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Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
A rhetorical question referring to an excessive amount of force that has been applied to achieve something minor, unimportant, or insignificant. The line is a quotation from Alexander Pope's poem "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot." To "break upon a wheel" refers to a mode of torture, in which a victim has their bones broken while strapped to a large wheel. The government's use of drone strikes and artillery bombing on the town to wipe out a tiny faction of rebels is totally unjustifiable—who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
break a butterfly on a wheel
To apply an excessive amount of force to achieve something minor, unimportant, or insignificant. The phrase appears in the rhetorical question, "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?" The line is a quotation from Alexander Pope's poem "Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot." To "break upon a wheel" refers to a mode of torture, in which a victim has their bones broken while strapped to a large wheel. The government's use of drone strikes and artillery bombing on the town to wipe out a tiny faction of rebels is totally unjustifiable—who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
butterflies in (one's) stomach
A feeling of nervousness. The butterflies in my stomach almost kept me from going on stage and performing.
have butterflies in (one's) stomach
A feeling of nervousness. I almost didn't go on stage and perform tonight because I had butterflies in my stomach.
*butterflies in one's stomach
a nervous feeling in one's stomach. (*Typically: get ~; have ~; give someone~.) Whenever I have to speak in public, I get butterflies in my stomach. She always has butterflies in her stomach before a test. It was not frightening enough to give me butterflies in my stomach, but it made me a little apprehensive.
*gaudy as a butterfly
fancy; colorful. (*Also: as ~.) Marie looked as gaudy as a butterfly in her new dress. Michael's scarf is gaudy as a butterfly.
See also: butterfly
butterflies in one's stomach
Fluttering sensations caused by a feeling of nervous anticipation. For example, I always get butterflies in my stomach before making a speech. This term likens a nervous feeling to that resulting from swallowing live butterflies that fly about inside one. [c. 1900]
butterflies in your stomach
If you have butterflies in your stomach, you feel very nervous about something that you have to do. He seemed so full of enthusiasm that I felt foolish still having butterflies in my stomach. Now I can go there as a competitor, I'm starting to feel the butterflies in my stomach already. Note: Butterflies is also used in many other structures and expressions with a similar meaning. Any jockey who says he doesn't get butterflies down at the start is telling lies. Carol felt butterflies tumbling in her guts.
be breaking a butterfly on a wheelBRITISH, LITERARY
If you say that someone is breaking a butterfly on a wheel, you mean that they are using far more force than is necessary to do something. The Huglets have had their ideology combed over, examined, misinterpreted and rewritten. Talk about breaking a butterfly on a wheel. Note: This is a quotation from `Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot' (1735) by Alexander Pope. In the past, the wheel was an instrument of torture. A person was tied to it and then their arms and legs were broken or they were beaten to death. Compare with a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
break a butterfly on a wheeluse unnecessary force in destroying something fragile or insignificant.
In former times, breaking someone upon the wheel was a form of punishment or torture which involved fastening criminals to a wheel so that their bones would be broken or dislocated.
1998 Times But why break a butterfly upon a wheel? What harm does the Liberal Democrat leader do? Unfortunately he may be about to do a great deal.
the butterfly effectthe phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
The expression comes from chaos theory. In 1979 , Edward N. Lorenz gave a paper to the American Association for the Advancement of Science entitled ‘Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?’
have butterflies in your stomachhave a queasy feeling because you are nervous. informal
get/have ˈbutterflies (in your stomach)(informal) get/have a nervous feeling in your stomach before doing something: I always get butterflies (in my stomach) before an interview.
A person who flits from event to event without a care in the world. This derogatory phrase is usually but not always applied to women who “live to party.” Going from one dinner party or ball or benefit to another, they are preoccupied with being the height of fashion and popularity. According to one wonderfully descriptive characterization, a social butterfly has a “brow unfurrowed by care or thought."