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cudgel (one's) brains

To try very hard to comprehend, solve, think of, or remember something. I was up all night cudgeling my brains for a way to pay off all my debts. She cudgeled her brains to remember the man's name.
See also: brain, cudgel

take up arms (against someone or something)

to prepare to fight against someone or something. Everyone in the town took up arms against the enemy. They were all so angry that the leader convinced them to take up arms.
See also: arm, take, up

take up arms

(slightly formal)
to fight with weapons against an enemy They took up arms only after other means of resolving their differences failed.
See also: arm, take, up

take up the cudgels for somebody/something

  (British & Australian) also take up the cudgels on behalf of somebody/something (British & Australian)
to argue strongly in support of someone or something
Usage notes: A cudgel is a short, heavy stick which is used as a weapon.
Relatives have taken up the cudgels for two British women accused of murder. (British & Australian)
See also: cudgel, take, up

rack one's brain

Also, cudgel one's brains. Strain to remember or find a solution, as in I've been racking my brain trying to recall where we put the key, or He's been cudgeling his brains all day over this problem. The first term, first recorded in 1583 as rack one's wit, alludes to the rack that is an instrument of torture, on which the victim's body was stretched until the joints were broken. The variant, from the same period, uses cudgel in the sense of "beat with a cudgel" (a short thick stick). Shakespeare used it in Hamlet (5:1): "Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not bend his pace with beating." Also see beat one's brains out.
See also: brain, rack

take up arms

Also, take up the cudgels. Become involved in a conflict, either physical or verbal, as in The Kurds took up arms against the Iranians at least two centuries ago, or Some believe it's the vice-president's job to take up the cudgels for the president. The first term originated in the 1400s in the sense of going to war. The variant, alluding to cudgels as weapons, has been used figuratively since the mid-1600s and is probably obsolescent.
See also: arm, take, up

take up the cudgels

To join in a dispute, especially in defense of a participant.
See also: cudgel, take, up
References in periodicals archive ?
THE Queen went pheasant shooting for the second day running yesterday - and angered animal rights groups by carrying a foot-long wooden cudgel to kill off any birds not shot dead.
Courts will no longer be able to use taws criminalizing same-sex intercourse as a cudgel against gay people in cases dealing with a wide range of issues, such as adoption by same-sex parents and workplace discrimination.
Overall he opens a path for understanding the Bible as a conveyance for God's loving Word today rather than as a cudgel with which to bludgeon those with whom we might disagree.
We will cudgel our brains to prevent loans (to them) from going bad,'' Kudo added.
After all, the goal of Truman and other Cold War presidents was not to defeat but to "contain" -- that is, control -- the Communist enemy, and use the threat of nuclear annihilation to cudgel Americans into accepting a UN-brokered new world order.
For decades, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, otherwise known as the SAT has towered over students and served as a political cudgel against poorly funded schools.
You won't have to cudgel your memory for details of your past successes.
The corporate sector has in many instances picked up the cudgel.
Oscar, all twinkling feet and panache around the box, became the new darling of Stamford Bridge, but the caveman's cudgel was a blunt instrument.
Bennett took up the cudgel vacated by the injured Matthew Rees Down Under and the onus is on him again.
In this thoughtful book, the authors have taken up the cudgel with regard to homophobia in education, as it affects both students and teachers.
Many still suspect that the 'hakapiks' used to cudgel seals often do not kill them, and that hunters end up skinning many seals alive - an appalling death.
Here, too, "data quality" was merely a cudgel by which to block the government from considering good science when making policy.
Authority is, among other things, moral authority, and it is forfeited when affiliation is enforced at the business end of a cudgel.
But senior members of the Democratic Party took a sharply partisan cudgel to Gingrich on Thursday.