Today, Scott Simon, the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition news program, interviews former NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder about the cease-fire between the Ukrainian government and Russian separatists, and asks him:

“You’ve been saying for some time now that the U.S. and NATO should provide lethal defensive assistance to Ukraine. Wouldn't that just throw more guns into a hot stove?”

I surmise that the phrase “throw more guns into a hot stove” means 'to make the situation worse or even disastrous'.

I searched for the term “throw more guns into a hot stove” using Google, but it didn't return any hits. Is “throw more [something] (guns / bullets / powders / gasoline) into a hot stove” a common phrase, or just a one-off figurative expression?

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    An idiom is a group of words (1) established by usage and (2) using words and/or grammar in an unconventional way. I'd say that this expression isn't used commonly enough to qualify at the moment. So no and no. Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 8:37
  • 1
    I think I've heard/read it two or three times (in 50-odd years of reading). It's not a common phrase, though the image/meaning comes through even if you've never heard it, provided you have an inkling as to what a "hot stove" is (which may be a totally foreign concept to those under 40 or so).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 13:22
  • 1
    Hey @Hot Licks, what were you doing on the even years?
    – user98990
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 18:33
  • @LittleEva - They were all odd years.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


It is a metaphor that is used to render an effective image of an act that might give rise to a dangerous escalation of further violence. To answer your question, you can define it as a one-off figurative expression.

  • (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance, for example he is a lion in battle.

"Throw guns into a hot stove" isn't a common phrase, idiomatically or metaphorically, in U.S. English. However, I did find one real-life report involving a gun thrust into a hot stove. From the [Salt Lake City, Utah] Deseret News (May 6, 1876):

——When will people learn to handle fire-arms with care? James Cunningham, 15 years old, of Pennsgrove, Salem Co., N. J., thrust the rusty barrel of a gun into a hot stove, and a charge that had been in the gun for a long time exploded, entering the boy's mouth and killing him instantly.

So at least we know what Scott Simon is implying might happen if the guns in his figurative phrase are thrown into the hot stove of ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

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    Guns don't kill people. Hot stoves kill people. Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 9:29
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    "...And yet you never hear about the government trying to pass a law to register hot stoves."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 9:34
  • I'm beginning to doubt your Texan origins. ;)
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 10:05
  • Born and bred in the oil patch, Brer Fox; born and bred in the oil patch.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 10:15
  • Mythbusters had a go at this one. It took some effort to get the propellant to detonate IIRC. in sure the episode is online.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 10:36

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