huff and puff


Make noisy, empty threats; bluster. For example, You can huff and puff about storm warnings all you like, but we'll believe it when we see it. This expression uses two words of 16th-century origin, huff, meaning “to emit puffs of breath in anger,” and puff, meaning “to blow in short gusts,” and figuratively, “to inflate” or “make conceited.” They were combined in the familiar nursery tale, “The Three Little Pigs,” where the wicked wolf warns, “I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down”; rhyme has helped these idioms survive.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.