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People sometimes use the phrases to skate by x and to skirt by x with the meaning: to do x with ease or to do x with minimal effort. Is there another verb that sounds like to skate or to skirt that is either used or more often used for the same purpose? Examples of sentences in which the phrase would be used are:

  1. Before I went to college, I could just [verb] by school.
  2. I used to respect Felix, but now he just [verbs] by at work.
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Do you just want a verb with the same meaning? Or, do you want a similar sounding verb with the same meaning? Does it have to be associated with 'by'? Please clarify. –  coleopterist Aug 16 '12 at 8:56
    
The verb I am thinking of has the same meaning, begins with 's', and is possibly associated with either 'by' or 'through'. I believe that the word exists, but cannot remember which word it is. –  danportin Aug 16 '12 at 8:57
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My understanding of to "skate by" or "skirt by" is that they get around or past something with ease. It implies they didn't actually do the activity in question. If one wanted to say someone actually did something with ease or minimal effort, one would say "skate through". "Skirt" doesn't work for actually doing something though, as it means to "go around or past the edge of." –  Questioner Aug 16 '12 at 9:49
    
Also consider slide by, squeeze by, and shirk –  jwpat7 Aug 19 '12 at 1:22

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think neither skate nor skirt have the meaning OP intends, which seems to me better covered by to coast (verb sense 3) to act or move aimlessly or with little effort.

I used to respect Felix, but now he just coasts by at work. (note: "by" is common, but optional to some)

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For the first one, you'd have to change your preposition, but you could say breeze through.

Before I went to college, I could just breeze through school.

In addition to definitions about light winds, NOAD says:

noun informal a thing that is easy to do or accomplish : traveling through London was a breeze.

verb [ intrans. ] informal come or go in a casual or lighthearted manner : I breezed in as if nothing were wrong.
• [ intrans. ] deal with something with apparently casual ease : the computer has the power to breeze through huge documents | he breezed to victory.

If you used breeze for Felix, though, one might interpret the sentence to mean that Felix tackles problems at work with relative ease (breezing through them), thereby giving the opposite impression than you intend. So, another suggestion might be:

I used to respect Felix, but now he just saunters around at work.

To saunter usually applies to a casual movement, rather than a casual attitude, but I think the word can be used figuratively to someone who is slacking. I'd probably be more direct, though, and just use slacking:

I used to respect Felix, but now he's always slacking at work.

Again, from NOAD:

• [ intrans. ] informal work slowly or lazily : she reprimanded her girls if they were slacking.

You could use slack in your first sentence, too:

Before I went to college, I could just slack in school.

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You may be thinking of scrape by meaning to achieve the minimum required result. However it wouldn't necessarily work in your first example. It seems ok in the second:

I used to respect Felix, but now he just scrapes by at work.

Note that scrape through still has the connotation of the minimum required result, but also maximum effort.

I tried really hard with statistics, but only scraped through the exam.

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Scrape could denote an aptitude problem in Felix, not an attitude problem. (Only a comment, not a criticism. I like this answer; the word is a worthy candidate). –  J.R. Aug 16 '12 at 9:20

For your first sentence, you could use the idiom sail through something. It means to go through something quickly and easily, without great effort.

Before I went to college, I could just sail through school.

It doesn't really work with the second sentence though, maybe because there isn't really a "finish line" to sail past in a job. I agree with FumbleFingers' answer that coasts works in that sentence. In this sense, coast means to act or move aimlessly or with little effort. I'd remove the preposition by.

I used to respect Felix, but now he just coasts at work.

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the sailing is a form of J.R.'s wind metaphor. where-as is relying on previous effort, thus is view negativity, which seem in conflict with OP "ease". –  Simeon Pilgrim Aug 16 '12 at 18:17
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@SimeonPilgrim, I'm not sure I understand your point, but sailing through school means you did it easily. There is not a negative connotation. –  JLG Aug 16 '12 at 18:24
    
Ah I missed "coast" in my second sentence. "Coast by" has a negative connotation of not being present/active in the task, almost autopilot like. –  Simeon Pilgrim Aug 21 '12 at 19:55

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