toothless quota

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danielxu85

Senior Member
Mandarin Chinese
Correct me if I am wrong. I think you could say "the law has no teeth", but could you say things besides law have no teeth or toothless? How could I express the following idea in idiomatic English?

Context: the quotas on reducing pollutant discharges have not been met.

The quotas were not met last year because the quotas were toothless. Further failure is likely unless we give these quotas teeth.
 
  • RocketGirl

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    I don't like it... it sounds odd to me but I'll be honest, I've never heard this "toothless" idiom before. I suppose it means it's not harmful?
     

    vachecow

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I looked up toothless and found these two definitions:
    1. Lacking teeth.
    2. Lacking force; ineffectual.

    However, I am with RocketGirl. I don't hear that expression used like that very often.
     

    danielxu85

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    How could I express the following idea in idiomatic English? Do I need to replace both "teeth" and "toothless" with some other things?
     

    Lazlow

    Senior Member
    British English
    "The quotas were not met last year because the quotas were toothless. Further failure is likely unless we give these quotas teeth."

    If you want to express this idiomatically, you could say something like, "the quotas were not met last year because they failed to make the grade. Further failure is like unless they up their play"

    But I don't think it sounds very natural... I wouldn't express this idiomatically, personally. I'd simply say, "the quotas were not met last year. Further failure is likely unless further* efforts are made to reduce pollutant discharges.".

    *I don't like using 'further' twice, but I can't think of anything else! Maybe someone else can...
     

    RocketGirl

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    I'm with Lazlow. Does it need to be idiomatic? Sounds much more natural just to say it in plain English.

    How about, "Efforts to meet the quotas last year were unsuccessful. Further failure is likely unless a more aggressive approach is used to reduce the pollutant discharges".

    Not perfect, but not bad either. In my opinion, using an idiom in this context somewhat weakens your statement.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you allow me to use a different word in the first sentence, it sets the scene for teeth in the second, and explains the situation more clearly.
    The quotas were not met last year because there were no sanctions for failure. This will continue unless we give the quotas teeth.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Daniel,

    In AE, we might say the quotas had no bite to them, meaning they were weakened by a flawed premise to begin with, or they failed to produce results because of ineffectual implementation.




    AngelEyes
     

    vachecow

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Would combining the two make sense?
    The quotas were not met last year because they were toothless. Further failure is likely unless we give these quotas some bite.
     

    RocketGirl

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    I don't know vachecow... I'm still not a fan of quotas being described as "toothless". It doesn't sound natural to me, and it sounds rather wishy-washy. I advise you to just say what you mean Daniel and don't get caught up in using an idiom.

    Edit: I do like panjandrum's suggestion though.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I'd stay away from bite, toothless, anything like that unless the clients involved are all vampires. :D

    Suggestion:

    The quotas were not met last year because they were vague and unrealistic. Further failure is likely unless we can crystallize our goals and implement concrete plans to actually meet them.


    AngelEyes
     

    Suehil

    Medemod
    British English
    I have heard something like that described as 'having no teeth' to mean ineffective, but never 'toothless' even though they actually mean the same thing.
    "The quotas were not met last year because they had no teeth. Further failure is likely unless we do something about it."
    But I'm with AngelEyes, in this case it would be better to avoid teeth completely.
     
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