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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

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 air 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 air their dirty linen in public.
See also: air, dirty, linen, public

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 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

wash your dirty linen in public

mainly BRITISH or

wash your dirty laundry in public

mainly BRITISH or

air your dirty linen in public

mainly AMERICAN or

air your dirty laundry in public

mainly AMERICAN
COMMON If someone washes their dirty linen in public or washes their dirty laundry in public, they talk publicly about unpleasant matters that should be private. We shouldn't wash our dirty laundry in public and if I was in his position, I'd say nothing at all. She thinks she can score points by airing the family's dirty linen in public. Note: There are many other variations of this expression. For example, you can leave out `in public' or `dirty'. In Spain, it seems, airing dirty linen is considered more serious than any offence itself. My brother has washed that linen in public and embarrassed me. Note: You can also just talk about dirty linen or dirty laundry to mean unpleasant facts that should remain private. We know much more than we ever did before about the doings of Congressmen. So, we're seeing more dirty laundry. It is certainly a huge disadvantage of being famous that everyone wants to see your dirty linen.
See also: dirty, linen, public, wash

wash your dirty linen in public

discuss or argue about your personal affairs in public.
This expression dates from the early 19th century in English; a similar French expression about linge sale is attributed to Napoleon.
See also: dirty, linen, public, wash

wash your dirty linen in ˈpublic

(British English, disapproving) talk or write about unpleasant or embarrassing private difficulties in public: Nobody must mention these problems at the meeting. I don’t want our dirty linen washed in public.
In this idiom, linen refers to clothes, especially underwear.
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
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