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make a federal case of

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Also, make a big deal of. Give undue importance to an issue, as in I'll pay you back next week—you needn't make a federal case of it, or Jack is making a big deal of filling out his passport application. The first hyperbolic expression, almost always used in a negative context, alludes to taking a legal action before a high (federal) court. The second alludes to an important business transaction (see big deal, def. 1).

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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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