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apply the thumbscrews

to put heavy pressure on someone

TRANSLATION

thumbscrews = Daumenschrauben

STATISTICS

IN THE PRESS

"Anne Peterson, the US ambassador to Bogota, testified recently that she believed bioweapons had already been deployed in Colombia. Soon after, she retracted this chilling observation, saying that it had been made "under pressure". Peterson didn't say who had APPLIED THE THUMBSCREWS."

(Jeffrey St Clair - GLW - 22nd Jan 2003)

Did you
know?

Did you know?
            
Thumbscrews

A not a very nice medieval instrument of torture.

You can also use this phrase in conversation when suggesting extreme psychological pressure:

"You have to apply thumbscrews whenever you want him to do something."


By the way, another note regarding thumbs:

twiddle one's thumbs = Däumchen drehen, faulenzen

Don't say "I'm turning my thumbs" - we'd only do that with real thumbscrews!

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