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This is an excerpt from this article.

(The annual conference at) Hong Kong will be momentous as much for what is approved as for what is turned down or left on the gas.

Does 'left on the gas' mean something that has been postponed, as I understood from the context? If yes, what is the origin of the phrase? Or does it mean something else altogether?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'm not certain, but I think he is playing with a few common phrases here (and not very successfully in my view):

  1. to turn (an offer, an idea) down means to refuse it
  2. to turn (the the volume, the gas) down means to reduce its intensity
  3. to put (something) on a back burner means to postpone it or give it lower priority

He is using the metaphor of cooking food on a stove to refer to the decision-making process within cricket's governing bodies. So the three possibilities he is comparing, for the different suggestions that have been floating around, are:

  • "approved" (i.e. a suggested idea is adopted) - this would be the food being fully cooked and taken off the gas
  • "turned down" - from meaning 1 above this would mean that the suggested idea is refused, but from meaning 2 it has its gas turned down (to nothing or nearly nothing)
  • "left on the gas" - no decision is taken either way i.e. the cooking/decision process continues (no doubt producing a lot of hot air and gas in the process!).

Note that meaning 3 above is not referenced directly, but implicitly its metaphor is being extended.

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Never heard "left on the gas" but there is a BE phrase "left on the back burner" which means continued but given a low priority or devalued

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True, I too have never came across the phrase. The author is an experienced journalist and one of the last persons whom I expect to make a mistake or coin something like this when a more common alternative exists. – rest_day Jul 2 '11 at 1:24
It's not just BE - we AE types leave things on the back burner too. But we rarely (if ever) leave them "on the gas". – MT_Head Jul 2 '11 at 2:32
@rest_day: The English language would face a very uncertain future if we took it for granted that 'experienced journalists' never get anything wrong. It may be he came across one or two erroneous usages and didn't realise it wasn't standard. I'd be very surprised if the phrase has (or will have) any meaningful currency, even though most of will understand it. – FumbleFingers Jul 2 '11 at 2:34

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