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Is it the correct usage of the word 'proverbial' to suggest to someone who is completely bald that they need to 'let their proverbial hair down'?

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    I don't think so. Proverbial usually means a saying that is said often, like "proverbial monkeys typing on typewriters." Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 20:44
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    Are there no example sentences in dictionaries, Simon? Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 21:14
  • I disagree with Michael Wang. See answer below. Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 21:41

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It is the correct usage.

proverbial
adjective
used in a proverb or other phrase:

The players pointed the proverbial finger at themselves as the ones needing to improve.

Proverbial

Examples:

A place where you can let your proverbial hair down and party like an animal, the Ice House has something for everyone

So this is when you let your proverbial hair down a little and can really be yourself.

you have to let your proverbial hair down a bit and show your human side to your audience

People like to get a glimpse at the real people behind a brand so don't be afraid to let your proverbial hair down once in a while and share

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  • Many thanks for taking the time to provide a helpful answer rather than a snarky comment. Thank you. Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 21:49
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Cambridge tells us that let your hair down means:

to allow yourself to behave much more freely than usual and enjoy yourself

It's quite a well-known phrase, originating from around the 17th century:

Letting one's hair down was a commonplace part of womens' daily activities in the 17th century. The hair was normally pinned up and was let down for brushing or washing.

So - hair up for being sensible, and hair down away from civilised company.

Lexico says that proverbial means:

(of a word or phrase) referred to in a proverb or idiom.

The title of the movie refers to the proverbial elephant in the living room

This construction is used to indicate figurative speech where it could be ambiguous; there is not literally an elephant in the room.


Back to your phrase - the person is not necessarily bald, and most probably no hair will be touched, they are referring to the figurative expression meaning to behave freely.

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