run the rule over: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘run the rule over’ mean?

The idiom "run the rule over" means to examine or evaluate something or someone in a thorough and critical manner.

Idiom Explorer

Unraveling the Nuances

The idiom "run the rule over" is widely used in both spoken and written English. It has multiple meanings and can be used in different contexts, primarily to describe the act of carefully evaluating or assessing something or someone. This idiom is believed to have originated from the world of sports, particularly in the game of rugby, where referees used to carry a wooden stick or "rule" to measure distances during matches.

One of the main interpretations of "run the rule over" is to examine or scrutinize someone or something in a thorough and systematic manner. This can refer to conducting a detailed analysis, assessment, or evaluation. It often implies a level of judgment or approval closely tied to the act of measuring and assessing in order to make a decision or form an opinion.

"Run the rule over" can also be used to suggest a more casual or cursory evaluation, implying a quick or superficial assessment. This usage may indicate a brief or initial examination of someone or something without delving deeply into the details or potential consequences.

Furthermore, this idiom can be employed in various contexts, from professional environments to everyday situations. In a business setting, it can be used to describe the process of evaluating job applicants or potential business partners. Similarly, in sports, coaches or scouts may "run the rule over" players to assess their suitability for a team or competition.

Another key aspect to consider is that "run the rule over" is an idiomatic expression that is not inherently transparent in meaning. As a result, its usage may require some cultural knowledge or familiarity with idiomatic language to fully comprehend its intended message. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the context in which this idiom is used, as its meaning can vary depending on the situation and the speaker's intention.

He rules over all who dare to run.

While the exact origins of this idiom remain uncertain, it is clear that it has evolved over time to become an established expression in the English language. Its connection to the measurement tool used in rugby provides a tangible link to its original meaning. However, the broader usage of "run the rule over" extends beyond its sports-related origins and demonstrates the adaptability and versatility of idiomatic expressions.

The related idiom "go over" shares similarities with "run the rule over" in terms of evaluating or examining something. However, "go over" carries a more general connotation and can refer to a more casual or less systematic assessment. While "run the rule over" implies a structured and measured evaluation, "go over" can encompass a wider range of approaches, from a quick glance to a more detailed review.

When it comes to the idiom "run over", it can be used synonymously with "run the rule over" to describe the act of evaluating or examining something or someone. "Run over" suggests a similar level of scrutiny and assessment but may indicate a more informal or spontaneous evaluation. It can also imply a revisitation or second look at something that has already been considered or evaluated before. This idiom can be used in a variety of contexts, from evaluating a project or proposal to assessing a person's performance.

"rake over" is another idiom related to "run the rule over" that conveys the idea of revisiting or reevaluating something. However, "rake over" carries a nuanced negative connotation, suggesting a critical or potentially uncomfortable examination. It can be used when someone deliberately brings up or discusses past grievances or mistakes, often in a manner that prolongs or exacerbates the negative impact of a situation.

The idiom "run through" can also be connected to "run the rule over" in terms of evaluating or assessing something. However, "run through" tends to imply a more cursory or less detailed examination compared to "run the rule over". It can describe a quick review of information, a brief rehearsal of a performance, or a hasty evaluation. This idiom is often used when there is a need to quickly assess or familiarize oneself with a particular subject or task.

Lastly, "check through" is another idiom that shares similarities with "run the rule over" in terms of evaluating or examining something. "Check through" suggests a quick or cursory evaluation, usually to ensure accuracy or completeness. It can be used when reviewing documents, verifying information, or inspecting a work or project for errors or inconsistencies.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "run the rule over" can be used in a sentence:

1. The manager asked his team to run the rule over the new candidate before making a final decision.

2. The teacher decided to run the rule over the students' essays to determine their strengths and weaknesses.

3. The financial advisor advised his client to run the rule over their investment portfolio to identify any potential risks.

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