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circular firing squad

A group, usually a political party, that is allied against a common enemy or opponent but whose internal disagreements and attacks end up doing more damage to each other than to their target. The lead up to the presidential nomination saw the party devolve into a circular firing squad, as each candidate's vociferous bid to unseat the incumbent president ended up creating huge divisions and disarray within the party itself.
See also: circular, firing, squad

fire on all cylinders

To function or operate at the most desirable or greatest possible level of efficiency, speed, or productivity. (Usually used in the continuous tense.) The new website will be firing on all cylinders once we get the comments section up and running! I only fire on all cylinders after I've had my coffee.
See also: all, cylinder, fire, on

fire (one's) pistol in the air

1. In a duel, to shoot one's firearm into the air to avoid injuring the other party. A: "Did I just hear a gunshot? Is the duel over?" B: "Sir Edmund fired his pistol into the air, so Master William is unscathed."
2. To avoid harshly criticizing or otherwise hurting someone during an argument or debate. I usually fire my pistol in the air in these sorts of debates—I hate hurting people's feelings.
See also: air, fire, pistol

firing line

1. In battle, a line of soldiers armed and ready to fire on an enemy. Our firing line will be able to push back the enemy, I'm sure of it.
2. A place where one is vulnerable to criticism. I'm not going into the boss's office right now—I'm not ready to be on the firing line this early in the morning!
See also: firing, line

firing on all cylinders

 and hitting on all cylinders 
1. Lit.
[of an internal combustion engine] having all its cylinders working and thus providing the maximum amount of power. The old car is firing on all cylinders despite its age. This thing's not hitting on all cylinders.
2. Fig. working at full strength; making every possible effort. The team is firing on all cylinders under the new coach. The factory is hitting on all cylinders to finish the orders on time.
See also: all, cylinder, firing, on

I'd rather face a firing squad than do something

Fig. I would prefer to stand and be executed by gunfire than to do something. I'd rather face a firing squad than go shopping the day after Christmas.
See also: face, firing, rather, squad

firing on all cylinders

operating as powerfully and effectively as possible Doctors say Mary will be firing on all cylinders after two months of physical therapy.
Usage notes: based on the literal meaning of a car engine using all of its cylinders (the parts that produce power)
See also: all, cylinder, firing, on

on the firing line

also in the firing line
in a situation that attracts criticism The judge found himself on the firing line from women for remarks he made about discrimination in the workplace.
Related vocabulary: in the line of fire
See also: firing, line, on

be firing on all cylinders

to be operating as powerfully and effectively as possible Dawson will be firing on all cylinders after 2 months of fitness training.
See also: all, cylinder, firing, on

be in the firing line

  (British, American & Australian) also be on the firing line (American & Australian)
if someone or something is in the firing line, they are likely to be criticized, attacked, or got rid of The judge found himself in the firing line from women's groups after his controversial comments about sexual assault. Recent cuts in council budgets mean that concessionary fares were next on the firing line.
See also: firing, line

fire on all cylinders

Also, hit or click on all cylinders . Function very well, as in Once we figured out how to use the new software, the department was firing on all cylinders , or "So the best infielder takes time to fit into the infield of a Big League club and have it hit on all four cylinders again" (Christy Mathewson, Pitching in a Pinch, 1912). This term transfers the functioning of an internal combustion engine, which works best when all its cylinders ignite, to broader use. [Early 1900s]
See also: all, cylinder, fire, on

firing line, on the

In the forefront of any activity or pursuit, especially a controversy. For example, At the sales conference they asked so many questions that Anne felt she was on the firing line . This expression originally meant the line of positions from which gunfire is directed at a target and is still so used in a military context. Today it is also used more loosely. [Late 1800s]
See also: firing, on
References in periodicals archive ?
Immediately following the successful completion of Developmental Testing, USS LAKE ERIE conducted a series of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation test firings.
Others in the lab told him to forget it, that only the intensity of the firing and not the pattern is important, and that people had wasted years looking at those patterns.
The next step is a set of full in-flight test firings followed by the planned live firing demonstrations to US defense authorities, which we anticipate occurring within the next three months.
The records did not note the causes of the proposed firings.
Video footage of these firings will be available for viewing
These important firings substantially enhance Metal Storm's 'in house' product development and allow for demonstrations of the company's own prototype products directly to defense customers.
The modernization will add computerized instrumentation able to detect problems quickly during a test firing.
In spring, the team finished testing one engine, firing it for a total of 1,500 seconds.
He said the firings were the result of the district's discomfort with having a private firm review its work and decisions - discomfort that has been building since last summer.
16, 1998--The first successful firing of an innovative "gel" missile propulsion system suited for a wide variety of tactical missiles was conducted last month at the U.
We learned enough from the ground firings and the airborne cryogenic gas flow tests to predict the hot gas effects of an aerospike engine during flight,'' said Jerry Rising, Lockheed Martin's vice president for the X-33/VentureStar program.
Inappropriate ICD firings like that described in Dr.
Other critics of the firings say that making a midseason switch amounts to throwing in the towel.
Earlier successful test firings of Thiokol's Stage 1 and CSD's Stage 3 Minuteman motors were done as part of the Air Force Propulsion Replacement Technology Insertion Program.