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laugh up one's sleeve

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To be secretly amused at something: “Arnie acted concerned over our plight, but we knew he was laughing up his sleeve.”

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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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Idioms and Phrases with laugh up one's sleeve

laugh up one's sleeve

Rejoice or exult secretly, hide one's amusement, as in When she tripped over her bridal train, her sister couldn't help laughing up her sleeve. This expression replaced the earlier laugh in one's sleeve, used by Richard Sheridan in The Rivals (1775): “'Tis false, sir, I know you are laughing in your sleeve.” The expression, which alludes to hiding one's laughter in big loose sleeves, was already a proverb in the mid-1500s.

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