touch a nerve
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touch a (raw) nerve
To evoke a strong emotional reaction, such as anger, sadness, or disgust, upon being encountered, heard, read, etc. Your column must have touched a nerve, because we are getting slammed with feedback from readers—and they're not happy. I could tell he was touching a raw nerve when he brought up Jane's former employer and Jane went silent for a moment.
touch a nerveor
touch a raw nerve
COMMON If something that you say touches a nerve or touches a raw nerve, it upsets someone, because you have mentioned a subject that they feel strongly about or are very sensitive about. I realised I had touched a nerve with my remarks. Buchanan's speech touched a raw nerve here at the Capitol. Note: You can also use other verbs such as strike or hit instead of touch. She seemed to strike a nerve when she asked Dr. Lowe about his past life. His remarks clearly hit a raw nerve with congressional Democrats.