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What is the meaning of the expression "just the tip of the iceberg"?

(P. Habeeb Rahman, Madurai)

For most movie buffs, an iceberg is usually associated with one major event — the sinking of the Titanic! The expression "just the tip of the iceberg" was in use long before the ill-fated ship went down. One of the characteristics of the iceberg is that most of it remains under water. Only a small portion of it remains above water; it's usually the tip that we see floating. In other words, there is more to an iceberg than meets the eye!

When you say that a problem or a situation is just the tip of the iceberg, what you mean is that the problem is much more serious than it appears to be. What you see is only a small part of a really major problem. Here are a few examples.

* The layoffs are only the tip of the iceberg. I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to close down the plant next year.

* The recent riots are just the tip of the iceberg.

* The small protests that we see now are only the tip of the iceberg. I have a feeling things are going to turn violent pretty soon.

S. Upendran

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