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lick into shape

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Also, whip into shape. Bring into satisfactory condition or appearance, as in The garden looks neglected, but Dad will soon lick it into shape, or We need at least three more practices before the team is whipped into shape. The expression using lick, which some think alludes to how bears treat their cubs, dates from about 1600. The variant alludes to the forceful use of a whip to accomplish something.

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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.

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