Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!
A deciduous tree (Nyssa sylvatica) native to eastern North America, known for the shades of bright scarlet its leaves turn in the autumn; also known as sour gum, black tupelo, or simply tupelo. The leaves of the black gum are an amazing sight in autumn.
flap (one's) gums
To chatter or blather. Quit flapping your gums—I need some quiet so I can think! Whenever Charlie starts to flap his gums, I can't get in a word!
up a gum tree
In a challenging or troublesome situation. (Possums were known to flee predators by hiding in gum trees.) Primarily heard in UK, Australia. I have no savings, so if I get fired from my job, I'll be up a gum tree. Shouldn't we stop for gas? We'll be up a gum tree if the car dies on that desolate road ahead.
beat (one's) gums
To talk repeatedly and/or lengthily but without impact. I constantly beat my gums about dirty dishes in the sink, and the kids still never clean up after themselves!
walk and chew gum (at the same time)
humorous To be able to do two or more things at once. Often used in the negative to convey ineptitude. I'm quite capable of watching the grill while I water the flowers—I can walk and chew gum at the same thank you very much. He's a sweet kid, but the new intern can't walk and chew gum. He managed to throw out the letters I told him to take to the mail office.
1. To apply a sticky substance to something. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "gum" and "up." You need to gum up the paper more if you want it to stick securely.
2. To interfere with the proper functioning of something. More regulations will just gum up the process. Sediment seems to have gummed up your engine.
3. To ruin something. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "gum" and "up." Boy, you really gummed up this report, and I don't have time to fix it right now.
gum up the works
To interfere with the proper functioning of something. More regulations will just gum up the works.
beat one's gums
to waste time talking a great deal without results. (As if one were toothless.) I'm tired of beating my gums about this over and over. You're just beating your gums. No one is listening.
flap one's gumsand flap one's jaws
Rur. to talk aimlessly. They're still out on the porch, flapping their gums. Well, I can't sit here flapping my jaws all day. Gotta get back to work.
gum something upand gum the works up
Fig. to make something inoperable; to ruin someone's plans. Please, Bill, be careful and don't gum up the works. Tom sure gummed up the whole plan.
Ruin or bungle something, as in The front office has gummed up the sales campaign thoroughly. This idiom is also put as gum up the works, as in John's changes in procedures have gummed up the works in the shipping department. [Slang; c. 1900]
flap your gumsAMERICAN, INFORMAL
If someone flaps their gums, they talk a lot without saying anything important. Who wants to hear you flapping your gums first thing in the morning?
up a gum treeBRITISH, OLD-FASHIONED
If someone is up a gum tree, they are in a very difficult situation. If another member of staff leaves, we'll really be up a gum tree. Note: This expression may be based on the fact that opossums (= animals with thick fur and long tails) often hide in gum trees when they are being hunted.
gum up the works
If something gums up the works, it makes it difficult for a process or activity to happen. We hope to use the new electronic voting machines, but legal challenges could still gum up the works.
up a gum treein or into a predicament. informal
This phrase is now found mainly in British English, but the phrase is recorded in the early 19th century in the USA, where possum up a gum tree was the title of a song or dance.
1992 Economist If they should end up seeking a deal with the Unionists, offers of devolution will lead ministers straight up a gum tree.
gum up the ˈworks(informal) make progress or an activity impossible: The building was going well, but the delay in delivering more bricks has really gummed up the works.
The works are the moving parts of an engine.
up a ˈgum tree(British English, informal) in a very difficult or awkward situation: I’ve got bills to pay and the bank is refusing to lend me any more money. I’m really up a gum tree.
1. To cover with a sticky substance: Gum up the back of the paper so it will stick to the frame. Gum the poster up so it won't fall down.
2. To become inactive or inoperable because of interference with moving parts: The cash register gummed up while it was in the attic, and now we can't open it.
3. To cause complications or inefficiency in something: These new regulations have gummed our procedures up, and we can't get anything done on time. The extra layer of bureaucracy gummed up the department's ability to process claims quickly.
beat one’s gums
tv. to waste time talking a great deal without results. I’m tired of beating my gums about this stuff.