cliff

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Related to Cliffs: Cliffs Notes

an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff

Something that is helpful only after one is already injured or in trouble. The idea is that, while an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff can help people who fall off the cliff, a fence at the top would be more beneficial. Services like this, which only help kids once they've gotten into significant trouble, are like an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff.
See also: ambulance, bottom, cliff, of

cliffhanger

1. An ending of a piece of fiction (e.g., a television episode, chapter of a book, a film, etc.) characterized by a dramatically suspenseful and uncertain end. A good summer book always has a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter so that you never want to put it down! Judging by that movie's cliffhanger, I'd say we'll be seeing a sequel coming out fairly soon.
2. A serial television or film production characterized by such endings. That show is a cliffhanger—the episodes never really have endings.
3. Any contest, competition, or other such situation in which the outcome is suspenseful and uncertain until the very end. The two teams have been neck and neck for the entire second half, and with two minutes left this match has become a real cliffhanger. This election is looking like a cliffhanger, and we won't be able to truly say who's won until all the votes are counted.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

cliff-hanger

A situation whose outcome is in extremely suspenseful doubt until the last moment. The term comes from serialized adventure films popular in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, in which, at the end of each installment, the hero or heroine is left in a very dangerous situation, sometimes literally dangling from a cliff. The rationale, of course, was to entice the audience to return for the next installment in order to see what happened. By the 1940s the term was being transferred to other suspenseful states of affairs—for example, “the election was a cliff-hanger.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in classic literature ?
My first cursory inspection of the face of the cliffs filled my heart with forebodings, since nowhere could I discern, except where the weird herald stood still shrieking his shrill summons, the faintest indication of even a bare foothold upon the lofty escarpment.
Perhaps a thousand feet from me the river broke, as it seemed, directly from the base of the cliffs, and as there seemed not the remotest chance for escape in that direction I turned my attention again toward the forest.
"You see now," remarked Billings as we craned our necks to scan the summit thousands of feet above us, "how futile it would have been to waste our time in working out details of a plan to surmount those." And he jerked his thumb toward the cliffs. "It would take weeks, possibly months, to construct a ladder to the top.
Gently she rose from the surface of the water, executed a wide spiral as she mounted rapidly, circled once far above us and then disappeared over the crest of the cliffs. We all stood silent and expectant, our eyes glued upon the towering summit above us.
Pulling himself together, he ran obliquely away from the cliff to a point distant from its foot; thereabout he expected to find his man; and thereabout he naturally failed.
The momentum of his flying body, added to that of my own, carried the two of us over the cliff. It was a hideous fall.
The thin cord dangling down the face of the brown cliff seemed from above to reach little more than half-way down it.
Therefore I deduced that it was native to Caprona--that it lived inland, and that it had fallen or been hurled from the cliffs above.
The point of view is situated as if at the head of a bay, the line of cliff diverging on each side, and showing headland behind headland, as on a bold sea-coast.
The cliffs upon the farther side had lost their ruddy tint, being chocolate-brown in color; the vegetation was more scattered along the top of them, and they had sunk to three or four hundred feet in height, but in no place did we find any point where they could be ascended.
The latter likewise inhabits cliffs in summer, but descends into the valleys in the winter.
On the summit of the East Cliff the new searchlight was ready for experiment, but had not yet been tried.
He broke out through the smoke, stepping on a burning coal and screaming with the sudden hurt of it, and essayed to climb up the cliff. The arrows showered about him.
Folks as believe in Cliff's Holiday aren't agoing to ventur near it for a matter o' ten pound."
To run seemed ridiculous, especially toward that steep and unscalable cliff, and yet I did so, and as I ran I saw Ja, agile as a monkey, crawl down the precipitous face of the rocks, clinging to small projections, and the tough creepers that had found root-hold here and there.