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English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions

Law & Order

(Idioms page 3 :  lay down the law → toe the line)

lay down the law Someone who lays down the law tells people very forcefully and firmly what to do.
The volunteers helped in a disorganised way.  They needed someone to lay down the law.
law of the jungle A situation in which people are prepared to use unscrupulous methods in order to succeed or survive is called the law of the jungle.
Some businesses today seem to be governed by the law of the jungle.
law unto themselves If someone is a law unto themselves, they do things their own way and ignore what is generally considered as acceptable.
They're against discipline and allow their children complete freedom - they're a law unto themselves.
licence to print money An officially authorized activity which enables people to make a lot of money without much effort is called a licence to print money.
The contract to supply computers to schools was a licence to print money.
murphy's law Referring to Murphy's law expresses a sentiment of bad luck and the idea that if anything can go wrong, it will.
We've tried to prepare for every possible incident, but remember Murphy's law ...!
not have a leg to stand on To say that someone doesn't have a leg to stand on means that they can't prove what they say.
Three people testified against him.  He didn't have a leg to stand on.
null and void Something which is null and void has no legal force or is invalid.
The contract was declared null and void.
open-and-shut case An open-and-shut case is one where the facts are so clear that the matter can be dealt with or solved easily.
He was caught driving the stolen car.  It's an open-and-shut case.
paper trail If a person or organisation leaves a paper trail, they leave evidence in writing or in document form that will serve as proof of their actions.
The police found a paper trail which lead to the author of the hoax.
partner in crime A person who helps you to plan something dishonest or unlawful is called your partner in crime.
(This expression can be used jokingly as in the example  below.)
Sam was my partner in crime.  He hid my son's bicycle until his birthday.
pervert the course of justice If a person perverts the course of justice, they tell a lie or prevent the police from finding out the truth about something.
The suspect was accused of trying to pervert the course of justice.
poetic justice Poetic justice is an ideal form of justice in which virtue is rewarded and evil punished, often in a particularly appropriate manner, by an ironic twist of fate.
It is poetic justice that the country responsible for the ecological disaster should suffer most from its effects.
put one's house in order If you tell someone to put their house in order, you are saying that they should organise their own affairs or take care of their own problems before giving advice to other people.
You should put your house in order before telling me what to do!
rough justice Treatment or justice that does not seem fair, or is too severe, is called 'rough justice', especially if it is not legal.
The way the player was treated by the media was very rough justice!
sharp practice Trying to achieve something by using underhand, deceitful or dishonourable means, that are barely within the law, is called sharp practice.
That company is under investigation for sharp practice so it's better to avoid dealing with them.
signed, sealed and delivered When an agreement, contract or treaty is signed, sealed and delivered, all the legal documents are in order.
It is hoped that the agreement will be signed, sealed and delivered before the end of the week
smoking gun A smoking gun is a piece of evidence or the indisputable sign of someone's guilt.
The fingerprints left on the door-handle was the smoking gun that enabled the police to arrest him.
take the law into one's own hands If, instead of calling the police, you act personally against someone who has done something wrong, you take the law into your own hands.
Instead of calling the police, he took the law into his own hands and confronted the youth who had stolen his son's scooter.
toe the line If someone toes the line, they obey the rules and accept the principles laid down by a person, group or organisation.
If you want to stay in this school, you'll have to learn to toe the line.
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