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Is “used in anger” a Britishism for something?

My boss keeps using the terminology "Doug knows X but maybe not enough to use it 'in anger'", where X is a skill, programming language, etc.

I've not heard the phrase "in anger" used this way before. He seems to be saying I am a novice or am intermediate at a skill. If I were an expert I could really achieve a sense of focussed flow to solve a problem in a high stress/frustrating situation. Hence I could effectively wield the tool "in anger" to solve a problem.

Is this a correct interpretation of the meaning of this phrase in this context? What exactly does my boss mean?

  • 1
    You may care to have a look here. Jan 23, 2013 at 19:02
  • Liken it to this: Doug knows how to use a sword, but maybe not enough to kill someone with it. In other words, to use it in anger means to really do something with it – to achieve the purpose of knowing the skill. Jan 23, 2013 at 19:07
  • I haven't made any effort to check, but I suspect to use in anger is primarily a British usage. I base that on the fact that most voters here on ELU are probably American (or at least, more familiar with US than UK usage), and for several days the for real (as opposed to aggressively) meaning wasn't even mentioned on the earlier question. In short, only the "literal" interpretation seems to have truly global currency. Jan 23, 2013 at 19:13
  • Related.
    – Robusto
    Jan 23, 2013 at 19:19


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