A colloquialism is a word or phrase used in everyday conversation, but generally avoided in formal speech and writing.

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Grammatical explanation of “what the blank”

In emphatic questions, it's common to see or hear an interjection such as the heck — or something more vulgar — between the interrogative and the verb. What was that? becomes What the heck ...
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2answers
987 views

Use of can't/cannot to indicate the opposite

I cannot find any references online that would help me know what this topic in English grammar is called, but I'm trying to guide a non-American friend to understand why some would use the word ...
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2answers
3k views

Examples of spoken phrases where the tone used changes the meaning [closed]

I'm looking for examples of phrases & sentences whose meaning changes depending on the tone of voice used. For example, 'Follow me.' (Said with a falling tone) would be understood as a command. ...
6
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1answer
914 views

Origin and meaning of “strealish”/“streelish”

I've heard the word strealish (or streelish) used to describe someone with a lost or wan look or someone unkempt or untidy. I know it's an Irishism, but what is the origin of the word and what did it ...
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6answers
474 views

How to say “I must nothing” on a t-shirt

My son has a t-shirt that says, in Polish, "Nic nie muszę". It translates literally as "Nothing (I do) not must", meaning something like I do not have to do anything. How would you express this in ...
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3answers
119 views

Phrase for action “testing and correcting”

What is a phrase to indicate the action testing and correcting? For example, imagine a situation in which you don't know what you should do exactly and step by step you change things and see the ...
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5answers
12k views

Alternative colloquialism for “Best of both worlds”?

I'm looking for a phrase that means the same thing as "best of both worlds", except isn't so overused. I'm looking for the semantics to remain intact; for example, "Awesome!!" would not be an ...
0
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3answers
133 views

“Needs to be X” vs “Needs X” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Using -ed vs. -ing in the “needs washed” construction I've always used the following construct: The book needs to be read before Thursday. But I've ...
13
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4answers
63k views

“Calling dibs” - what does it imply?

The term "to have dibs on something" or "to call dibs on something" plays a recurring role in American film and television (e.g. How I Met Your Mother), so it gets exported a lot. Wikipedia describes ...
3
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1answer
16k views

Proper use of the phrase “of all time”

I have a client who insists on using the following sentence in his web site: Lance Armstrong is the most successful American bike racer of all times. I think that "of all times" should be "of ...
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11answers
4k views

Idiom: People caring about minor stuff while something terrible is happening

Imagine a situation in which the whole place is on fire, a bomb is about to explode, everyone is running for their lives and someone is checking his looks on the mirror... pretty inappropriate for the ...
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13answers
9k views

Is there an idiom for people who boast too much?

I am looking for idioms or informal/slang/colloquial expression for some people that make you think that they are able of building a skyscraper, constructing a spaceship, playing the piano better than ...
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4answers
3k views

Use of “when about” as colloquial alternative to “approximately when”

If I wanted to ask someone approximately when they would be doing something, for example arriving, I could use Approximately when do you think you could do that? Would the following be a correct ...
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6answers
17k views

What does “Sunshine,” when it’s placed at the end of sentence mean?

I came across a peculiar (to me) usage of the word, “sunshine” that was placed at the end of sentence in the short story, “High Heels,” written by Jeffrey Archer. “Sunshine” appears in the following ...
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1answer
456 views

Why do we say “… by [date/time]”?

What's the origin of the use of by to indicate at/on or before or no(t) later than? Examples: Best if used by 8/24/2011. I'll be there by 6:30.
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1answer
1k views

“Done soon” vs. “soon done”

There are a number of colloquial expressions common to my area (see here, for example). I'm relatively recent to the area, so there are a number of expressions that just sound unnatural to me. ...
2
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2answers
3k views

Meaning of “I think”

What is the usage and meaning of 'I think' in colloquial language? Does it mean 'suppose' or 'cogitate'? For example, 'He is a nice guy, I think.' My opinion is that, in the above sentence 'I think' ...
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11answers
7k views

Is “chubby” offensive?

I said to a person that she is "chubby" and, apparently, she took it very seriously. What I meant to say is that she's not skin and bones, she carried more pounds than needed but, precisely because of ...
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2answers
1k views

Is “a lot of” used generally in English, or is it colloquial?

I find a lot of people in Holland think 'a lot of' is too colloquial for use in academic work. Is that the case?
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2answers
2k views

Is the term “city boy” a commonly used appellation for London bankers? Does it only apply to them, or is it colloquial for other London denizens?

I was watching the British series Sherlock Holmes and I noticed a couple of times they referred to bankers Sherlock was investigating or talking to as city boys. How common is this usage? Would the ...
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5answers
7k views

What does “Eleventy-seven” mean?

I came across the following phrase in a story (set in Australia): So the fact that I'm forty-five and you're eleventy-seven means nothing to me. If other people have a problem with that, then it's ...
5
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3answers
2k views

Is the phrase “all to c**k” considered profane?

I occasionally use the colloquialism "all to cock" to mean "disastrously wrong". I've always thought it a benign phrase, but recently I've wondered whether the use of the word "cock" in this situation ...
8
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2answers
692 views

Where did this usage of “something” originate: “I need a nap something terrible”?

I need a nap something awful! I know what this means, but I could never understand it: it's not easier to say, it's not more efficient, and it doesn't make sense! When was it started (and why)?
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3answers
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What is the origin of the phrase “stand on your head and spit wooden nickels?”

Where does this phrase come from? Was there a time in which it was in popular use? Is it an American English phrase?
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7answers
10k views

Colloquial definition of “douchebag”

Obviously "douchebag" has a literal meaning - however if we see someone wearing sunglasses indoors, we would call them a douchebag. I'm trying to explain this to a friend. How do you verbalize this ...
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3k views

“A whole nother” way of looking at things

People say this so much (instead of "another whole" way, etc.) that I wonder how it got started. How did "another whole..." get changed to "a whole nother..."?
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3answers
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Where did the phrase “shut up” as an expression of disbelief or amazement originate?

I recently heard shut up used according to this definition in Urban dictionary. shut·up (shuht-up) --interjection 1. An expression of disbelief. 2. Amazement; astonishment. I've only ...
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4answers
28k views

What's the difference between “informal”, “colloquial”, “slang”, and “vulgar”?

It seems many people get confused about the differences (and similarities) between "colloquial" and "slang", so what exactly does each term apply to? But to be even more thorough it seems to me we ...
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1answer
2k views

Origin of “blue” for rude?

This question Why do we talk a blue streak?, had me thinking—why do we use blue for rude ? Dictionary.com has it: lewd, indecent recorded from 1840 "(in form blueness, in an essay of Carlyle's)" and ...
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6answers
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Origins: “try and” over “try to” — how did we get there from here?

In written and standard semi-formal (and above) spoken English, one would use "try to": Try to be a better person. Try to get the fishhook out of my thumb, please. Try to find a pharmacy ...
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5answers
10k views

What is the origin of the phrase “to go apeshit”?

What is the origin of the phrase "to go apeshit"? An example usage would be: And then he went apeshit over the prize he just won. Obviously there is a strong visual associated with an angry ...
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6answers
10k views

He's good people. Just him. The one guy

I think this is a Midwestern thing, but where does the phrase "good people" come from? I'm referring specifically to the usage: "I like Bob. He's good people."
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4answers
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“How be you” or “How are you”?

I have never heard the phrase "How be you?" until yesterday, and started arguing that this was incorrect and that the correct phrase is "How are you?". My friend's reply was "This is how it's taught ...
5
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3answers
12k views

“Going to go” vs “going to”?

My significant other tells me that I'm not "going to go" to the shops, I'm "going to" the shops, and beats me mercilessly when I say that. Is this not correct? I might not be going to the shops until ...
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2answers
6k views

Where did the term “cheesy” come from?

Why do we call frivolous, lame or naff things cheesy?
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5answers
25k views

“What needs to be done” vs “What is needed to be done”

When you are looking at a task remaining, it seems right to me to say, "what needs to be done" in the simple present tense. I have seen some people write "what is needed to be done." While I don't ...
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7answers
2k views

Who/What decides if a word is “proper” English?

I was taught since kindergarten that "ain't" isn't a proper English word. I was wondering, who determines which words are acceptable and which words are not? Do words ever go from "improper" to ...
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2answers
160 views

Any better term than “Postscript”?

There was a Postscript section in my English Course-book, which simply teaches the colloquial English phrases as in "Give me a lift", "Let me have a look", "There is no point", etc. But "postscript" ...
3
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2answers
892 views

I need <something> yesterday?

Is it correct to say: I need those reports, and I need them yesterday. Shouldn't it be: I needed those reports yesterday. Or is this aberrant usage style simply a colloquialism?
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3answers
2k views

How to use “It ain't over till the fat lady sings”?

I know the meaning of this phrase: One should not assume the outcome of some activity (e.g. a sports game) until it has actually finished. I'm curious as to whether it would more likely be used when ...
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2answers
1k views

What does it mean when someone calls himself “non sequitur”?

Coming from my answer to question Is there a better noun form of “unreasonable” than “unreasonableness?” What does it mean when someone calls himself "non sequitur"? Examples: "I AM NON ...
4
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1answer
360 views

Usage of 'realize'

Does the word realize always include the process of becoming cognizant of the matter at hand? e.g. I realize that the iPhone is a popular device. Does this mean the speaker become cognizant of this ...
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8answers
6k views

Could you name some numbers that have a special meaning in English, like 666? [closed]

The question "What does the term “86'd” relate to?" made me wonder what similar cases we have in English. I'd like to know some other numbers that have a commonly understood meaning beyond their use ...
2
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5answers
689 views

Is the term “blind spot” something that only native English speakers would understand?

Is the term "blind spot" peculiar to the English language, or is it likely to be well understood worldwide, even by people who don't have English as their first language? Some background I'm ...
5
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4answers
20k views

Usage of 'much more'

Is saying much more grammatically correct? For instance, some purists argue that this is wrong: I'm much more comfortable with A than B and that it should be: I'm more comfortable with A ...
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5answers
4k views

Burn up or burn down?

What's the difference between "burn up" and "burn down"? Or is there a difference at all?
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6answers
1k views

Colloquial expression for “compliment” that carries negative feeling

What is the colloquial/casual/conversational form of the word "compliment" in this context: A: I hate John. B: Why? He's like a genius. A: Exactly! He's such a teacher's pet. He's always ...
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3answers
574 views

What does “trigger-happy on broken windows” mean?

What does this expression mean: to be "trigger-happy on broken windows"
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7answers
945 views

Is using “an idea” instead of “a good idea” good English?

In colloquial German, you can say something to the effect of Would it be an idea to move the bike shed a bit to the left? and it is immediately understood that "an idea" is supposed to mean "a ...
3
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2answers
288 views

Is “you've coming from” a colloquialism?

In the Take That song, Never Forget, the lyrics run "Never forget where you've coming from". Was that a mistake, or is it a colloquialism (or something else) to say "you've" instead of "you're" in ...