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

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“Literally” and “Decimate” misuse

Recently I've heard American TV commentators say "[a person] was literally decimated" and "[a Senator] was literally thrown under the bus". In the first case I think the person was not actually 10% ...
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5answers
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Is Valley Girl speak “like”, entering the language?

So like, I had this teacher? And he's like, "You're late?" And I'm like, "There's like other people late too?" I've always cringed at the word "like" strewn about in a spoken sentence. Well now ...
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5answers
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Is it acceptable to begin a declarative sentence with “Am”?

I want to know firstly if it's grammatically correct to start a declarative sentence with "Am". For example: Am excited about the game today. Secondly, if it is grammatically incorrect, then I ...
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11answers
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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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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
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“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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4answers
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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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6answers
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What is the commonly accepted pronunciation of FAQ?

I hear FAQ(s) pronounced like a word in "FACK(s)", while I go letter by letter. In usage, what is more common? (Similar to SQL vs Sequel)
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12answers
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Is there a difference between “cheers” and “thanks” in colloquial British English?

In colloquial British English today you hear "Cheers" (to mean "thank you") more often than "Thanks." Is the choice of one or the other determined by regional, class, or education differences, or is ...
16
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6answers
31k views

Is “my bad” a correct English phrase?

I have seen many people use the phrase "my bad" in Internet forums. What does it exactly imply and is it a proper English phrase?
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8answers
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What does “I know, right?” mean?

Not only is my seventh grader using this phrase, but her teachers are as well. I suppose it means I totally agree with you and you totally agree with me but it sounds like there is a subtle Is that ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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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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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 ...
3
votes
2answers
894 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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1answer
148 views

Infinitive use in “whether or not he be” compared with its use in “if he be”

Here is the phrase in question: . . . but whether he be, or whether he be not. . . . Is the usage of the infinitive in that phrase above the same sort of thing as occurs in this quotation: ...
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11answers
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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
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When is it OK to use OK?

I often use "OK" in business and personal emails and phone conversations. But I often feel uncertain if it is appropriate to use it in every type of context. Please tell how universally I can use ...
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4answers
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Which is correct: “I’m done” or “I have finished”?

Which of these alternatives is grammatically correct? I’m done. or I have finished Like I’m done sounds very American, but is it grammatically correct?
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1answer
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Why are detectives/investigators referred to as “gumshoe”s? [closed]

Why are detectives/inspectors colloquially referred to as Gumshoes? Is it anything other that they would travel a lot in investigations and, presumably, wore hard-wearing shoes?
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2answers
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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 ...
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1answer
682 views

“There were only 4” versus “There was only 4”?

I used the sentence "there was only 4 channels on tele" (reminiscing about the good old days before digital TV!), but I wasn't sure if I was right, so tried were instead of was. It still doesn't ...
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2answers
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Why do we say “to boot”?

Here's an example of the phrase "to boot": My wife made a disgusting looking dinner, and it tasted awful to boot! The implication of the "to boot" is that the fact that the dinner tasted awful ...
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7answers
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Why are you a plonker?

The idiom, plonk (something/someone) down means to slap something down; to plop something down to sit or lie down on something in a careless or noisy way to leave someone somewhere to do ...
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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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5answers
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“high rate of speed” or “high speed” to mean going fast

Why do reporters (and sometimes police officers) say that somebody was going at a high rate of speed when they actually mean high speed? In physics, speed is already the rate of distance over time, ...
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1answer
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Does “awe” have a colloquial meaning (similar to “awesome”)?

The meaning of awe is given in dictionaries as "an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime" (this definition is from ...
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5answers
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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 ...
3
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1answer
17k views

“so long as” vs. “as long as”

I just googled the difference between as long as and so long as. The difference has alredy been discussed here. There are, it seems, two contexts for these expressions: lengths and physical ...
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4answers
2k views

Is “blah blah blah” the most common spelling?

What is the most common or correct spelling of "blah blah blah"? blah blah blah blah blah bla bla bla bla bla My question stems from when I first wrote it as "bla bla bla" in an English text, ...
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4answers
259 views

“Would you mind and do something” in nonstandard colloquial AE

Just curious, does "Would you mind and do something" instead of "Would you mind doing something" sound acceptable in spoken AE, or is it an attempt to imitate or render colloquial speech in not so ...
7
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4answers
688 views

Meaning and origin of “put a wrinkle on one's horn”

While investigating a recent EL&U question (What does "throw a wrinkle" mean?), I came across the unusual expression “put a wrinkle on [or in] one’s horn [or horns].” I have three ...
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5answers
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“Fixing to” at the beginning of a sentence

Use of fixing to at the beginning of a sentence is prevalent in the southern states of Amerca. Is this the right usage? And is this only a southern US thing? Examples: Fixing to call her. ...
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4answers
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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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3answers
457 views

Should I say “declutter” or “unclutter”?

Which verb is more appropriate (and older) for clearing out my desk: declutter or unclutter and why? I should declutter my desk I should unclutter my desk Dictionary.com defines ...
4
votes
1answer
389 views

Would you use the term cucumber-time and why?

During International Law studies I talked to English natives about politics, using a literal translation of the Dutch "komkommertijd", cucumber time, meaning to refer to the news-silent period of high ...
4
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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 ...
3
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1answer
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Is “and then some” an offensive expression?

I started an internal email discussion with the title "Editorial: link issues, some spelling issues and then some". However, upon rereading my own mail, it occurred to me that this might express ...
3
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1answer
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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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5answers
283 views

Is there a common expression for someone who “always holds a mobile phone in hand”?

I would like to know if there is a typical expression or phrase, used by native speakers, for someone who always has their mobile phone in their hand. I would prefer a spoken expression rather than ...
2
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3answers
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Is there a non-colloquial equivalent term for “cool”?

As I get older (into my 30s) the less I feel like using youthful slang, and I take extra pride in using professional English. But I can't think of a word that is universally equivalent to the ...
2
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2answers
264 views

What does “him as writ plays” (etc.) mean in old newspaper clipping?

Quotation from A history of the cries of London ancient (p23). ... famous theatre afterwards to be so widely known. The sunshiny time of our literature and life, making a red-letter period in ...
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5answers
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“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
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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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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 ...
0
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1answer
194 views

“Did used to” vs. “did use to” [duplicate]

The use of "used to" is much more frequent than "use to", but what about "did used to" vs. "did use to"?
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2answers
110 views

What does “as good a film as the Coen brothers…have ever made” mean? [duplicate]

What does "as good a film as the Coen brothers...have ever made" mean? Does it mean that the film is their best? what is the underlying structure?