I was drawn to the phrase, ‘on a tear,’ which I heard in audio in this week’s Barron’s magazine (June 6), reporting the good sales and profit performance of U.S. sneaker chain, Foot Locker:
Foot Locker is proving that expansion isn’t everything. The sneaker chain’s sales per square foot have been on a tear even as the company’s store count shrinks. That‘s done wonders for Foot Locker’s profit margins and stock price.
As I’m unfamiliar with the idiom, ‘on a tear,’ I consulted English dictionaries in both print and online.
The Cambridge, Oxford, and Merriam-Webster English dictionaries and the Oxford American Dictionary do not carry ‘on a tear’ as an idiom. I suspected it could be “in a tier,” but it doesn’t add up in the context.
However, I found ‘on a tear’ in Collins English Dictionary and urban dictionary.
Collins defines ‘on a tear’ as;
(slang) showing a sudden burst of energy. ex. Final domestic demand, then, was on a tear —— good news.
Urban Dictionary defines it as;
on a streak or series, usually a winning streak. Will sometimes be used semi-sarcastically to define a losing streak. ex. The market went up 14% in the least four weeks. The market is on a tear! –
And, Google Ngram shows that the usages of both ‘on a tear’ and ‘in a tear’ have been observed since early before 1840. The incidences of ‘on a tear’ is on rise from 0.000001 in 1970 to 0.0000025 after 2000 and onward, but incidences of 'in a tear' have been flattened out at the low level of 0.0000012 - 0.0000016 throughout the tracked period.
Now here are my questions:
- What is the plain and exact meaning of ‘on (in) a tear’ in the context of the above quote?
- Is ‘on (in) a tear’ a popular idiom?
- Why none of major English dictionaries such as CED, OED, OALED, MWED accommodates this phrase as an idiom in spite of a long presence of the phrase as shown in Google NGram?
The Barrons’ magazine seems to be fond of using "on a tear." It repeated this phrase again in its June 19 news-report (through AFN radio broadcast) reporting a marked improvement of U.S.'s largest closeout chain, Big Lots’ sales performance. It says
(the chain’s) Sales growth in Canada is on a tear. Any signs of the progress will likely allure investors back to Big Lots.