acid test

acid test
acid test
When Fowler was preparing the first edition of Modern English Usage, he remarked that acid test was undoubtedly the popularized technical term ‘most in vogue at the moment of writing (1920)’. In scientific use it meant the use of nitric acid to test for gold; in transferred use (typically as the acid test) it had acquired the broad sense ‘a critical or conclusive test’, a use that was popularized by Woodrow Wilson two years before Fowler was writing

• (The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will —Times, 1918).

The term is also used with an

• (Fallujah is an acid test for the way the US deals with entrenched military resistance —news transcript, AusE 2004 [OEC])

and is occasionally qualified in some way

• (It's a better time to put Kesey to the moral acid test —website, AmE 2004 [OEC]).

For other extensions of technical terms see the table at popularized technicalities.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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