Making a song and dance about it: talking about importance (2)

Listen to the author reading this blog post:

a boy and his father singing and dancing together in the kitchen while doing the washing up, pretending that a scrubbing brush and mop are a microphone and guitar
Marc Dufresne/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Liz Walter

This is the second of two posts on importance and covers some more aspects of the topic.

I will start with things that are important because of their effect on someone or something else. Someone or something that has the power to affect things can be described as influential. Something that has a great effect on future events is momentous, or – even more emphatically – seismic:

He was one of the most influential journalists of that era.

We took the momentous decision to sell our house.

The pandemic had a seismic effect on our business.

If something, especially someone’s opinion, carries weight, it is important enough to influence other people:

His words carry weight with the government.

The adjectives overriding and paramount describe things such as concerns or goals which are more important than any others:

My overriding concern was for the safety of my passengers.

The needs of our children must be paramount in any decisions we make.

The most common adjective to describe things that are important because they need immediate attention is urgent. Pressing has the same meaning. If something is uppermost in your mind, it is the thing you are thinking or worrying about the most, while you could say that the thing you need to deal with most urgently is at the top of your agenda:

There is an urgent need to provide clean drinking water.

We have several pressing priorities.

The welfare of the animals was uppermost in his mind.

She put the fight against terrorism at the top of her agenda.

There are several phrases we can use when we think someone is exaggerating the importance of something. For instance, we can say that they are blowing something out of (all) proportion or, in a nice visual image, making a mountain out of a molehill. In the UK, if we accuse someone of making a song and dance about something, we mean that they are making too much fuss because the thing isn’t as important as they think it is:

She was impolite, but calling her words a ‘violent threat’ is blowing it out of all proportion.

It’s only a five minute walk – I really think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

We forgot to invite her to the meeting and now she’s making a big song and dance about it.

I’ll finish with a couple of nice everyday phrases we use to emphasize that something is important. If we start a phrase with Whatever you do …, or end it with at all costs, we mean that it is very important that something is done:

Whatever you do, don’t forget to take enough water.

This area is dangerous after dark and should be avoided at all costs.

I hope you have found these posts useful. Look out for a future post on the opposite – how to describe things that are not important.

13 thoughts on “Making a song and dance about it: talking about importance (2)

  1. Paldon

    Super super beneficial daily conversing words and phrases i have found on Cambridge dictionaryblog by coincidence. Easy to learn und catchup the meaning of the sentences.
    Thank you and from today i am not going to miss your blog.
    If the subscription fee is free i would like to log in for the upcoming blog. I am very
    Sorry and ashamed of stating very straigtforward towards you . At the time being i am not in ccndition to afford the charges.
    With best regards

    1. Hi Paldon,
      We’re glad you enjoy the blog! If you haven’t found us on social media yet, you might also like to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, where we post links to these blog posts and more content for learners of English. And, of course, it’s also free to use the Cambridge Dictionary website and to join Cambridge Dictionary +Plus to view, create and quiz yourself on word lists – why not make your own word list using your favourite words and phrases from these blog posts?

  2. Tatiana Balandina

    Thank you, Liz! It’s always a great pleasure to read your articles, They are utterly useful and informative, I’m looking forward to your next article.

    1. Liz Walter

      Just click on the names of the blog writers (on the right hand side of the page) for previous posts – if you like mine, you will certainly enjoy Kate Woodford’s too.

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