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I found the phrase, ‘hold the rule near and dear” in the sentence of the article of New York Times (August 4) reporting the scheme of Nik Wallenda, the world record holder of farthest distance travel by bicycle on a high wire for walking across the gorge of Niagara Falls balancing on a steel cable. As the headline of the article says ‘Before a Walk across Niagara Falls, a Balancing Act,” the Niagara Parks Commission regulates such scheme as a tawdry stunt.

The text follows:

"But the Niagara Parks Commission, the Canadian agency that oversees the parkland adjacent to the falls, traces its creation in 1885 to the desire of local officials to reduce the “increasingly carnival atmosphere” at the falls. Even though the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ontario, is a Wallenda supporter, the Parks Commission prohibits “stunting” at the falls, and “holds that rule near and dear.”

I found the definition of ‘hold dear’ as a verb meaning ‘be fond of, be attracted to, cherish’ in Freeonline Dictionary, but there was no entry of ‘hold something near and dear’ in any dictionaries I’ve checked. Is “Hold rule near and dear” an established English phrase or just neologism?

An additional question. Isn’t the Niagara Parks Commission at the beginning of the above sentence lacking a predicate to the effect of ‘bans?’ Did the author omit the verb to avoid redundancy with the ‘prohibits’ that come in the following clause?

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@Robusto-san. Thank you for your usual attention to my question. Regarding the second question, I took the line for ‘the Niagara Parks Commission that traces its creation in 1885 to the desire of local officials to reduce the increasingly carnival atmosphere at the falls bans (tawdry stunts).” Then it follows, “Even though the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ontario, is a Wallenda supporter - - - ”Though I thought it's a smooth flow, it seems I wrongly read the lines. –  Yoichi Oishi Aug 7 '11 at 1:59
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3 Answers 3

It is a catch phrase, or idiom, Oishi-san, and its full text is "to hold something near and dear to your heart."

It means to heed or mind something well.

Also, the predicate in the first sentence is "traces", and you don't get to the "prohibits" predicate until the second sentence.

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To hold near and dear is just a common idiomatic variant of to hold near [or dear] to one's heart. To place great value or set great store by something.

In OP's sentence it means the Commission is very firmly committed to the ban on "stunting”, and is not likely to abandon that heartfelt position.

LATER: It may not be the most common variant (I really wouldn't want to guess), but this NGram shows the usage certainly isn't particularly uncommon.

Both quoted sentences are perfectly good English, if a little verbose and convoluted.

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Fingers. Thanks a lot. Your NGram chart is convincing for me to realize ‘hold near and dear’ is a well-established idiom, and not the author’s neology as I suspected aiming at the simple rhyming of ‘near’ and ‘dear.’ –  Yoichi Oishi Aug 7 '11 at 2:17
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@Yoichi Oishi: It probably gets a leg-up from nearest and dearest, which we also set great store by! –  FumbleFingers Aug 7 '11 at 4:16
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It's not an established phrase as such, but "holds it near" and "holds it dear" are both well-known: ?"holds it near and holds it dear" would be so verbose as to be nearly wrong.

And the first sentence is fine; the verb is "traces", and the reader is assumed to realise that an organization set up to "reduce the increasingly carnival atmosphere" is going to be opposed to a stunt like this.

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Although verbose, 'near and dear' is a common ideom. –  Richard A Aug 7 '11 at 12:56
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