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all bark and no bite

Full of talk that is more threatening or impressive than that which one can or will actually do. He always threatens to call the police if I don't stay off his lawn, but he's all bark and no bite. John talks big about how much money he'll make someday, but he's all bark and no bite.
See also: all, and, bark, bite

(one's) bark is worse than (one's) bite

One's actions will not be nearly as severe as his or her words imply. Don't worry about John's threats. His bark is worse than his bite.
See also: bark, bite, worse

bark at the moon

To make appeals in vain. Good luck talking to the principal, but I think you'll just be barking at the moon—I doubt you'll get a better grade.
See also: bark, moon

barking dogs seldom bite

People who make themselves appear threatening rarely do any harm. A: "I'm really scared to tell Mr. White that I haven't finished my project. You know how he yells." B: "Yeah, but barking dogs seldom bite. He'll get over it."
See also: bark, bite, dog, seldom

close as the bark to the tree

As connected as is possible. Often used to describe a particularly intimate relationship or friendship. Jenna and Elise are as close as the bark to the tree—I rarely see one without the other!
See also: bark, close, tree

go between the bark and the tree

To be overly involved in someone's personal matters—often those of a married person or couple. You shouldn't spend so much time alone with Elaine—she is a married woman, and you're going between the bark and the tree! You know far too much about their relationship and have definitely gone between the bark and the tree now.
See also: and, bark, tree

take the bark off

To whip or otherwise punish someone. The phrase initially referred to striking someone so hard as to cut the skin. Primarily heard in US. That boy didn't do any of his chores around this farm today and still went off with his friends. I'm going to take the bark off him once he gets home! If we had to get in trouble with a teacher, at least it's with Mr. Wright—he's nice and won't take the bark off us.
See also: bark, off, take

the dogs bark, but the caravan goes on

Dissenting views from the lower classes are often ignored in favor of progress. City Hall probably won't even notice our protest against tearing down that historical building. The dogs bark, but the caravan goes on.
See also: but, dog, goes, on

tight as the bark on a tree

Extremely frugal. If you're going to lunch with Derek, be prepared to pay for your own meal—he's tight as the bark on a tree. My grandfaher is as tight as the bark on a tree, so he's probably saved every dollar he ever made.
See also: bark, on, tight, tree

bark at

1. Literally, of a dog, to make a barking noise at something. The dog is barking at something outside—can you please calm him down?
2. To yell at or speak severely to another person. The science teacher barked at us for not doing our homework.
See also: bark

bark up the wrong tree

To attempt or pursue a futile course of action, often by making some kind of suggestion or request. If you think I'll help you cheat, you're definitely barking up the wrong tree! I barked up the wrong tree when I applied to such good colleges with my average grades.
See also: bark, tree, up, wrong

a barking dog never bites

One who regularly makes angry or threatening statements rarely acts upon them. Mr. Stewart may yell a lot, but I doubt he'll do anything to you—a barking dog never bites.
See also: bark, bite, dog, never

be barking mad

To be crazy or insane. Although its origin is unknown, the phrase may refer to rabid dogs. It's freezing today, and you're not going to wear a coat? Are you barking mad? You're barking mad if you think that plan will work.
See also: bark, mad

bark at someone

Fig. to speak harshly to someone. Don't bark at me like that over such a trivial mistake! Ken barked at the children for being noisy.
See also: bark

bark at someone or something

Lit. [for a dog] to make a characteristic sharp sound at someone or something. (See also bark at someone.) The dog is barking at the traffic again. Their guard dog was barking at me.
See also: bark

bark something out at someone

 and bark something at someone; bark something to someone; bark something out (to someone)
Fig. to say something harshly to someone. The sergeant barked the orders out at the recruits. He barked an order at his staff. The teacher barked a reprimand out to the class. He barked out the order clearly and loudly.
See also: bark, out

bark up the wrong tree

Fig. to make the wrong choice; to ask the wrong person; to follow the wrong course. (Alludes to a dog in pursuit of an animal, where the animal is in one tree and the dog is barking at another tree.) If you think I'm the guilty person, you're barking up the wrong tree. The hitters blamed the team's bad record on the pitchers, but they were barking up the wrong tree.
See also: bark, tree, up, wrong

barking dog never bites

Prov. Someone who makes threats all the time seldom carries out the threats. Old Mrs. Smith keeps saying she'll call the police if we walk on her lawn, but don't worry. A barking dog never bites. My boss threatens to fire me at least once a week, but a barking dog never bites.
See also: bark, bite, dog, never

One's bark is worse than one's bite.

Prov. Someone makes a lot of harsh-sounding threats but never carries them out. Don't get upset at anything my father says. His bark is worse than his bite. Jill: Lisa says she's going to sue me for letting my dog dig up her rosebushes. John: Don't pay any attention. Her bark is worse than her bite.
See also: bark, bite, worse

Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

Prov. You should not do something you have hired someone else to do. Ellen: The cleaning lady washes my floors every Tuesday, but I always wash them over again. Jane: Don't be silly, Ellen. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?
See also: and, bark, dog, keep, why

somebody/something has more bark than bite

also somebody's/something's bark is worse than their/its bite
something is not as unpleasant as you expected The storm turned out to have far more bark than bite. My boss sounds tough, but her bark is much worse than her bite, and she's actually pretty easy to work for once you get to know her.
See also: bark, bite, more

barking up the wrong tree

believing the wrong explanation for something He had nothing to do with the robbery - the cops are really barking up the wrong tree this time.
See also: bark, tree, up, wrong

somebody's bark is worse than their bite

if someone's bark is worse than their bite, they are not as unpleasant as they seem, and their actions are not as bad as their threats I wouldn't be scared of her if I were you. Her bark's a lot worse than her bite.
See also: bark, bite, worse

be barking mad

  (British & Australian old-fashioned)
to be crazy You went swimming in the sea in the middle of winter? You must be barking mad!
See also: bark, mad

be barking up the wrong tree

to be wrong about the reason for something or the way to achieve something New evidence suggests that we have been barking up the wrong tree in our search for a cure.
See also: bark, tree, up, wrong

Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  (British & Australian)
something that you say which means there is no purpose in doing something yourself when there is someone else who will do it for you Just leave the glasses on the table - the bar staff will collect them. After all, why keep a dog and bark yourself?
See also: and, bark, dog, keep, why

bark is worse than one's bite, one's

A person seems more hostile or aggressive than is the case, as in Dad sounds very grouchy in the morning, but his bark's worse than his bite. This phrase was a proverb by the mid-1600s.
See also: bark, worse

bark up the wrong tree

Waste one's efforts by pursuing the wrong thing or path, as in If you think I can come up with more money, you're barking up the wrong tree. This term comes from the nocturnal pursuit of raccoon-hunting with the aid of dogs. Occasionally a raccoon fools the dogs, which crowd around a tree, barking loudly, not realizing their quarry has taken a different route. [Early 1800s]
See also: bark, tree, up, wrong

talk someone's arm off

Also, talk someone's ear or head or pants off ; talk a blue streak; talk until one is blue in the face; talk the bark off a tree or the hind leg off a donkey or horse . Talk so much as to exhaust the listener, as in Whenever I run into her she talks my arm off, or Louise was so excited that she talked a blue streak, or You can talk the bark off a tree but you still won't convince me. The first four expressions imply that one is so bored by a person's loquacity that one's arm (or ear or head or pants) fall off; they date from the first half of the 1900s (also see pants off). The term like a blue streak alone simply means "very quickly," but in this idiom, first recorded in 1914, it means "continuously." The obvious hyperboles implying talk that takes the bark off a tree, first recorded in 1831, or the hind leg off a horse, from 1808, are heard less often today. Also see under blue in the face.
See also: arm, off, talk

barking spider

and trumpet spider
n. the imaginary source of the sound of an audible release of intestinal gas. (With reference to the image of a anus.) Heidi, do you know anything about the trumpet spider I keep hearing? Although Dr. Waddlington-Stowe had never heard “barking spider” with reference to the affected part, he caught the connection immediately.
See also: bark, spider

bark up the wrong tree

To misdirect one's energies or attention.
See also: bark, tree, up, wrong

A barking dog never bites

Making threats but not carrying them out. The idea that a dog that vocalizes disapproval will not attack is more poetry than truth, as an examination of any hospital emergency room records will show. This anecdote is relevant: a candidate for local political office went from door to door to solicit votes. Ringing a doorbell, he was greeted by a woman restraining a large dog that was barking loudly. When the candidate hesitated, his assistant encouraged him to stay, saying, “Don't you know the proverb ‘a barking dog never bites'?” “Yes,” said the candidate, “I know the proverb, and you know the proverb, but does the dog know the proverb?” (Barking dogs figure in another phrase: “My dogs are barking” means that my feet hurt.)
See also: bark, bite, dog, never

Why keep a dog and bark yourself

Don't do a chore that should be done by someone you hired to do it. A literal example of the expression would be a home owner who buys, trains, and maintains a guard dog, but stays up all night in case of intruders. Jonathan Swift in Polite Conversation wrote this exchange between a woman of quality and her servant: “‘Good Miss, stir the Fire.' ‘Indeed your Ladyship could have stirr'd it much better.' [To which the woman replied] ‘I won't keep a Dog and bark myself.'”
See also: and, bark, dog, keep, why
References in classic literature ?
From the cave we have advanced to roofs of palm leaves, of bark and boughs, of linen woven and stretched, of grass and straw, of boards and shingles, of stones and tiles.
said Don Quixote, "cross ourselves and weigh anchor; I mean, embark and cut the moorings by which the bark is held;" and the bark began to drift away slowly from the bank.
In a few moments, notwithstanding their wet clothes, the icy blast that blew and the previous scene of terror, these hardy adventurers, with their iron frames, inured to every hardship, threw themselves down, intending to profit by the advice of Athos, who sat at the helm, pensively wakeful, guiding the little bark the way it was to go, his eyes fixed on the heavens, as if he sought to verify not only the road to France, but the benign aspect of protecting Providence.
Here he was soon enabled to detect sundry fragments of wood and bark, of which he quite coolly took possession, very possibly without any intention of speaking at all upon the subject; but, when he beheld the full blue eye of Marmaduke watching his movements, he whispered to the Judge:
She never yapped for yapping's sake, but her shrill, high bark was known all along the Mall, and other men's terriers ki-yied in reply, and bullock-drivers looked over their shoulders and gave us the road with a grin.
When he went inside, the dogs did not bark at him, but wagged their tails quite amicably around him, ate what he set before them, and did not hurt one hair of his head.
The man only shook his head and pointed to the pencil and the bark.
That is not Nana's unhappy bark," she said, little guessing what was about to happen; "that is her bark when she smells danger.
Often he had heard his father and mother, on the safety of the sand, bark and rage their hatred of those terrible sea-dwellers, when, close to the beach, they appeared on the surface like logs awash.
Though he often tried to bark thereafter, and the master encouraged him, he succeeded only once, and then it was not in the master's presence.
They were all interested, and Toto was so excited he wanted to bark every minute and to chase and fight every fox he caught sight of; but Dorothy held his little wiggling body fast in her arms and commanded him to be good and behave himself.
Well, you must know, Bruce was mate of a bark at the time I'm speaking of, and he was on a voyage from Liverpool to New Brunswick.
Resting by the wayside a little later, the Tramp carved upon the smooth bark of a birch-tree the words, "John Gump, Champion Genius.
In all the time they had him he was never known to bark.
Until over calm longing seas the bark glideth, the golden marvel, around the gold of which all good, bad, and marvellous things frisk:--