an elbow in the ribs

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Irelia20150604

Senior Member
Chinese
Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/live/uk-48462241

A meeting with Donald Trump, if it goes ahead, would be a huge coup for Michael Gove.

Not because it is a game changer but it is a sort of elbow in the ribs for Boris Johnson.

All the thinking was that it would be Boris Johnson who was going to meet the president.

If it is Michael Gove, then it is one up for Michael Gove.
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Hi everyone! What does the bold part mean? Thanks in advance.
 
  • Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    You might push someone back by thrusting your elbow into his body - into his ribs. Perhaps it originated from football. It's used figuratively here of course.

    Does it essentially mean "meeting with Trump is bad for Boris"?
    It seems to mean it would be a setback or disappointment for Johnson if Gove and not Johnson met Trump.

    Cross-posted.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I have to disagree with both of the above: I see "but it is a sort of elbow in the ribs for Boris Johnson." as "but it is a reminder and an encouragement for Boris Johnson to take action."

    "An elbow in the ribs" is metaphor for vigorous encouragement to take action.

    Poking your elbow into someone's ribs is what you do to someone of you want to attract their attention when a situation arises in which they should act.

    "The magician called out for a volunteer to join him on the stage, so I poked my elbow into my wife's ribs because she's always want to do that sort of thing but seemed hesitant on this occasion."

    I don't think it should be confused with "to elbow someone out of the way."
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    Poking your elbow into someone's ribs is what you do to someone of you want to attract their attention
    Yes, I was thinking of that too. I then decided, like Sound Shift, that it seems to have been used differently here because the next two lines say that all the thinking was that Johnson would meet Trump and that if Gove met him instead, he'd be one-up. I don't know much about British politics but a quick Google seems to indicate that Gove and Johnson have some sort of rivalry going.
     
    Last edited:

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I agree that the context in this case indicates it's meant as Gove being one up on Johnson, claiming a minor but notable victory.
     
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