tug of war

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zhonglin

Senior Member
Mandarin
Hi, I hope I can get some advice. When there's 2 siblings fighting, like they're in a "tug-of-war over a hairbrush", is there another way to say it without using the phrase "tug-of-war"?
 
  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    The verb "scrabble" would work.

    The brothers were scrabbling for the brush...

    From Farlex dictionary:

    To scrape or grope about frenetically with the hands or paws...

    But "tug of war" is more visual. What is your objection to the phrase?
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    I think I would not use scrabble. For me, "scrabbling for the brush" would be if it had fallen under the bed and both were trying to reach it (but not necessarily in competition).
    "Tug of war" implies a competition between the two to have the brush.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think I would not use scrabble. For me, "scrabbling for the brush" would be if it had fallen under the bed and both were trying to reach it (but not necessarily in competition).
    "Tug of war" implies a competition between the two to have the brush.
    I hear American football announcers say that the players are "scrabbling for the ball" in the same sense that Zhonglin is referencing. I think it is fine. I'd still like to know what his objection to "tug of war" is.
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    I hear American football announcers say that the players are "scrabbling for the ball" in the same sense that Zhonglin is referencing. I think it is fine. I'd still like to know what his objection to "tug of war" is.
    Of course, members of competing teams can be scrabbling for the ball, but scrabbling often does not include competition (eg, I scrabbled around in the dark, trying to locate my slippers.), whereas "tug of war" is always a competitive process.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Of course, members of competing teams can be scrabbling for the ball, but scrabbling often does not include competition (eg, I scrabbled around in the dark, trying to locate my slippers.), whereas "tug of war" is always a competitive process.
    I am not arguing that "tug of war" is entirely appropriate in this case. I was wondering why the OP was not happy with it.

    I was offering "scrabbling" as an alternative.

    I wrote: But "tug of war" is more visual. What is your objection to the phrase?
     

    Grefsen

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I hear American football announcers say that the players are "scrabbling for the ball" in the same sense that Zhonglin is referencing.
    Isn't "scrabbling for the ball" typically used when several players are on the turf fighting for control of the football after it has been fumbled?

    I think it is fine. I'd still like to know what his objection to "tug of war" is.
    If both siblings have a grip on the hairbrush and are pulling back and forth then the use of "tug of war" describes the situation quite well.

    Another suggestion I have is to use "wrest away," which means "to take or force away by violent pulling or twisting."
     
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    KHS

    Senior Member
    I simply meant that if the context does not clearly present a competitive situation, you wouldn't communicate it with the use of scrabbling. Also, scrabbling indicates a kind of fumbling, hard to grasp idea, which would usually not be appropriate for a struggle over a hairbrush. That's why I would hesitate to use it as a replacement for "tug of war."

    I do understand that you wanted to know why he wanted a substitute for "tug of war."
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    And even though "tug of war" is used quite often I don't think it ever was branded as a cliche. A cliche would be a good enough reason to avoid a phrase but that is not the case here.
     
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