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Related to coals: Coles, Colas
canary in a coal mine
Something or someone who, due to sensitivity to his, her, or its surroundings, acts as an indicator and early warning of possible adverse conditions or danger. Refers to the former practice of taking caged canaries into coal mines. The birds would die if methane gas became present and thereby alert miners to the danger. Wildlife in disaster movies assumes the role of the canary in a coal mine, fleeing the scene when catastrophe is imminent. Unaware that he had been given the test drug, John was used as a canary in a coal mine to see its effects on the human mind.
haul (someone) over the coals
To scold, reprimand, or reprove someone severely for an error or mistake. I was hauled over the coals by my boss last week for messing up the accounting software. I know Mary messed up, but don't haul her over the coals too hard for it.
rake over old coals
To revisit, dredge up, or talk about something that happened in the past, especially that which is unpleasant. Primarily heard in UK. Now, now, there's no need to rake over old coals, that disagreement happened a long time ago.
blow the coals
To turn a minor issue into a major source of conflict. Likened to coaxing a smoldering flame into a fire by literally blowing on hot coals. Stop trying to blow the coals! There is no tension between Jen and me—you're imagining it! A: "What went wrong last night?" B: "Well, you know Sue, she just kept blowing the coals until everybody was in an all-out fight."
To allow oneself to be mocked or humiliated. You shut your mouth right now! I refuse to carry coals just because you're angry about work!
heap coals of fire on (one's) head
To make a special effort to induce feelings of guilt or remorse in another person. Why are you citing all these examples of times I wronged you? Why are you heaping coals of fire on my head?
at the coalface
Actively doing a certain job. These reports are just speculation—they didn't consult anyone actually at the coalface. I earned my retirement after 30 years at the coalface.
drag (one) over the coals
To scold, reprimand, or reprove someone severely for an error or mistake. I was dragged over the coals by my boss last week for messing up the accounting software. I know Mary messed up, but don't drag her over the coals too hard for it.
carry coals to Newcastle
Prov. to do something unnecessary; to do something that is redundant or duplicative. (Newcastle is an English town from which coal was shipped to other parts of England.) Mr. Smith is so rich he doesn't need any more money. To give him a gift certificate is like carrying coals to Newcastle.
rake someone over the coalsand haul someone over the coals
Fig. to give someone a severe scolding. My mother hauled me over the coals for coming in late last night. The manager raked me over the coals for being late again.
black as night
Also, black as coal or pitch . Totally black; also, very dark. For example, The well was black as night, or She had eyes that were black as coal. These similes have survived while others-black as ink, a raven, thunder, hell, the devil, my hat, the minister's coat, the ace of spades-are seldom if ever heard today. Of the current objects of comparison, pitch may be the oldest, so used in Homer's Iliad (c. 850 b.c.), and coal is mentioned in a Saxon manuscript from a.d. 1000. John Milton used black as night in Paradise Lost (1667).
carry coals to Newcastle
Do or bring something superfluous or unnecessary, as in Running the sprinkler while it's raining, that's carrying coals to Newcastle. This metaphor was already well known in the mid-1500s, when Newcastle-upon-Tyne had been a major coal-mining center for 400 years. It is heard less often today but is not yet obsolete.
pour on the coal
Speed up, as in They keep passing us so pour on the coal, Mom! or We can get this issue of the paper out on time if we pour on the coal. This slangy expression originated in aviation in the 1930s but must have been an allusion to the coal-burning engines of trains and ships, since aircraft were never so powered. It has since been transferred to other vehicles and other endeavors.
rake over the coals
Also, haul over the coals. Reprimand severely, as in When Dad finds out about the damage to the car, he's sure to rake Peter over the coals, or The coach hauled him over the coals for missing practice. These terms allude to the medieval torture of pulling a heretic over red-hot coals. [Early 1800s]
at the coalfacemainly BRITISH
When people talk about what is happening at the coalface of a particular profession, they are talking about the thoughts and actions of the people who are actually doing the job. The problem is that middle management simply don't know what is going on at the coalface. The aim is to show politicians the impact of their policies at the coalface. Note: This expression is used to suggest that these are the people who really know about the profession. Note: In a coal mine, the coalface is the part where the coal is being cut out of the rock.
haul someone over the coalsBRITISH or
rake someone over the coals
If a person, especially someone in authority, hauls someone over the coals or rakes someone over the coals, they speak to them very severely about something foolish or wrong that they have done. Lewis was hauled over the coals by English football authorities over his conduct in the match. Taylor was hauled over the coals for wasting police time. She was raked over the coals by an opponent who compared her to a convicted tax evader. Note: This expression may refer to a practice in medieval times of deciding whether or not someone was guilty of heresy, or saying things which disagreed with the teachings of the Church. The person accused of heresy was dragged over burning coals. If they burned to death they were considered guilty, but if they survived, they were considered innocent.
like taking coals to Newcastleor
like carrying coals to Newcastle
If you describe an action as being like taking coals to Newcastle or like carrying coals to Newcastle, you mean that you are giving things to someone or something that already has plenty of that thing. Sending guns to this region would be like taking coals to Newcastle. Note: You can also say that an action is like selling coals to Newcastle or simply talk about coals to Newcastle. Selling order and tidiness to Germans sounds like selling coals to Newcastle. More clothes for Nicola? Talk about coals to Newcastle! Note: You can also talk about a coals-to-Newcastle situation. Selling technology of this sort to Japan might seem a coals-to-Newcastle affair. Note: The city of Newcastle was the main centre of England's coal-mining industry for over 150 years.
be raking over the coalsor
be raking over the ashesmainly BRITISH
If someone is raking over the coals or is raking over the ashes, they are talking about something that happened in the past which you think should now be forgotten. Yes, we made mistakes in the past, but let us not waste time raking over the coals when there is hard work to be done. Why must we keep raking over the ashes, causing distress to so many people?
rake over the coals
To reprimand severely.
coals to Newcastle
Any unnecessary activity. Before the days of railroading, goods and commodities were transported by water. Coal in particular was shipped to port city of Newcastle before being distributed to the rest of England. Therefore, unless you were the captain of a ship laden with coal, carrying that kind of fossil fuel to Newcastle was a waste of your time and energy.