid signs that he had formally turned into a dictator. (The Miami Herald)

Elaborate preparations were made for the raising. A huge wooden structure was erected, with pulleys and ropes enabling the column to be pulled up by the combined efforts of hundreds of workers. A day was set aside. Everything was ready for the effort. As an additional guarantee of success, the Pope decreed that no one was to speak while the work was in progress, so that the instructions of the overseer could be clearly heard. The penalty for speaking is variously reported as having been death or excommunication.

The work began. The workers toiled at the ropes, and the pillar began to rise. The hot Roman sun ascended in the sky. As the angle of the great stone obelisk increased, so did the temperature of the ropes. The energy expended by all those people pulling heated them, and the blazing sun did nothing to help. In due course they became so hot they began to smoke. If they caught fire, the obelisk would come crashing down. It might even shatter.

Zachary Bernstein: Anna, Hayaat and Amanda, that was a great discussion. Thank you all for joining me today and sharing your insights. And thank you to our listeners. For more information on the topics we discussed as well as other helpful links and materials, please visit our Enforcement Express website at and our R&G Insights Lab website at If you have any feedback or suggestions for jurisdictions or specific topics you would like us to cover, please contact us at or feel free to reach out to any of us directly. You can also subscribe to this series wherever you regularly listen to your podcasts, including on Apple, Google and Spotify. Thanks again for listening.

Nicholas Seghers, 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, moves between two buildings using ropes and pulleys as part of the rescue technician course Jan. 24 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The DOD Fire Academy course provided hands-on high elevation rescue, rappelling and moving in confined spaces training for 12 Air Force firefighters. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Rescue technician course trainees pull ropes as a team as part of the rescue technician course Jan. 24 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The DOD Fire Academy course provided hands-on high elevation rescue, rappelling and moving in confined spaces trainin


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