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What does this phrase mean?

Here are example contexts:

  • Some inhibitions are good, such as the one that prevents us from choking the life out of people we dislike. Other inhibitions, like the ones that prevent someone from ever enjoying himself, are not so great.

  • When comparisons are choking the life out of you

  • What’s Choking the ‘Life’ Out of You?

Since normally we can only choke the things which are alive, I could not understand exacty. But probably "choking the life" could figuratively mean "feeling down", "being dragged down by" or maybe "giving up on life". Am I correct?

Thanks

  • You're correct that it's figurative language. If I was to give a paraphrase, I might suggest "making it difficult for". So, "When comparisons are choking the life out of you" essentially means, "When comparisons are making things difficult for you" (in other words, when it's hard to stay happy because people are constantly comparing you to someone else – as in, "Murat, why can't you be more like your older brother?"). – J.R. Dec 27 '14 at 23:39
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The phrase "the life out of [someone]" is basically an intensifier. It implies extreme violence and/or murderous intent. It's often used for hyperbole. If you just say:

Some inhibitions are good, such as the one that prevents us from choking people we dislike.

it sounds more like we have a specific urge to choke we we dislike. Using "choking the life out of people we dislike" makes it clear that the author is talking about any kind of extreme destructive behavior. The exaggeration makes it sound almost funny.

A similar (but vulgar) phrase is "beating the crap out of [someone or something]". It doesn't mean you're literally hitting something until poop comes out, it just means you're hitting it excessively. This phrase is often used metaphorically. For example, if you play sports and you lose a game badly, you could say something like:

The other team beat the crap out of us last night.

The use of violence as a metaphor for emotional distress is common in American English. Whether you're being choked, crushed, or beaten depends on what's troubling you. You could be "crushed" by a heavy workload, or "beaten down" by criticism, for instance. I'm not sure how common this is in other dialects.

Warning: Many people consider it rude to use sexual violence as a metaphor, even in casual situations. In particular, it's best not to use "rape" in this way, even though grammatically it works the same way.

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