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I was having a coversation and part of the conversation, the person asked me which part of the world I was from, and I answered him exactly "the western hemisphere". Then I asked him the same question and he replied that he's from north India.

In contrast to mine, he gave a specific answer. I was looking for a reply to him to emphasize the way he got down to the specific answer. Is there a phrase that means "to give/get down to the exact/precise answer of something"?

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closed as not constructive by J.R., tchrist, FumbleFingers, Mark Beadles, MετάEd Dec 13 '12 at 0:14

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Specificity is in the eye of the beholder- "North India" is still quite a large expanse of land. Are you looking for something like, "Wow, that was much more specific than my answer." –  Jim Dec 12 '12 at 2:51
@Jim yes, that's exactly what I'm looking for. But if to ignore my example, is there a phrase that means this? "To give/get down to the exact/precise answer of something". –  Theo Dec 12 '12 at 3:06
@Theo: I'm not clear what you want to describe. Giving answers which are very specific (perhaps in greater detail than the questioner cares to know)? Giving the correct answer (however that's defined)? Or maybe just giving the answer the questioner would most like to get? You need to be much more specific, I think. –  FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 4:20
btw - if I asked someone where they were from, and they answered "the western hemisphere" (in any context I can imagine), I'd take that as pretty much on a par with "None of your business!" Did you really say that? –  FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 4:24
I always saw Answer precisely written in bold over my university question papers ;) –  KeyBrd Basher Dec 12 '12 at 5:04

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

"Hey, you are spot on." (informal)

spot on adjective
: exactly correct

e.g., "your prediction was spot-on"

Since you in a conversation as you say, informal or slang would be fine; in fact, better suited.

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I think you only say someone is "spot on" when they've made a statement which you already know at the time of speaking is true. Your "prediction" example is atypical in that respect, because the statement was made some time ago. But you tell him he's "spot on" as soon as you can after you know he was correct. Would OP's North Indian have been more "spot on" if he'd said what state he was in? What town? Address? –  FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 4:30
'spot on' would not be understood by most Americans. But certainly in the UK. –  Mitch Dec 12 '12 at 13:42
spot on, dead on, dead right, hit the nail on the head, are all used in Ireland. –  Baz Dec 12 '12 at 14:54

Answering the question "Which part of the world do you come form?" with "Western Hemisphere" would be considered odd by most native English speakers. If I was replying to a foreigner, I would more than likely answer the question by stating the country I come from. If I was asked by a fellow countryman, I would name the town I come from. In other words, "Part of the world" is an expression in English and shouldn't be taken literally.

I answer questions by giving as much detail as I think is relevant giving the context of the question. Giving more detail than is necessary would be considered strange by most people, but would unlikely merit any response other than in extreme situations where some smart ass might answer "Don't be such a nerd!". :) For example, if I asked a foreigner where they came from and they gave me their entire address in their home country, I would think to myself: "Eh... why did they state their entire address". However, I wouldn't respond by saying something like "Oh, what an exact answer!"

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I think you've pretty much nailed this. It's not really meaningful to speak of the exact answer to a question - as with so many questions asked on ELU, everything depends on the exact context. –  FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 13:53
Perhaps I haven't explained my question clearly. My reply to him was intended to be a playful remark when he asked me about which part of the world I was from (I guess I was trying to make conversation). When I asked him the same question back I was expecting him to play along, but instead he got right down to his exact country of residence. I was looking for a reply to him expressing my surprise on how specific I thought he is in his answer to me and maybe there's an idiom/phrase that describes that, that describes basically, you are "giving answers which are very specific"! I understand.. –  Theo Dec 13 '12 at 18:33
..that specificity is in the eye of the beholder, but that was what I wanted to express. –  Theo Dec 13 '12 at 18:33

To "zero [in] on" .. is either an idiom or collequialism I hear and have often used when the subject of discussion gets a response that is of the desired precision or focus.

I suspect the origin of this comes from machinists as part of their process of calibration for the various measuring instruments by adjusting an indicator to point to a zero marking on whatever gauged instrument they happen to be using (as over time the needle or slide tends to drift away or loosen up). Perhaps it goes back farther, to same aspect of maintenance by clock or watchmakers.

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The question "which part of the world you come from?" is normally answered with a country. When someone answers "North India" either they don't know about the normal answer or they are setting themselves apart from the rest of India for personal reasons, like they think that it's better. In either case I wouldn't be particularly impressed by their answer, especially if they think they're better by being born in the North.

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The question "which part of the world do you come from?" is normally never answered, because it is never asked. Usually, people ask "Where do you come from?" If you were asked "which part of the world do you come from?" you might feel that since this question was worded differently, people might be looking for a different answer. –  Peter Shor Dec 12 '12 at 16:24
I have been asked the OP question myself. "Which country do you come from?" is much more common. "Where do you come from?" is also often asked. This last question is least specific and may attract all sorts of answers. –  Chris Dec 12 '12 at 21:00
Please cite at least one reliable source which supports this answer. –  MετάEd Dec 31 '12 at 23:50

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