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Thursday, April 12, 2012

to point the finger at

Idiom: to point the finger at; used as a verb

First Example: When Charlene asked her kids who ate the cake in the fridge, her son Oscar pointed the finger at his sister, Michelle.  Of course, Charlene knew it was Oscar because he had frosting on his face, so he got into trouble for lying as well.
Meaning: To "point the finger at" someone means to blame a person for something bad that happened.  The expression comes from the act of pointing at a guilty person, often done by a witness in court (who points at the criminal).  However, while possible, it is not required that the accuser literally point his/her finger at someone in order to blame him/her.  In fact, this idiom is often used when the person being blamed isn't even present, as in the next example:

Second Example: When Melanie got into trouble at work, she pointed the finger at everyone but herself.  She blamed her late projects on Todd, claiming he kept interrupting her with other projects, and she said Chris said it was OK for her to use the phone to make person calls.
Here, Melanie is blaming others for her bad behavior at work.  In addition to personal blame, the expression can also be in a larger sense, as in the following example:

Third Example:
            Economist A. When people ask me about what caused the economic crisis in 2008, I usually point the finger at the Iraq war.  It was an extremely expensive ordeal.
            Economist B. While I agree that the expense of the war had some effect on the economy, I think you're overestimating its influence.  Real estate prices and the stock market were really blame.

When asked what was the number one cause of the in the United States, the first economist pointed the finger at the Iraq war.  However, the other economist argued that he should have pointed the finger at real estate prices. 

This idiom is from LSI's book "Reading Savvy," which is used in the Level 5 Reading classes. For more information, please visit  

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