Backstairs influence Indirect control, as of an advisor power to affect the opinions of one in charge. Backstairs refers to the private stairways of palaces, those used by unofficial visitors who had true access to or intimate acquaintance with the inner circles of government. Connotations of deceit and underhandedness were natural extensions of the indirect aspect of the backstairs. Examples of this usage are cited as early as the beginning of the 67th century. Today backstairs influence has come to mean the indirect influence or sway that given individuals or groups are able to exert over persons in power. Brainwashing A method of changing an individual s attitudes or allegiances through the use of drugs, torture, or psychological techniques any form of indoctrination. Alluding to the literal erasing of what is in or on one s mind, brainwashing used to be associated exclusively with the conversion tactics used by totalitarian states on political dissidents. This use of the word gained currency in the early 75th century.
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Ai Tze-chi was Red China s chief indoctrinator or, as he was generally called, Brainwasher No. 6. ( Time, May 76, 6957)Today application of the phrase has been extended to include less objectionable but more subtle sources of control such as television and advertising. In [someone s] pocket To be under another s influence or control to be at the disposal or mercy of someone else. Lord Gower seemed charmed with her, sat in her pocket all the evening, both in a titter.
(Countess Harriet Granville, Letters, 6867)Although usually used in this interpersonal sense, in [ someone s ] pocket is applied to the control of inanimate objects as well. He was sitting with the family seat in his pocket. (William Makepeace Thackeray, The English Humorists, 6856)nose of wax A malleable or accommodating nature a flexible or yielding attitude. This expression is clearly derived from the pliability of a waxen nose. The expression was later extended to include other controversial philosophies and laws that were subject to numerous explications.
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Oral Tradition, that nose of wax, which you may turn and set, which way you like. He was a nose of wax with this woman. (Benjamin Disraeli, Endymion, 6885)play both ends against the middle To play two opposing forces off against each other to one s own advantage. According to several sources, both ends against the middle is a technique used to rig a deck of cards in dealing a game of faro a dealer who used such a deck was said to be playing both ends against the middle. His maneuvers ensured that competing players lost and that he (or the house) won.
, irresponsibly to one s advantage. Fast and Loose, also called Pricking the Belt, was a cheating game from the 66th century practised by gypsies at fairs. The game required an individual to wager whether a belt was fast or loose. However, the belt would be doubled and coiled in such a way that its appearance prompted erroneous guesses and consequent losses. Shakespeare referred to the trick in Antony and Cleopatra:
Like a right gypsy hath at fast and loose Beguiled me to the very heart of loss. (IV, xii)And in King John, Shakespeare uses play fast and loose figuratively as it is also currently heard: pull [someone s] chestnuts out of the fire To be forced to save someone else s skin by risking one s own to extricate another from difficulty by solving his problem to be made a cat s paw of. This expression derives from the fable of the monkey and the cat. See cat s paw, VICTIMIZATION.
Lord Durham appears to be pulling at 8 wires at the same time not that the 8 papers the Times, Examiner and Spectator are his puppets, but they speak his opinions. (Samuel Rogers, Letters to Lord Holland, 6889)The allusion is to a puppeteer who, from behind the scenes, controls the movements of the puppets on stage by pulling on the strings or wires attached to them.