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I understand the words glimpse and insight, but what is the meaning of the whole idiom a glimpse of insight?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Glimpse here means a short experience of something, while insight means an understanding of something.

The film gives us a glimpse of insight into the lives of Martians

means the film helps us understand their lives better by a little bit, since the film is only a few hours long but their lives are years long. Perhaps we should not see it as an idiom but rather a concatenation of the two meanings.

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Nice explanation! Thanks. – Nek Jan 5 '11 at 14:17

This is not a standard idiom. The author is either a non-native speaker or a native speaker using a slightly unusual phrase for deliberate (e.g. poetic) effect.

If you understand both words you'll probably be able to make sense of the author's (I assume) intended meaning: an insight perceived briefly as if glimpsed.

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I'm not a native speaker so forming a complete meaning of a phrase is not always easy. Thanks, now it makes sense. – Nek Jan 5 '11 at 14:16

Glimpse is almost always used in a physical sense of seeing briefly. Insight is always mental understanding. Therefore, I'd say glimpse and insight don't go very well together in a phrase. In Jasper Loy's example the sentence

the film gives us a glimpse of insight into the lives of Martian

would probably be better off with just 'glimpse' (or just 'insight').

The film gives us a glimpse into the lives of Martians


The film gives us (some) insights into the lives of Martians

While we are at it, 'flash of insight' is more commonly used to describe sudden, unexpected understanding

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Yep, that's what made me ask the question. I agree with you that these words don't go too well together but I also find it's a rather creative use of English language. Kinda synesthetic. – Nek Jan 5 '11 at 17:40
Yes, the phrase seems a little redundant... – kalaracey Jan 6 '11 at 1:36

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