I was helping a friend to proof read and found this sentence very cringey. 'Also, Chambers that give their pupil first-hand experience which they can cut their teeth on their legal careers in the long run.'

Is it grammatically correct? Is the idiom correctly used? Or am I just being sensitive.

Thank you

  • Maybe you found the sentence "cringey" because it is awkward and ungrammatical. There's nothing wrong with "cut their teeth on" in it, though. That's the one part that stands on its own, unambiguous and well-suited to its task.
    – Robusto
    Feb 9, 2019 at 22:38
  • The rest of it is word salad. What is “Chambers”? Why is it capitalized? Also Chambers, that <restrictive clause> “give their pupils (should be plural) first-hand experience” which <non-restrictive clause> they can cut their teeth on <end of idiom, expecting a verb...> Wait, now what’re all these extra words for? They feel like they’re from a different sentence. And then a period, where’s the verb?? What do Chambers do??
    – Jim
    Feb 10, 2019 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


The idioms are not being well used, since “first hand experience” and “cutting one’s teeth” have different origins and connotations. Taken as a whole, they form a mixed metaphor.

For example, first hand experience refers to actively doing something onself instead of being told about it second hand.

In contrast, cutting one’s teeth is essentially passive. Infants like to have “teething rings” and other objects to press their gums against, but these are not like blocks or other developmental toys. When you say that someone “cut his teeth” on something, it typically means that they experienced it in infancy. In some cases this can be interpreted as the infancy of a career, but it in the example you gave, it sounds odd.

The problem is that the apparent intent of the writer is to describe formative experiences that lead to an individual’s progress in a career. However, the grown-up metaphor “first hand experience” is followed by the infantile metaphor “cutting their teeth”. So the metaphor is not only mixed, but backwards too.

  • Sure. “New lawyers cut their teeth on the tedious but necessary internal work of the firm, mentored by a practicing lawyer. With first hand experience of the law in real life, they learn to take on cases of greater scope.” Think about chewing on hard biscuits for a few years. After this “first hand” experience, you’re ready to take on a pomegranate or a rack of spareribs. Feb 10, 2019 at 20:27

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