Broke the needle

Ruthless butcher

Senior Member
Spanish (Argentina)
Hello everyone. The other day I was watching a tv show (Supernatural, for those familiar with it) and there is a phrase that I can't figure the meaning of. The phrase is: "Broke the needle". This was said by one of the main characters (Dean) after he was kind of making an inquiry in a hotel where strange things were happening. Dean was kind of blown off by the person he was questioning. I'm sorry if the context I provide is not enough, but that's all I can think of that may be helpful. Thanks in advance.
 
  • Aidanriley

    Senior Member
    English
    I think I remember this episode, and I think he was referring to the device they always use to detect supernatural activity (an electro..something). He meant that the gauge on the device went all the way up (saying there was a strong detection). "Broke the needle" is sort of an idiom to say that a needle on a gauge goes all the way to the right. A similar saying is "off the charts" when talking about statistics on a chart.

    Of course I could be completely off and it could be referring to something else, does what I said make sense in your context?

    Edit: The device is called an EMF (electromagnetic field) meter.
     

    Ruthless butcher

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Argentina)
    I was thinking about that too, because it was the only thing that made some sense to me. Thanks a lot.
     
    Last edited:

    Ruthless butcher

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Argentina)
    It makes total sense. Even though we can't actually see or hear the EMF in that scene, then when Dean "scopes out the joint" as he said he would, the EMF had a strong detection.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    A more common variant, perhaps, is "bury the needle." The idea is the same: the needle/indicator on a gauge is figuratively buried because of the abnormally high readings it is trying to signal.
     

    brycan

    New Member
    English
    Hi. I too have always wondered about the phrase "broke the needle." I only heard it one place and that was in a song by Rufus Thomas called Walkin The Dog.
    Baby back dressed in Black
    silver buttons all down her back
    high hose and tippy toes
    she broke the needle and she can sew.

    I took the phrase to mean even though she is beautiful (broke the needle) she also has talent (she can sew).

    But I am not certain. :)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The lyrics are "She broke a needle and she can't sew." I would guess it means that she's so bad at sewing that she broke a needle - her fancy clothes must be store-bought.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    A more common variant, perhaps, is "bury the needle." The idea is the same: the needle/indicator on a gauge is figuratively buried because of the abnormally high readings it is trying to signal.
    I generally hear "pin the needle" or "pin the gauge:" push the needle so far over that it stops at the pin that prevents it from going further. This pin is always past the expected range of measurement.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I generally hear "pin the needle" or "pin the gauge:" push the needle so far over that it stops at the pin that prevents it from going further. This pin is always past the expected range of measurement.
    We call that "pegging" the gauge in the Navy.
     

    dadane

    Senior Member
    English-London
    I generally hear "pin the needle" or "pin the gauge"
    I have never heard either of these, or 'bury the needle' for that matter, but if I had, the meaning would have been pretty obvious. I suppose the BE equivalent would be the more figurative 'bend the needle'. Even more common, I think, would be to simply describe something as 'off the clock' or 'off the scale'.
     
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