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If you do XYZ , it could end miserably with your body decorating the gutter by sundown.

I looked up the use of decorating on Ngrams and Google and found nothing of the kind. This usage appears to be rather uncommon.

Am I mistaken in using this expression to describe the cynical thoughts of someone who is not optimistic about another person's chances of survival in trying times? Is there perhaps a more idiomatic equivalent?

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    It's correct. It's figurative writing. It's juxtaposing the idea of "decorating" with the "gutter." It's not unlike saying something like, "The fight could end miserably with your blood painting the walls." – Benjamin Harman Jan 15 '16 at 23:19
  • @BenjaminHarman The example you give is clear to me. Is this known to cause trouble with readers (if the answer is too vague, no answer is fine)? – wolfdawn Jan 15 '16 at 23:22
  • Is what known to cause trouble with readers? – Benjamin Harman Jan 15 '16 at 23:23
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    Know that the drug "ecstasy" is only referred to as "x" by old people. Kids either call it "Molly" or "e," not "x." It hasn't had the street name "x" since the 90s. – Benjamin Harman Jan 15 '16 at 23:24
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    I replaced the term placeholder because it looked as if you were asking users to come up with a word. XYZ should avoid any possible misunderstandings. I believe you wanted to say "uncommon", but I might be wrong! Apologies if that is the case. You can reverse the edit by rollingback, or delete the prefix un-. (I quite like this question) – Mari-Lou A Jan 16 '16 at 7:49

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