I am looking for hyperbolic word or phrase for the case when you are using very complex or capable thing in such a way that even though the purpose is served, it was not used in the optimal way thus the optimal result was also not achieved. Like when someone is using a car as a hand cart or something.

EDIT: The message I want to convey is "you can do the same task in better way using the tool" and not "you can do the same task using a simpler tool".

While "A sledgehammer to crack a nut" represents the later idea, I am looking an expression for the former.

  • You might need to provide a lot more context and for now, what's wrong with "limited" or "restricted/ive" please? – Robbie Goodwin Feb 15 '18 at 0:15
  • @RobbieGoodwin As the analogy I have mentioned, for people who are not familiar with a car might use as a push cart until someone tell them it can be driven. Limited or restrictive will be applicable when people know about it but are advised against using some features. – Ankit Feb 15 '18 at 6:54
  • 1
    Related: Overkill or wrong tool idiom. – Lawrence Feb 15 '18 at 7:28
  • 1
    @Ankit That's an interesting difference to the 2 questions. Please add it to the question itself (here's the edit link) - it will make a difference to how the question is understood. – Lawrence Feb 15 '18 at 15:22

This is rare, and the wording isn't fixed, but I've heard in in real life, and there are hits on Google (without the quotes you get a lot more relevant hits, but they're buried in a lot of irrelevant material):

Hitting the nail with the handle (of the hammer).

Because it's an obvious metaphor (actually more often employed as a simile) you can get away with it not being well established. I've come across it in engineering (and science) circles in the UK, where tool metaphors are common, and problems in particular are often described in colourful terms.

It works well in a deliberately mixed metaphor: "Fred tended to use sledgehammers to crack nuts. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this time he decided to use the handle"

  • that's interesting. – Ankit Feb 16 '18 at 10:23
  • Ankit, I’m not sure I understand “complex or capable thing”… so I could ask and you could explain until the cows come home, or you could use a different wording, more clear to more readers. “Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” seems to cover many relevant and also to fall foul of both “do the same task better using the same tool" and “… using a simpler tool” and isn’t t the relevant part still why it’s not always appropriate? To me, Chris’s “hitting the nail with the handle” is equivalent. What matters is not your wording but your tool… choose the right tool and the wording follows. – Robbie Goodwin Feb 16 '18 at 21:49
  • @RobbieGoodwin I didn't get what your point is. Funny that, to me it looks like you could write till the cows come home, to be more clear ;-) – Ankit Feb 20 '18 at 19:04
  • Then to be tedious, “Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut" represents your latter idea only terribly loosely. Doing the same task using a simpler tool is almost the opposite of sledgehammering a nut; that’s almost exclusively about overkill; overuse of power and energy, coupled with a much lesser lack of control. I’m sorry, I’ve no idea whether the problem here is the original conception or the translation but clearly, they don’t both work. – Robbie Goodwin Feb 21 '18 at 23:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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