What is the meaning of the idiom 'to charm water out of sand'? I heard it in a conversation and cannot find any such idiom online.

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    There's an idiom "to squeeze blood from a stone". But I've never heard "to charm water out of sand". Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 17:33
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    It's not a common idiom, but it is a metaphor that is relatively easy to understand.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 19:07
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    @PeterShor There is also "Charm the birds out of the trees" which, to me, is a closer fit. "Getting blood out of a stone" always sounds more like squeezing than cajoling. A bit further away are "He could sell ice to Eskimos" and "He could sell sand to Arabs" which relate to sales skills.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 20:51
  • The great thing about English, is that if it works linguistically and semantically, you can use it. To charm water out of sand is great. It works in English. People make stuff up all the time. Thank goodness for that.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 21:19

1 Answer 1


Welcome to ELU!

After a bit of research, I found one such reference online. It's used in Spirit Gate by Kate Elliot:

Mia laughed suddenly. Her laugh could charm water out of sand.

I guess it's somewhat a matter of semantics, but since the metaphor is a unique creation by the author that hasn't been widely adopted, I wouldn't call it an idiom.

Based on the premise that it’s incredibly difficult to remove water from sand, it would be an extraordinary feat to do so. So much so it could even be considered magical. The author is using this idea as a metaphor to describe Mia’s ability to innately move people with her laughter as just that (magical).

As I read it, the author is not referring to her laughter as charming (as in pleasant), but rather describing its ability to charm (as in the magical sense).

  • The question is about the meaning of it though.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 20:17
  • @Laurel good point. I’ll update shortly.
    – njboot
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 20:27
  • And why shouldn't the two meanings be conflated? I think it might be one of those idioms which plays on the two meanings, like "He lies like a rug" or "colder than a banker's heart." Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 9:49
  • @PeterShor fair point, I removed that. It could play on both for sure.
    – njboot
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 16:25

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