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Wing It


Today’s idiom is to wing it. Contrary to the lovely picture below, this phrase has nothing to do with the wings of a duckling (sorry, I couldn’t resist adding this picture!).


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To wing it means to do something without or with very little preparation or planning.

The phrase originally comes from the world of theater, where understudies with little preparation had to replace main actors when they could not work. Sometimes, if their preparation really wasn’t good enough, the understudies had assistants standing in the wings of the theater to help them remember their lines.

In his article entitled
Wing It Like Dr. King: Five Lessons for Your Next Presentation published by businessinsider.com on 22 August, 2011, Rob Biesenbach claims that Martin Luther King Jr winged his famous I have a Dream speech. Biesenbach wrote:

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I have a Dream speech, it electrified the audience gathered on Washington’s mall and inspired the nation. Almost 50 years later, it still shines as one of the greatest pieces of rhetoric from the 20th Century. But you might be surprised to know that on that summer day in 1963, the good Reverend essentially winged it. That’s right. The speech was actually a patchwork of various remarks King had delivered at other times. And its most memorable section was mostly improvised on the spot.

Nowadays, not many leaders
wing their speeches. They have speech writers who help them and they do preparatory work to ensure that they don’t have to wing it. Have you ever winged a speech before? If yes, were you successful? Have you ever heard that Dr. Martin Luther King winged his famous speech? Did the fact that he winged it, perhaps, make his speech more authentic and moving?








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