"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Saturday, 24 March 2012

To break a butterfly on a wheel

Looking through Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable for the previous entry I came across "To break a butterfly on a wheel". It's not an expression I've ever heard used verbally but I have read it a couple of times.

It means to use superabundant effort in the accomplishment of a small matter.


  1. We have an expression for that in German, it says "to fire cannons at sparrows". But the butterfly-one sounds much more poetic!

  2. Oh, I have always assumed this has elements of cruelty - so that something which might be light and cheerful and inconsequential is ruined by being put into the hands of Mr. Gadgrind.