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a (poor, pathetic, etc.) excuse for a (type of person or thing)

Someone or something that utterly fails to adequately represent or function as a particular kind of thing or person. I would have been acquitted if that pathetic excuse for a lawyer hadn't bungled my case! He's a rotten excuse for a husband, but I have to admit that he's a great father. When I showed my friend my poor excuse for a soufflé, she just started laughing.
See also: excuse, for, of, person

all too human

Having or characterized by the fundamental flaws, failings, and feelings of human beings. Sometimes hyphenated if used before a noun. The film's supernatural elements end up being little more than window dressing, while the real horrors come from places that are all too human. The politician's all-too-human personal struggles seem to make him more relatable to voters. Sometimes, her acting is just all too human, and, as such, becomes painful to watch.
See also: all, human

hope springs eternal in the human breast

proverb People can always find a reason to hope, even in the bleakest situations. The phrase comes from Alexander Pope's poem Essay on Man. We don't know how this business venture will work out, but hope springs eternal in the human breast, right?

human interest

cliché Of, involving, or referencing the stories and emotions of individual people. Used primarily in or in reference to articles and features in newspapers. They ran an intriguing human interest piece on Sunday about a man who has spent nearly 40 years living in a storage unit converted into a micro apartment. There's been so much doom and gloom in the news lately. Let's feature a feel-good human interest story on the front page to lighten things up a bit.
See also: human, interest

human touch

1. Literally, physical touch between two people. Babies need human touch—that's why skin-to-skin contact is so important. I was surprised by how much I missed human touch when I lived alone.
2. The ability to treat other people with warmth and empathy. In my experience, it's rare to have a psychiatrist who treats her clients with a human touch and sees them as more than a diagnosis. These automated checkouts are convenient, but they lack the human touch of having a real person.
3. Qualities unique to human beings that are present in something inanimate, such as an object or place. The phone's voice-activated software sounds like a robot—we need to give it more of a human touch.
See also: human, touch

human wrecking ball

A wrecking ball is a very large steel ball that is used to knock down structures.
1. Someone who behaves in a reckless, destructive manner. If that new manager thinks he can just come in here like a human wrecking ball and shake up in whole department, he's got another think coming! That clumsy oaf ran through the store like a human wrecking ball and broke tons of my merchandise!
2. Someone who uses their superior physical size and strength against opponents, as of an athlete. Their defensive line is made up of human wrecking balls, so good luck getting any penetration.
See also: ball, human, wreck

the milk of human kindness

An innate sense of compassion. The phrase comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth. Lisa would never say anything that cruel—she has the milk of human kindness in her.
See also: human, kindness, milk, of

to err is human (to forgive is divine)

proverb Being fallible and making mistakes is inherent to being a human, and forgiving such mistakes is a transcendent act. I know you're mad at your brother because he lied, but to err is human, you know. To forgive is divine.
See also: err, forgive, human, to

wake up feeling human

To wake up feeling well-rested and healthy. I thought that I'd for sure be hungover this morning, but nope, I woke up feeling human, thank goodness. No, I had a cold all week. Today is actually the first day that I've woken up feeling human. With a newborn in the house, it'll be quite a while before you two will wake up feeling human again.
See also: feeling, human, up, wake
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

milk of human kindness

Fig. natural kindness and sympathy shown to others. (From Shakespeare's play Macbeth, I. v.) Mary is completely hard and selfish—she doesn't have the milk of human kindness in her. Roger is too full of the milk of human kindness and people take advantage of him.
See also: human, kindness, milk, of

To err is human(, to forgive divine).

Prov. You should not be too harsh with someone who makes a mistake, because all human beings make mistakes. (Often used as a roundabout way to ask someone to forgive you for making a mistake.) Jill: How could you let my dog get out when I told you a hundred times that he should stay in the house! Ellen: To err is human, to forgive divine.
See also: err, human, to
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

milk of human kindness, the

Compassion, sympathy, as in There's no milk of human kindness in that girl-she's totally selfish. This expression was invented by Shakespeare in Macbeth (1:5), where Lady Macbeth complains that her husband "is too full of the milk of human kindness" to kill his rivals.
See also: human, milk, of
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

to err is human

People say to err is human to mean that it is natural for human beings to make mistakes. To err is human, and nobody likes a perfect person. Note: People sometimes use the whole expression to err is human, to forgive divine to mean that it is a very good thing to be able to forgive someone who does something wrong. Everyone admires her behaviour — after all, to err is human, to forgive divine. Note: This expression comes from an essay by Alexander Pope.
See also: err, human, to
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

to err is human, to forgive divine

it is human nature to make mistakes yourself while finding it hard to forgive others. proverb
See also: divine, err, forgive, to

the milk of human kindness

care and compassion for others.
This phrase comes from Macbeth. In Lady Macbeth's soliloquy on the subject of her husband's character, she remarks: ‘Yet I do fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way’.
See also: human, kindness, milk, of
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

the milk of human ˈkindness

kind feelings: There’s not much of the milk of human kindness in him. I’ve never known such a hard man.This expression comes from Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.
See also: human, kindness, milk, of
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

human interest

Arousing interest or concern or sympathy for an occurrence or a person. The term appears most often in connection with a journalistic story and has been employed so much it qualifies as a cliché. Seemingly very modern, it was actually used in 1860 by Charles Dickens in an article in which he said that he traveled for the sake of human interest.
See also: human, interest

milk of human kindness, the

Sympathy, compassion. This expression, too, comes from Shakespeare. He used it in Macbeth (1.5), where Lady Macbeth tells her husband, “Yet do I fear thy nature. It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness” (to act as ruthlessly as he must in order to become king). Numerous writers have used the term, often to comment on the souring or curdling of that very milk, although one writer reports of one bishop meeting another and saying, “He had often heard of the milk of human kindness, but never hitherto had he met the cow” (E. M. Sneyd-Kynnersley, H.M.I., 1908).
See also: human, milk, of
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

milk of human kindness

Compassion or benevolence. Shakespeare again, but this time Macbeth. Lady Macbeth regrets that her husband doesn't have the overwhelming ambition that she has by saying, “Yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness. To catch the nearest way.” Macbeth heeds his wife, schemes and murders his way to the throne, and is then deposed and killed. The milk must have curdled. A compliment to a sweetheart of a person is to say that he or she is “full of the milk of human kindness.”
See also: human, kindness, milk, of
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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References in classic literature ?
Jerry, who heard, registered, and recognized many words that were as truly tools of thought to him as they were to humans, but who, by inarticulateness of birth and breed, could not utter these many words, nevertheless in his mental processes, used images just as articulate men use words in their own mental processes.
Once, even, had there been an eruption of strange four-legged, horned and hairy creatures, the images of which, registered in his brain, would have been identifiable in the brains of humans with what humans worded "goats."
Moreover, this phenomenon of an architecture of the people following an architecture of caste, which we have just been observing in the Middle Ages, is reproduced with every analogous movement in the human intelligence at the other great epochs of history.
What human being could be upon such excellent terms with the gorilla-men?
Firm and undaunted in the confidence of that sacred bond; conscious of the purity, and convinced of the importance of your motives, you put your trust in the protecting shield of Providence, and smiled defiance at the combining terrors of human malice and of elemental strife.
The Wieroo raised his wings in a very human shrug and waved his bony claws toward the human skulls supporting the ceiling.
Now no surviving human being saw so much of the Martians in action as I did.
Peter's heart was so glad that he felt he must sing all day long, just as the birds sing for joy, but, being partly human, he needed an instrument, so he made a pipe of reeds, and he used to sit by the shore of the island of an evening, practising the sough of the wind and the ripple of the water, and catching handfuls of the shine of the moon, and he put them all in his pipe and played them so beautifully that even the birds were deceived, and they would say to each other, "Was that a fish leaping in the water or was it Peter playing leaping fish on his pipe?" and sometimes he played the birth of birds, and then the mothers would turn round in their nests to see whether they had laid an egg.
In return to all these concessions, I desire of the philosophers to grant, that there is in some (I believe in many) human breasts a kind and benevolent disposition, which is gratified by contributing to the happiness of others.
I collected bones from charnel- houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame.
All things considered, these are as proper subjects of human pride as any relations of human rank that men can fix upon.
It is admitted that there are ideas of all things, but the manner in which individuals partake of them, whether of the whole or of the part, and in which they become like them, or how ideas can be either within or without the sphere of human knowledge, or how the human and divine can have any relation to each other, is held to be incapable of explanation.
On the whole, therefore, there is probably more to be learnt about human psychology from animals than about animal psychology from human beings; but this conclusion is one of degree, and must not be pressed beyond a point.
I came out of this age of ours, this ripe prime of the human race, when Fear does not paralyse and mystery has lost its terrors.
There is nothing he will not promise the poor hungry human heart, with his innocent-looking daisies and those practised liars the birds.