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dirty linen

One's personal, intimate, or private matters or secrets, especially that which may be embarrassing if made public. From the expression "don't wash/air your dirty linen in public." Those who consider running for public office must be aware that their dirty linen is likely to be exposed to the public. David is such a gossip, always talking about other people's dirty linen.
See also: dirty, linen

wash (one's) dirty linen in public

To discuss very private, personal matters, especially that which may be embarrassing, in public or with other people. It always makes me uncomfortable when John starts going into all his personal problems whenever our friends get together. I just wish he wouldn't wash his dirty linen in public like that. People have an unnatural fixation on the personal lives of celebrities, but I don't see why they should be expected to wash their dirty linen in public.
See also: dirty, linen, public, wash

(one) does not wash (one's) dirty linen in public

One does not discuss very private, personal matters, especially those that may be embarrassing, in public or with other people. It always makes me uncomfortable when John starts going into all his personal problems whenever our friends get together. I do not wash my dirty linen in public, and I wish he wouldn't either! Kids, please don't say anything inappropriate in front of your grandmother—she definitely believes that one does not wash one's dirty linen in public.
See also: dirty, does, linen, not, public, wash

air one's dirty linen in public

 and wash one's dirty linen in public
Fig. to discuss private or embarrassing matters in public, especially when quarreling. (This linen refers to sheets and tablecloths or other soiled cloth.) They are arguing again. Why must they always air their dirty linen in public? She will talk to anyone about her problems. Why does she wash her dirty linen in public?
See also: air, dirty, linen, public

Do not wash your dirty linen in public.

Prov. Do not talk about your private family problems in public. Grandson: How are we going to make Dad stop drinking? Grandmother: Hush! Don't wash your dirty linen in public.
See also: dirty, linen, not, public, wash

wash your dirty laundry/linen in public

  (British & Australian) also air your dirty laundry/linen in public (American & Australian)
to talk to other people about personal things that you should keep private I was brought up to believe that it was wrong to wash your dirty linen in public.
See play dirty, talk dirty
See also: dirty, laundry, public, wash

wash one's dirty linen in public

Also air one's dirty linen or laundry . Expose private matters to public view, especially unsavory secrets. These metaphors are reworkings of a French proverb, Il faut laver son linge sale en famille ("One should wash one's dirty linen at home"), which was quoted by Napoleon on his return from Elba (1815). It was first recorded in English in 1867.
See also: dirty, linen, public, wash

dirty linen

and dirty laundry
n. scandal; unpleasant private matters. I wish you wouldn’t put our dirty linen out for everyone to see. She seems always to drag out her dirty linen whenever possible.
See also: dirty, linen
References in classic literature ?
She got the linen folded and placed in the waggon, she then yoked the mules, and, as she took her seat, she called Ulysses:
bleaching grounds = open spaces where newly woven linen is spread to whiten in the sun; legitimist.
usitatissimum had been left behind = the species name of linen means "most useful"; Madame Savon = literally, Mrs.
The Frenchman looked at the linen, considered for a moment, then looked inquiringly at Pierre and, as if Pierre's look had told him something, suddenly blushed and shouted in a squeaky voice:
At seven in the evening they broke off to run the hotel linen through the mangle.
The hand of Providence brought me in my drifting to the very doors of the British Linen Company's bank.
On the table stood medicine bottles and decanters tidily arranged, and the linen needed was folded up there, and Kitty's broderie anglaise.
In her bedroom Saxon completed her dressing, for an instant stepping upon a chair so as to glimpse critically in the small wall-mirror the hang of her ready-made linen skirt.
With his free hand, Billy drew back the linen robe and helped her to a place beside him.
If the search leads to nothing, I want to be able to account next for all the linen in the house, and for all the linen sent to the wash.
I had a little plate, but not much, and was well enough stocked with clothes and linen.
She went to a linen-draper's shop, took some coarse linen off the counter, and slipped it under her cloak; the shopman saw her, and she laid it down: for this she was hanged.
He won't go out, even in the back-yard, when there's no linen; but when there's linen to keep the neighbours' eyes off, he'll sit there, hours.
Howiver, if Tom's to go to a new school, I should like him to go where I can wash him and mend him; else he might as well have calico as linen, for they'd be one as yallow as th' other before they'd been washed half-a-dozen times.
said Mr Brass smiling fondly at the wall, 'his linen which was always of a particular colour, for such was his whim and fancy--how plain I see his linen now