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Is 'shake of a lamb's tail' suitable for use in a student's composition? It is an uncommon expression. Am I correct?
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'two shakes of a lamb's tail'

It is a rather informal idiom. It probably isn't appropriate for academic writing.
Nona The Brit
'two shakes of a lamb's tail'

It is a rather informal idiom. It probably isn't appropriate for academic writing.

You mean the expression is 'two shakes of a lamb's tail', but I can find 'shake of a lamb's tail'. However, I agree with you that it should be avoided since I couldn't find it in my dictionaries.
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I have only heard it as "in two shakes of a lamb's tail" (in a very short amount of time).
The phrase was not particularly uncommon in the community where I grew up, and it is still used, though perhaps not as often as it used to be.
The phrase is suitable in a student composition if it is within dialog or if quoted, of course, but probably not otherwise.

CJ

Below are examples of 'shake of a lamb's tail'.

The News-Gazette.com Weblog

Be back in a shake of a lamb's tail. **** It's 5:35 p.m. I just saw the reason Ron Zook wanted Martez Wilson on his team. At the end of a long TD reception ...
www.news-gazette.com/ngweblog/index.cfm?post=780&blog=12 - 16k - Cached - Similar pages

Diary of a late developer | Work | Guardian Unlimited Money

The Media Trust thought of me when it needed brochures and an annual review produced in the shake of a lamb's tail. Fortunately, after I rashly agreed to do ...
money.guardian.co.uk/workweekly/story/0,,1858181,00.html - 39k - Cached - Similar pages
Have you checked the number of Google results for "shake of a lamb's tail" vs "shakes of a lamb's tail"? I'd say that is a pretty good indication of the more commonly used version of the idiom.

Interestingly, the BNC provides no results for either one. Emotion: surprise
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I would accept both versions.