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wake-up call

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noun
a telephone call that wakes a person from sleep
an event that alerts people to a danger or difficulty
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

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wake-up call

A portentous event, report, or situation that brings an issue to immediate attention. For example, The rise in unemployment has given a wake-up call to state governments, or The success of the online subscription is a wake-up call to publishers. This metaphoric term originated in the second half of the 1900s for a telephone call arranged in advance to awaken a sleeper, especially in a hotel. Its figurative use dates from about 1990.

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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