underbelly

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dark underbelly

The corrupt, immoral, or sordid part or portion of some group, organization, society, etc., that remains unseen by the majority of people. The investigative journalist has exposed the dark underbelly of an industry rife with bribery, prostitution, and drugs. The dark underbelly of this city is certainly its most dangerous part, but it's also where you'll find the greatest thrills.
See also: dark, underbelly

seedy underbelly

The corrupt, immoral, or sordid part or portion of some group, organization, society, etc., that remains unseen by the majority of people. The investigative journalist has exposed the seedy underbelly of an industry rife with bribery, prostitution, and drugs. The seedy underbelly of this city is certainly its most dangerous part, but it's also where you'll find the greatest thrills.
See also: underbelly

soft underbelly

The part or portion of something that is the most vulnerable to attack, disruption, or failure. A reference to the underside of animals that have protective shells or spines on the back portions of their bodies. This crisis has exposed the soft underbelly of our government, which has clearly failed to put in place vital infrastructures at every level. The recent surge in espionage claims is revealing something of a soft underbelly of what has always been a delicate truce between the two countries. His extramarital affairs are the soft underbelly of his political campaign, which had portrayed him as a champion of the nuclear family.
See also: soft, underbelly

weak underbelly

The part or portion of some group, organization, society, etc., that is the most vulnerable to attack, disruption, or failure. A reference to the underside of animals that have protective shells or spines on the back portions of their bodies. This crisis has exposed the weak underbelly of our government, which has clearly failed to put in place vital infrastructures at every level. The recent surge in espionage claims is revealing something of a weak underbelly of what has always been a delicate truce between the two countries.
See also: underbelly, weak
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

soft underbelly

The weakest, most vulnerable part of an organization, nation, or other body. The most probably source of the expression is a reference to animals like porcupines, which are well protected on their backs but not on their bellies. It was first used figuratively during World War II, when Sir Winston Churchill described the Allied invasion of Italy as an attack on the soft underbelly of the Axis. It later was extended to various vulnerabilities, as in “She was . . . sticking her knife . . . into the soft underbelly of capitalism” (John Campbell Crosby, Snake, 1977).
See also: soft, underbelly
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer