burning the midnight oil for video games?

raymondaliasapollyon

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

Does the following sentence make sense?

John is burning the midnight oil for video games.
(meaning that he is playing video games late into the night.)

I'd appreciate your help.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would have no hesitation in using "burning the midnight oil" even if all I was doing was chatting to a friend late into the night, and I don't see anything wrong with using it to refer to time spent playing video games. Certainly, if I saw light coming from under John's door in the early hours of the morning, then saying that John is "burning the midnight oil" is almost an exact fit, except that the light is coming from a screen rather than an oil lamp.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In the U.S. it's generally used in a context where it's not about entertainment. You wouldn't say you're burning the midnight oil if you are out dancing all night. It is usually used in the context of work or study, and usually it implies the person is staying up late to accomplish a specific task. There is no task to accomplish playing video games for enjoyment.
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    #6 and#7 - though you might use it ironically of a kid playing video games when he should have been writing an essay.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    A comment about the sentence grammar, and an answer to this question:
    Does the following sentence make sense?

    John is burning the midnight oil for video games.
    (meaning that he is playing video games late into the night.)
    No, that isn't what the sentence means. The sentence means:

    John is burning the midnight oil on behalf of video games.

    That isn't correct. No video game asked John to stay up late doing work (studying economics, for example).
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    The origin is interesting and serves as a mnemonic device.

    Before electric lights, oil lamps and candles were the main source of artificial lighting. To "burn the midnight oil" meant that someone used a oil lamp through the night. By extension it meant that someone put in extraordinary effort to complete a task.

    Nowadays it is a metaphor and interesting that an oil lamp metaphor is being used to describe computer games (which probably don't require any supplemental lighting).
     
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