spitting distance

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English[edit]

Noun[edit]

spitting distance (plural spitting distances)

  1. (idiomatic) A short distance.
    • 1840, A. Traveller, Notes upon Canada and the United States: from 1832 to 1840, Rogers and Thompson (Toronto), p. 180:
      [N]o less than forty defaulters in the executive, within spitting distance of the President, have not alone been proved so, but still retain their places.
    • 1899 April 27, Rudyard Kipling, quoted in "A Fleet in Being: Men who take their chances," West Coast Times (New Zealand), p. 4 (retrieved 15 Oct 2010):
      "In these craft they risk the extreme perils of the sea. . . . They have been within spitting distance of collision and bumping distance of the bottom."
    • 1972, John Pearson, "Science Worldwide," Popular Mechanics, September, p. 36:
      They live within spitting distance of a busy runway at London's Heathrow Airport.
    • 2007, Paul Levine, Trial & Error, ISBN 9780440242765, p. 120:
      "Look around. Justice Building. County Jail. Sheriff's Department. A thousand cops within spitting distance."

Usage notes[edit]

  • This term usually refers to a spatial distance, but is sometimes used in an extended manner to indicate a "distance" which is other than spatial, as, for example, in:
  • 1982, Hans Fantel, "Fusion: We're Harnessing The Power Of The H-Bomb," Popular Mechanics, September, p. 86:
    But two gigantic research projects—one at Princeton University, the other at the University of Rochester—are finally getting within spitting distance of producing useful energy from fusion reactions.

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