Rub It In: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 26, 2023

The phrase "rub it in" signifies the act of reminding someone of their mistakes or failures in an unkind and often repetitive manner. This idiom is often associated with instances where someone is feeling unhappy or embarrassed about a situation, and someone else is intentionally making the situation worse by drawing attention to it.

In short:

"Rub it in" refers to highlighting someone's mistake or failure, often with the intention of causing further embarrassment or discomfort.

What Does "Rub It In" Mean?

The idiom "rub it in" denotes the act of highlighting someone's error, failure, or awkward situation, typically with the intention of causing further discomfort or embarrassment. If you're "rubbing it in," you're probably reminding someone of their failures or mistakes in a harsh or unkind manner.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning include:

  • Indicates actions aimed at emphasizing someone's mistakes or failures
  • Often associated with causing discomfort or embarrassment
  • Usually implies an unkind or insensitive behavior

Where Does "Rub It In" Come From?

The phrase "rub it in" refers to emphasizing something unpleasant or irritating in a taunting manner, essentially adding insult to injury. It originated in America and was first used by T.A. Burke in 1851 in "Polly Peaseblossom's Wedding": "When it comes to rubbin' it in, I always... roars up." This expression is connected to the much older phrase "to rub salt into a wound," which has been in use since the late medieval period, if not earlier, and remains relevant today.

Historical Example

"However, I do not want to rub it in, and will simply content myself by saying that if the necessary 'ginger' is put into this new amendment of our land laws a certain amount of settlement may be effected by it."

- New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 1928

10 Examples of "Rub It In" in Sentences

Here are some examples of using the idiom in sentences:

  • "I'm game for a rematch, but promise you won't rub it in if you win again," he requested.
  • I made a mistake in my calculations, but there's no need to rub it in.
  • After he told her he had fallen out of love, he continued to rub it in by flaunting his new girlfriend.
  • After the game, the winning team didn't rub it in and showed sportsmanship instead.
  • As the new policies were about to go into effect, the management didn't miss the chance to rub it in, highlighting our previous failures.
  • Even though I admitted my error in the report, my colleagues kept rubbing it in.
  • I know I became the butt of the joke after tripping on stage, but you don't need to rub it in.
  • It's not fair to rub it in when someone is already feeling bad about their mistake.
  • I know I forgot our anniversary, but please stop rubbing it in.
  • Before you rub it in my face, try putting yourself in my shoes and understand the pressure I was under.

Examples of "Rub It In" in Pop Culture

The phrase "rub it in" is often used in various forms of media such as films, television series, and books, typically in scenes depicting conflict or disagreement.

Some examples include:

  • "Rub it In" is an erotic fiction book by Kira Sinclair.
  • "Rub it In" is a song by Billy "Crash" Craddock from the album "I'm Always On A Mountain When I Fall."
  • "Ah, you don't have to rub it in her face," is a line from the television series Scrubs (2001-2010).

Other/Different Ways to Say "Rub It In"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "rub it in."

Some of these include:

  • Highlight one's failures
  • Emphasize one's mistakes
  • Remind someone of their errors
  • Pour salt on the wound
  • Make someone feel worse

You can use these alternatives interchangeably depending on the context and the level of emphasis on the mistake or failure involved.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Rub It In"

  • What does "rub it in" mean?

"Rub it in" refers to the act of emphasizing someone's mistake or failure, often with the intent to cause more discomfort or embarrassment.

  • How can I use "rub it in" in a sentence?

One could say, "She made a small mistake, and he just couldn't resist the urge to rub it in."

  • Where does the idiom "rub it in" come from?

The phrase "rub it in" possibly originates from the action of rubbing a substance into a surface, metaphorically referring to emphasizing a mistake or failure.

  • Can people use the phrase in written communication?

The phrase can be used in both informal and formal written communication, such as emails, reports, and even in literature.

  • Are there any regional differences in using the phrase?

The phrase is widely used in English-speaking countries and is generally understood across different regions.

  • Can strangers use the phrase "rub it in"?

While the phrase is not context-specific, it is often seen as unkind, so using it with strangers may not be suitable.

  • Is it okay to use the phrase when talking about a group of people?

Yes, it can be used when discussing a group's actions, such as "the fans rubbed it in after their team's victory."

  • Is it okay to use the phrase to express understanding?

No, this phrase is more associated with emphasizing failures or mistakes, not expressing understanding.

  • What's the difference between "rub it in" and "point it out"?

"Rub it in" involves highlighting someone's mistake, often with the intention to cause discomfort or embarrassment, while "point it out" just refers to drawing attention to something, not necessarily a mistake or failure.

  • Can one use the phrase in a professional context?

While it can be used in professional contexts, it's generally not advisable as it might come across as unprofessional or disrespectful.

Final Thoughts About "Rub It In"

In conclusion, the idiom "rub it in" refers to the act of emphasizing someone's mistake or failure, often to cause additional discomfort or embarrassment. While the phrase can be used in various contexts, it should be used with care, especially in professional or formal settings, due to its potentially negative connotation.

Key aspects of the phrase:

  • Refers to the act of emphasizing a mistake or failure
  • Often used in situations of conflict or disagreement
  • It has a negative connotation and should be used with discretion

Whether in verbal or written communication, the idiom can add expressive and idiomatic flair to your English. However, remember to use it appropriately and consider the feelings of the other party.

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