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Fits and starts   /fɪts ənd stɑrts/   Listen
Fits and starts

noun
1.
Repeated bursts of activity.



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"Fits and starts" Quotes from Famous Books



... senses, she awoke as from a trance. But when she beheld the letter again, she read again the opprobrious word "faithlessness" in her husband's handwriting. She did not know what act of disloyalty she had committed. She moved about in her room by fits and starts. At last a thought came to her mind: she sent for the best goldsmith in town, and told him to make her a gold slipper adorned with precious stones. Under her strict supervision the work was completed in a marvellously short ...
— Filipino Popular Tales • Dean S. Fansler

... Perce Murgatroyd is founded on the quality rather than the quantity of his output. To our eternal loss he suffered from a temperament. He worked only by fits and starts. He never overcame a superstition that "Monday was a bad day for good work." And he was too conscientious an artist to attempt anything on days when the sky was overcast and the light bad. Often too, when he had actually made a start, ...
— Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 158, June 9, 1920 • Various

... lolling there so easily and toying with a toothpick, shared that constraint. Yet it was so. Captain Vyell did not understand children. Least of all did he understand this son of his begetting. He could be kind to him, even extravagantly, by fits and starts; desired to be kind constantly; could rally and chat with him in hearing of a third person, though that third person were but a servant waiting at table. But to sit alone facing the boy and converse with him was a harder business, and gave him an absurd feeling of ...
— Lady Good-for-Nothing • A. T. Quiller-Couch

... Master Dicky, what you mean by a Methodist?" he inquired. "If it is applied to a man who acts the part of a consistent Christian, and does his duty methodically—with system, and not by fits and starts,—it is a very high compliment you pay him; and as for the term saint, let me assure you that those who do not become saints have their souls in ...
— Salt Water - The Sea Life and Adventures of Neil D'Arcy the Midshipman • W. H. G. Kingston

... in his very presence a power which controls and commands. He is spared the necessity of declaring himself, for his grit speaks in his every act. It does not come by fits and starts, it is a part of his life. It inspires a sublime audacity and a heroic courage. Many of the failures of life are due to the want of grit or business nerve. It is unfortunate for a young man to start out in business life with ...
— Pushing to the Front • Orison Swett Marden

... By fits and starts the joy of working still visited him it is true. Weir of Hermiston he felt to be his very best—St Ives now and then went gaily. But the dark moods were only dormant not dead, and anxiety for the future of his family, and a longing to be able to cease working for daily ...
— Robert Louis Stevenson • Margaret Moyes Black

... of them, venturing further than his fellows, broke suddenly into loud cries of mingled pain and rage, and when at last he came whining piteously back to the ranch it was found that he was bleeding from a gash along the flank, where an Indian arrow had seared him. Only by fits and starts did any man sleep. Hour after hour Folsom's little garrison was on the alert. The women had all been moved to the deep, dry cellar, Mrs. Hal moaning over her baby, utterly unnerved, Jessie silent, but white and tremulous; the herdsman's wife, an Amazon, demanded the right to have a gun ...
— Warrior Gap - A Story of the Sioux Outbreak of '68. • Charles King

... knew that he had lied, Hugh who had always been as fearless of the truth as of anything else. So after that he asked no more, fearing to get another lie for an answer; and he led Hugh home, supporting him with his arm, for he was full of fits and starts and shiverings. If a lump of chalk rolled under his shoe he blanched and cried, "What's that?" and once when a field-mouse ran across the path he swooned. Then Hobb, opening his tunic at the neck, saw ...
— Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard • Eleanor Farjeon

... grieved you lately, Lucy?" she gently asked. "I am sure you have been grieving. I have watched you. Gay as you appear to have been, it is a false gaiety, seen only by fits and starts." ...
— Verner's Pride • Mrs. Henry Wood

... has been working upon us, and the power of his risen life has touched us, but we cannot say, "I have met Him. He has made Himself known to me." Oh, the difference between a burning heart, which becomes cold after a time, which comes by fits and starts, and the blessed revelation of Jesus Himself as my Saviour, taking charge of me and blessing me and keeping me every day! This is ...
— 'Jesus Himself' • Andrew Murray

... his information by fits and starts; ever and anon he would break off abruptly and walk off down the range, to give the guard the idea that he was about his ordinary business; then he would return, squat down on his hams beside the door, and murmur along in his ...
— The Subterranean Brotherhood • Julian Hawthorne

... which now a hand, and now a foot, and now the head itself was starting out. At this point I always woke and stole to the window, to make sure that it was not really so. That done, I crept to bed again; and thus I spent the night in fits and starts, getting up and lying down full twenty times, and dreaming the same dream over and over again, - which was far worse than lying awake, for every dream had a whole night's suffering of its own. Once I thought the child ...
— Master Humphrey's Clock • Charles Dickens

... did by his rank in the State, and yet this man seemed to be sometimes asleep and sometimes at play. He neglected the thread of business, which was carried on for this reason with less dispatch and less advantage in the proper channels, and he kept none in his own hands. He negotiated, indeed, by fits and starts, by little tools and indirect ways, and thus his activity became as hurtful as his indolence, of which I could produce some remarkable instances. No good effect could flow from such a conduct. In a word, when ...
— Letters to Sir William Windham and Mr. Pope • Lord Bolingbroke

... degradation so little. It is not happy that she has come to feel towards her miserable life so differently now from what she would have felt towards it, had it been set before her while she was the blooming, thoughtless creature in the little cottage in the country. It is only by fits and starts that the poor drunken wretch, living in a garret upon a little pittance allowed him by his relations, who was once a man of character and hope, feels what a sad pitch he has come to. If you could get him to feel it constantly, ...
— Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 7, No. 43, May, 1861 • Various

... of being alive! He saw, with tenderness, how naively they looked to him as the answer and solution of their mimic problems. But where could he find someone to be to him what he was to them? The truth apparently was that in his inward mind he was desperately lonely. Reading the poets by fits and starts, he suddenly realized that in their divine pages moved something of this loneliness, this exquisite unhappiness. But these great hearts had had the consolation of setting down their moods in beautiful words, words that lived and spoke. His own strange fever burned inexpressibly inside ...
— Where the Blue Begins • Christopher Morley

... wonderfully in her coaxing, half-pettish behavior to the provoking old woman—talkative and reticent by fits and starts, now whining and now laughing—who has been to seek out Romeo, and brought back news of him. In As You Like It, Rosalind's bright humor ripples and laughs like a silver brook through the glades of Ardennes, and trickles gently even into the ...
— Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Volume 11, No. 24, March, 1873 • Various

... that your scorn was all reserved for me, It flies about the world by fits and starts; Your changeful fancy fits impartially From knave of ...
— Bohemians of the Latin Quarter • Henry Murger

... a busy day, I can assure you," resumed Coretti; "I have to do my work by fits and starts. I was writing my phrases, when some customers came in. I went to writing again, and behold, that cart arrived. I have already made two trips to the wood market in the Piazza Venezia this morning. My legs are so tired that I cannot stand, and my hands are all swollen. I should ...
— Cuore (Heart) - An Italian Schoolboy's Journal • Edmondo De Amicis

... not get any news out of them, we waited until they had sufficiently relieved their feelings by abusing them, and then gleaned the following information by fits and starts. To use Schillie's words they were audibly and horribly elated at having captured such notable prisoners. Also they were questioned very much about themselves, and Schillie's friend, the King of the Pirates, asked if they belonged to a party of ladies and children supposed to be lost in a yacht ...
— Yr Ynys Unyg - The Lonely Island • Julia de Winton

... I snapped. "I'm an old woman before my time, Mr. Sam. What with trailing back and forward through the snow to the shelter-house, and not getting to bed at all some nights, and my heart going by fits and starts, as you may say, and half the time my spinal marrow fairly chilled—not to mention putting on my overshoes every morning from force of habit and having to take them off again, I'm ...
— Where There's A Will • Mary Roberts Rinehart

... prevented my sleeping. How different was the style of our present conversation to that of the preceding evening; no sound of gaiety was heard; hushed alike were the witty repartee, and the approving laugh which followed it. Now, we spoke but by fits and starts, with eye and ear on the watch to catch the slightest sound, whilst the most trifling noise, or the opening of a door, made us start with trepidation and alarm. The time appeared to drag on to an interminable length. At last the duc de Richelieu ...
— "Written by Herself" • Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon

... amounts to a torment. You are not persecuted by the process of making you comfortable; yet everything is done, and is done well. The work of the house is performed as if by magic, but it is the magic of system. Nothing is done by fits and starts, nor at awkward seasons; the whole goes on like well-oiled clockwork, where there is no noise ...
— Bracebridge Hall • Washington Irving

... be a favored guest now, at Bland's. Lawanne worked upon his book, but by fits and starts, working when he did work with a feverish concentration. He had a Chinese boy for house-servant. He might be found at noon or at midnight sprawled in a chair beside a pot-bellied stove, scrawling in an ungainly hand across sheets of yellow paper. He had no set hours ...
— The Hidden Places • Bertrand W. Sinclair

... so provident as the chipmunk. He lays up stores irregularly, by fits and starts; he never has enough put up to carry him over the winter; hence he is more or less active all the season. Long before the December snow, the chipmunk has for days been making hourly trips to his den with full pockets of nuts or corn or ...
— Squirrels and Other Fur-Bearers • John Burroughs

... and in that moment determined to make him Ada's husband. Yet he was the last man she would have chosen for a son-in-law. A loafer and a vagabond, he spoke of marriage with a grin. Half his time was spent under the veranda at the corner with the Push. He worked at his trade by fits and starts, earning enough to ...
— Jonah • Louis Stone

... reflect back from their foggy imaginations in exaggerated and distorted feebleness of whining versicles, and so on with other lights celestial or infernal. This, however, by the way. The only rational pursuit he ever followed, and that only by fits and starts, and to gratify his faculty of "wonder," I fancy, was chemistry. A small laboratory was fitted up for him in the little summer-house you may have observed at the further corner of the lawn. This study of his, if study such desultory snatches at science may be called, ...
— The Experiences of a Barrister, and Confessions of an Attorney • Samuel Warren

... coldness between us; and yet the coldness was all on my side. Ephraim was always gentle, even when I was pettish and cross. For so I was. It was partly physical. I was not well that winter. I did not sleep, or when I did by fits and starts, I woke frightened and crying. Now, my doctor would call it nervous sensitiveness; but then people did not give fine names to their humors, and mother only looked sorry, and said she was afraid I was ...
— The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 20, No. 122, December, 1867 • Various

... knowledge was only to turn her into a rebel; and a very effective rebel she made; for she had a pretty gift at the retort courteous, and she could take as much, and as well, as she gave. She rebelled at first at assisting in Lali's education, though by fits and starts she would teach her English words, and help her to form long sentences, and was, on the whole, quite patient. But Lali's real instructors were Mrs. Armour and Richard—, her ...
— The Judgment House • Gilbert Parker

... the meager fare had failed to do in the case of the four youngest. Since they had been herded into that cold box like cattle by soldiers at the station to which they had driven or walked from their blazing homes, they had been moved eastward daily in the joggling car, which traveled slowly and by fits and starts, unvisited by any one, not knowing their destination, and now too low in mind and body ...
— World's War Events, Vol. II • Various

... reasoning, and with more or less adroitness. With Saint-Just, there is no connection of ideas; there is no sequence or march in his rhapsody; like an instrument strained to the utmost, his mind plays only false notes in violent fits and starts; logical continuity, the art then so common of regularly developing a theme, has disappeared; he stumbles over the ground, piling up telling aphorisms and dogmatic axioms. In dealing with facts there is nothing ...
— The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 4 (of 6) - The French Revolution, Volume 3 (of 3) • Hippolyte A. Taine

... by fits and starts concomitant with railway travel by night, then more soundly when the "gentleman," my comrade in adventure, had been hauled out and deposited elsewhere. I fully awakened only ...
— Desert Dust • Edwin L. Sabin

... structure, unpainted and blackened with age, made a dark, dismal picture against the dull sky. The water fell with a monotonous roar over the dam; the cold dripping of water sounded within the shell of the mill. The wind, by fits and starts, rattled loose boards and set stray shingles tattooing here and there. Dust blew down from ...
— The Rival Campers Ashore - The Mystery of the Mill • Ruel Perley Smith

... it was equally true that he had very much changed within the period that had succeeded the disappearance of George Talboys. He had grown moody and thoughtful, melancholy and absent-minded. He had held himself aloof from society, had sat for hours without speaking; had talked at other points by fits and starts; and had excited himself unusually in the discussion of subjects which apparently lay far out of the region of his own life and interests. Then there was even another region which seemed to strengthen my lady's case against this unhappy young ...
— Lady Audley's Secret • Mary Elizabeth Braddon

... the vapours,' said Betty, drawing a long breath, and doing her best to be cheerful; and so she finished her labours, stopping every now and then to listen, and humming tunes very loud, in fits and starts. Then it came to her turn to take her candle and go up stairs; she was a good half-hour later than Moggy—all was quiet within the house—only the sound of the storm—the creak and rattle of its strain, and the hurly-burly of the gusts over ...
— The House by the Church-Yard • J. Sheridan Le Fanu

... by Jokul, her grandfather; for which Grettir thanked her well, saying he deemed it better than things of more worth, so he came to the ship. With the sailors he was no more popular than he had been elsewhere, for he would work only by fits and starts, as he pleased; besides, he had a gift of making very biting rhymes, which he indulged in at the expense of all on board. But when he did condescend to work he was a match for any four, or, as some say, for any eight men by reason ...
— The Book of Romance • Various

... somewhat lengthy pause. One man was reading in fits and starts a stained by coffee evening journal, another the card with the natives choza de, another the seaman's discharge. Mr Bloom, so far as he was personally concerned, was just pondering in pensive mood. He vividly recollected when the occurrence ...
— Ulysses • James Joyce

... example—though the tailors did not—is clear enough. At times, indeed, he blossomed out into the splendours of a dandy; and laughed at himself for doing so. But whether he was in gorgeous or in mean attire, he remained the same sort of happy-go-lucky creature; working hard by fits and starts; continually getting money in advance from the booksellers; enjoying the present hour; and apparently happy enough when not pressed by debt. That he should have been thus pressed was no necessity of the case; at all events we need not on this score ...
— Goldsmith - English Men of Letters Series • William Black

... so by fits and starts; but the habit will never be so confirmed as to be regarded as an essential ...
— The Young Woman's Guide • William A. Alcott

... Thirdly, this running is called in another place, a continuing in the way of life. "If you continue in the faith grounded, and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel of Christ." Not to run a little now and then, by fits and starts, or half-way, or almost thither, but to run for my life, to run through all difficulties, and to continue therein to the end of the race, which must be to the end of my life. "So run that ye may obtain." And ...
— The World's Great Sermons, Vol. 2 (of 10) • Grenville Kleiser

... signals in eight miles but traffic moved in fits and starts at this time of day. He could see the first light when he was a hundred yards from it and was sure ...
— The Mighty Dead • William Campbell Gault

... "Now, sir, mark this, and judge how my mind is troubled. The spectre came back, a week ago. Ever since, it has been there, now and again, by fits and starts." ...
— Mugby Junction • Charles Dickens

... Hamilton, who was holding her hand between both his own, "do not let your imagination run away with you. I am very well with Burr, and he is jealous by fits and starts only. Why in the name of heaven should he be jealous? He has never given a thought to the welfare of the country, and I have devoted myself to the subject since boyhood. If I reap the reward—and God knows the future is precarious enough—why should he grudge me a power for which ...
— The Conqueror • Gertrude Franklin Atherton

... gone away without giving him any interview, she had persistently kept away, yet though she was doing what she could, by fits and starts, to forget him, that perverse imagination of hers always pictured him as waiting, constant, ready. There was a particular tree in the glen behind which she had so frequently represented him to ...
— Fated to Be Free • Jean Ingelow

... in motion; now slow; now by fits and starts; washing her face to-day, her hands to-morrow. Never going straight, even along the road; talking with the waggoner, helping a child to pick watercress, patting the shepherd's dog, finding a flower, and late every morning at the hay-field. ...
— The Life of the Fields • Richard Jefferies

... by fits and starts," says Brantome, "that one was well fed during this reign, for very often circumstances prevented the proper preparation of the repasts; a thing much disliked by the courtiers, who prefer open table to be kept at both court ...
— Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period • Paul Lacroix

... spent much time in looking at it. But it is a monster whose face I do not love to see; I turn from its hideousness to the beauty of His face who sins not, and the sight of "yon lovely Man" ravishes me. But at your age I did this only by fits and starts, and suffered as you do. So I know how to feel for you, and what to ask for you. God purposely sickens us of man and of self, that we may learn to "look ...
— The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss • George L. Prentiss

... as she worked, wandering in and out, now and then sitting down for a few moments, and reading aloud, by fits and starts, or occasionally taking up a needle and making futile efforts to busy herself with the womanly implement, but always restless, and generally abandoning her attempt after a brief trial; for Bertha frankly confessed that she admired industry ...
— Fairy Fingers - A Novel • Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie

... orderly about it, nothing mathematical. London does not grow as the circles spread from a splash in a pond, nor regularly and certainly as geologists say stones grow in the soil—a fascinating and rather dreadful secret of growth. London grows suddenly by fits and starts. Once, perhaps, the town crept out quietly, a field at a time, a new road in a twelvemonth. Now it catches great parks and manors. But which way it will go out to catch them you cannot guess. It may walk ...
— Highways and Byways in Surrey • Eric Parker

... much probably added; for the old garment of speech, which once served all needs, has grown too narrow, and serves them now no more. "Change in language is not, as in many natural products, continuous; it is not equable, but eminently by fits and starts"; and when the foundations of the national mind are heaving under the power of some new truth, greater and more important changes will find place in fifty years than in two centuries of calmer or more stagnant existence. Thus the activities and energies which ...
— English Past and Present • Richard Chenevix Trench

... less to be congratulated than Gloriani had taken it into his head to believe. He was discontented with his work, he applied himself to it by fits and starts, he declared that he did n't know what was coming over him; he was turning into a man of moods. "Is this of necessity what a fellow must come to"—he asked of Rowland, with a sort of peremptory flash in his eye, which seemed to imply that ...
— Roderick Hudson • Henry James

... this Madam Allen made one for Fel. Everybody said it was the nicest party we had had; for Tempy Ann made sailor-boy doughnuts, with sugar sprinkled on, and damson tarts, and lemonade, to say nothing of "sandiges," with chicken in the middle. I loved Fel dearly, I know I did; but by fits and starts I was so full of envy that I had to go off by myself ...
— Aunt Madge's Story • Sophie May

... felt with fits and starts. There were periods when I seemed to be completely in their grip, when I was restless and as though ready to marry the first girl I met. Then there would be many months during which I was utterly indifferent, enjoying my freedom and putting off the ...
— The Rise of David Levinsky • Abraham Cahan

... as visitors put mamma and papa about, and did not suit their habits, she must resign her little world, and be almost as quiet and solitary as her elders. Leslie had just begun to sigh a little for the old thronged, bustling class-rooms which she had lightly esteemed, and was active by fits and starts in numerous self-adopted occupations which could put former ones out of her head, and fill up the great blanks in her time and thoughts, for she was not inclined to sit down under a difficulty, and instinctively battled with ...
— Girlhood and Womanhood - The Story of some Fortunes and Misfortunes • Sarah Tytler

... by fits and starts. If the demon seized upon me, I raved about for a time as before, but I did my duty for the principal. I not only honoured but loved him, and censure from his lips ...
— Uarda • Georg Ebers

... that Carew was not exclusive; so long as he had his own way in every thing he was good-tempered, and so very good-natured that he permitted not only his friends but his dependents to do pretty much as they would. He was a tyrant only by fits and starts, and in the mean time there was anarchy at Crompton. Every soul in the place, from the young lords, its master's guests, down to the earth-stopper's assistant, who came for his quantum of ale to the back-door, ...
— Bred in the Bone • James Payn

... desultory conversation of fits and starts. Woodsmen of the genuine sort are never talkative; and Thorpe, as has been explained, was constitutionally reticent. In the course of their disjointed remarks Thorpe explained that he was looking for work in the woods, ...
— The Blazed Trail • Stewart Edward White

... by fits and starts. Once in the salon an indefinable uncertainty and dread took possession of us. The count flung himself into an armchair, absorbed in reverie, which his wife, who knew the symptoms of his malady and could foresee an outbreak, was careful not ...
— The Lily of the Valley • Honore de Balzac

... like an owl in sunlight and had a wearisome cough. There was always a sickly smell of lozenges about him, and he was fretful if every window was not tightly closed. On Percival's right was a sallow youth of nineteen. He worked by fits and starts, sometimes driving his pen along as if the well-being of the universe depended on the swift completion of his task and the planets might cease to revolve if he were idle, while a few minutes later he would ...
— Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Volume 22. July, 1878. • Various



Words linked to "Fits and starts" :   fit, burst, by fits and starts



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