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1. adjective (hyphenated and used before a noun) Spiteful, malicious, or defamatory in composition, as of a letter or other written work, generally sent anonymously and with the aim of damaging or destroying a person's, group's, or organization's reputation or happiness. After agreeing to defend the alleged mass-murderer, the public defendant began receiving a large number of poison-pen letters from around the city. We've had enough trouble getting this restaurant up and running without having a poison-pen review like that in the papers!
2. adjective (hyphenated and used before a noun) Characterized by, typified by, or inclined toward the writing and sending of such letters or pieces of writing. The outspoken feminist figure has been the target of a hateful poison-pen campaign by online misogynists who have hidden behind the shield of anonymity to conduct their attacks.
3. noun A disposition, attitude, inclination, or ability typified by the writing and sending such letters or pieces of writing. Every year or so, there is a new piece of diatribe and vitriol from the poison pen of the infamous white supremacist. The poison pen of the oft-feared but well-respected critic has been enough to cause the downfall of more than one virtuoso's career.
slip of the pen
An unintentional mistake in one's writing, such as incorrect spelling, word choice, or meaning. Whoops, I meant to tell my mother that she was welcome to call over next Monday, but I actually wrote "next month" instead. Oh well, she'll understand that it was just a slip of the pen. Now take your time while writing these test essays—you don't want a few slips of the pen to be the reason you get a lower grade!
*in the bull pen
1. Lit. [of a baseball pitcher to be] in a special place near the playing field, warming up to pitch. (*Typically: be ~; go [into] ~.) You can tell who is pitching next by seeing who is in the bull pen. Our best pitcher just went into the bull pen. He'll be pitching soon.
2. Fig. in reserve, ready if needed. I'm willing to be in the bull pen. Just call me if you need me.
pen is mightier than the sword
Prov. Eloquent writing persuades people better than military force. Believing that the pen is mightier than the sword, the rebels began publishing an underground newspaper. Alan: Why do you want to become a journalist? Bill: The pen is mightier than the sword.
pen (someone or an animal) in (some place)
to confine someone or an animal in a pen. We penned all the kids in out in the backyard while we got the party things ready in the house. We had to pen in the kids to keep them away from the traffic. Alice penned her dog in.
See also: pen
pen (someone or an animal) up
to confine someone to a confined space or an animal to a pen. He said he didn't want them to pen him up in an office all day. They penned up the dog during the day.
put pen to paperalso set pen to paper
to write on paper You can e-mail us, or, of course, you can always put pen to paper and send us a letter.
put pen to paper
to start to write something I keep meaning to write to her but I haven't yet managed to put pen to paper.
The pen is mightier than the sword.(formal)
something that you say which means thinking and writing have more influence on people and events than the use of force or violence Reason is our greatest weapon against such tyrants. The pen is mightier than the sword.
a poison-pen letter
a letter that has no signature and says unpleasant things about the person it is sent to After he was convicted, his family received a number of poison-pen letters.
See also: letter
a pen pusher(British & Australian) also a pencil pusher (American)
someone who has a boring job in an office He's a frustrated desk-bound pen pusher who dreams of trekking through jungles. (British & Australian)
A letter, usually anonymous, that makes malicious statements about the recipient or a third party. For example, She told the police about the poison-pen letters, but they said they couldn't pursue the matter . [Early 1900s]
See also: letter
slip of the lip
Also, slip of the tongue or pen . An inadvertent mistake in speaking (or writing), as in It was just a slip of the lip that made me say the wrong name, or She didn't mean it; it was a slip of the tongue, or He intended to write "the honorable" but a slip of the pen turned it into "reverend." The usage with pen dates from the mid-1600s; the others are a century or so younger.
To confine someone or something in or as if in a pen: The farmer penned the pigs in for the night. If you don't pen in the chickens, the wolves will get them.
See also: pen
n. a penitentiary; prison. (Underworld.) Bart got sent to the pen for fifteen years.