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English Idioms and Phrases: Out of Line

This soldier is way out of line

out-ofline

Meaning

To be 'out of line' has two general meanings with the first more common:

1) Being rude or behaving inappropriately. It can also be used as 'step out of line'.

"She was out of line when she told you that she thought your painting was terrible" or "He really stepped out of line last night" In both of these examples the speaker is criticising the rude behaviour of the subject.

2) Not offering typical service for example if a business charges too much your may say that "his prices are way out of line with his competitors"

Origin

In the army, as seen in the picture to the right, much of the parade ground activities involve standing in lines.

This idiom has a very simple origin as a soldier who 'fell out of line' damaged the integrity and order of the parade. So if you are out of line, you are not conforming, thus being out of line became unruly or misbehaving.

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Alternatives / Synonyms

When 'Out of Line' = Not normal: Abherrent, atypical, strange, mismatched, bizarre

When 'Out of Line' = (Misbehaving) - Rude, naughty, disgraceful, shameful, unbecoming

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