In the series "The Wire" there's a conversation between the mayor and the police commander that goes like this:

- Can't you have police sit on locations where the homeless gather? Monitor them like that?

- And still answer the calls? Not without doubling up post units, which means overtime.

- Overtime, again.

- Blood in our veins, Mr. Mayor.

That's an interesting expression; I haven't heard it before.

My guess is he means his staff are not superhuman and can only do so much, but I'm not sure. So what does it mean? I couldn't find anything relevant googling the phrase so I'd also be interested if you know of any references.

  • 1
    It's not exactly a "standard" expression, but I'd guess what the police commander means is something akin to [It's all] grist to our mill (i.e. - working overtime isn't a problem for us - in fact, that's what we depend on to make up our wages*). Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 16:13
  • 2
    Well, it's clearly a "dismissive" response. Perhaps a closer paraphrasing might be It's what we live by, Mr Mayor (or more quirkily, That's what makes our world go round!). Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 16:37
  • 2
    It means that working overtime for us is just normal, like the blood in our veins. These writers try to avoid cliches, and here the writer has done so beautifully. And it is not dismissive. It's just saying this is normal. I have seen The Wire but I do not remember the scene. Only the tone of voice can determine whether or not it was intended dismissively.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 16:37
  • 1
    @Lambie: I haven't watched it either, but I maintain that just the fragment we have here strongly suggests the response is "dismissive". Particularly bearing in mind what OP here says about preceding context, it seems clear the police chief is effectively saying "Tough shit! That's how things work with us!" when the mayor rails against the fact that solving his problem will rack up a big overtime bill. Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 16:43
  • 1
    There is no way to tell, his tone might not be sarcastic or dismissive. It could be emphatic or declarative.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


It reminds me somewhat of Shylock's soliloquy in The Merchant of Venice, i.e. the policemen are simply human, and in the OP's quote not super-human.

If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

  • That's an interesting reference, thanks. Having read the comments and watched the scene again multiple times, I think he either means this, i.e. the policemen are simply human and can't do much more than they're doing in the time they're being allowed to work, or he's referring to overtime itself saying it's like "blood in our veins" like @FumbleFingers says, not as in normal, but more literally meaning it keeps the force alive, allowing them to function properly and do their job.
    – Saeb Amini
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 9:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.