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The idiom skating on thin ice to express that a person is performing an action that has a great risk is commonplace. What are some good alternatives, both common and uncommon or possibly regional?

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6 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

To greater or lesser degrees of risk and stupidity:

  • Walking on the edge
  • Asking for trouble
  • putting yourself at risk
  • loading up the footgun
  • skating down the edge of a razorblade
  • pissing on the third rail
  • walking/driving on the railroad tracks
  • trying to shoot the moon
  • jumping the Grand Canyon on a skateboard
  • walking a tightrope
  • operating without a net
  • playing with fire
  • licking a frozen flagpole
  • letting the bull into the china shop
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+1 for pissing on the third rail –  n0nChun Mar 17 '11 at 6:42
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To me, trying to shoot the moon and jumping the Grand Canyon are more about infeasibility/impossibility/futility than risk. –  Brian Nixon Mar 17 '11 at 20:14
    
I think of licking a frozen flagpole as an activity that is more stupid than risky. –  Brian Nixon Mar 17 '11 at 20:15
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Yes, it certainly does fall on the "stupid" side of risky. :-) –  Hellion Mar 17 '11 at 21:05
    
You are a scholar and a gentleman! Answer awarded for the most comprehensive list. –  Wesley Mar 18 '11 at 3:52
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"On thin ice" can also refer to a situation out of your control. The proverbial skater didn't necessarily choose the thin ice but is nonetheless in a risky place. Alternatives to this connotation (branching a bit further away from consciously taking a risk):

  • Out of the frying pan, into the fire
  • Doomed
  • Writing on the wall
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Ah yes, it could mean less of an intentional risk and more of a circumstantial risk. Thanks! –  Wesley Mar 18 '11 at 3:54
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"Walking on eggshells" has a similar, but not identical, connotation.

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Almost opposite connotation: skating on thin ice means taking a reckless risk; walking on eggshells means behaving very cautiously because you believe the situation to be inherently risky. –  Malvolio Mar 17 '11 at 5:35
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How about "pushing your luck"?

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Playing a dangerous game is another alternative with a similar meaning.

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  • Hanging by a Thread
  • Playing Russian Roulette
  • Kissing Charlie Sheen
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Ahhh the Russian Roulette metaphor. I should use that one more... even if it is a bit grisly. =) –  Wesley Mar 18 '11 at 3:55
    
Kissing Charlie Sheen? That's... new. =) –  Wesley Mar 19 '11 at 4:14
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