on one's toes, to be

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on one's toes, to be

To be fully alert, ready to act. The metaphor of the dancer or runner poised on tiptoe, prepared to go, has been applied to any kind of readiness since the early twentieth century. John Dos Passos used it in Three Soldiers (1921): “If he just watched out and kept on his toes, he’d be sure to get it.”
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The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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