show off her paces

susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

Here's from British writer David Lodge's novel Small World:
"She's hoping to get a job in the Boston area, and Peter fixed it so she could give a paper at this convention to show off her paces."

Is it common to use this expression (to show off one's paces) to mean "to show off what she's capable of"? I looked it up on Google and all I found were references to horses :).
 
  • JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    It's only somewhat common. You don't run into it all the time, but it does crop up from time to time.

    Lodge's usage sounds a bit off to me, though. I'd phrase it a bit differently, for one thing - "put her through her paces" is the usual way to say this, at least as far as I know. It's meaning is a bit different as well, because in this sense, it means "make her demonstrate her skill." At least as I usually hear it used, it's something that someone causes another person to do, e.g., "The interviewer really put me through my paces."
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you, JustKate, for your very helpful post. "Make her demonstrate her skill," yes. "What she's capable of" has a negative connotation, doesn't it? Probably not a good phrase to use here.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    I wouldn't say either version is negative, exactly. But the clear implication, particularly of "put her through her paces," is that one person is being asked to demonstrate his/her capability. The person doing the asking isn't saying "Tell me what you can do"; he's saying "Show me what you can do so I can judge for myself."
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top