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% ...
31
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5answers
3k views

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 I'...
48
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10answers
5k 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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8answers
10k views

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 ...
22
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4answers
47k 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 ...
21
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5answers
4k 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..."?
5
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5answers
17k views

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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6answers
5k views

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 ...
5
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13answers
15k 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 ...
33
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12answers
11k views

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 ...
18
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6answers
60k 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?
11
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9answers
26k views

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 ...
14
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6answers
7k views

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)
6
votes
1answer
31k 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 ...
1
vote
3answers
1k views

Is the sentence “I want to take a rest” wrong?

I heard that we should use "I want to rest" instead of "I want to take a rest." I also heard that "I want to take a rest" is not a sentence a native speaker would use. Is that correct? Should we ...
6
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10answers
1k views

Is there any equivalent for 'amorous affairs' that is very informal?

I'm looking for a way of saying “having amorous affairs”. Ideally it should indicate a married man fooling around with younger women, and the expression should be informal, humorous, in low register ...
5
votes
5answers
14k 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 ...
3
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2answers
2k 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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vote
1answer
292 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: “...
5
votes
4answers
1k views

Bless your heart

Is "bless your heart" something only used by old women in the South (all I've ever heard)? Or is it ever appropriate for a man to use it without seeming unmanly? Does the term always have ...
5
votes
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 ...
4
votes
1answer
15k views

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?
0
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2answers
411 views

In/on for “into/onto” in colloquial and not so formal AmE

If the context is crystal clear and, as such, allows no risk of misunderstanding or ambiguity whatsoever, unlike "Paul jumps into the lake (= Paul jumps into the lake from a certain point)" vs. "Paul ...
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3answers
1k views

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

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
2k 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 ...
29
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2answers
92k views

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 ...
17
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7answers
4k views

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 ...
12
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5answers
6k views

“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, ...
10
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4answers
2k views

Usage of “fanny” as verb

I am not a native English speaker, hence please bear with me. I understand that fanny means mess around and waste time. Can someone suggest how I might make a sentence which uses fanny, as an ...
8
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3answers
12k views

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?
29
votes
7answers
5k views

How did “stuck-up” get to mean “snob”?

I was inclined to believe that the expression "stuck-up", meaning staying aloof from others because one thinks one is superior, had its origins with somebody's nose stuck (up) in the air and yet, ...
20
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11answers
12k 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 ...
12
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2answers
7k views

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 ...
5
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7answers
518 views

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

Does Would you mind and do something instead of Would you mind doing something sound acceptable in spoken AmEng, or is it an attempt to imitate or render colloquial speech in not so formal writing? ...
3
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4answers
4k 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, ...
0
votes
2answers
10k views

“Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)”

"Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)" (idiom, used to agree to a suggestion that you think is good: OxfordLearnersDictionariesOnline) It seems to be of relatively recent origin, if there's really a ...
10
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1answer
2k views

“Gun an engine” vs. “Rev an engine”

The driver of the van brakes sharply at every red light or junction and guns the engine when we move off. I begin to sweat—travelling sideways isn't helping. Apple Tree Yard "To gun the engine" ...
8
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
6
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4answers
2k views

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 ...
5
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3answers
4k views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

What do you call someone who gets along with children?

What do you call someone who gets along with children/babies? A simple example: He is such a ____, he makes all children smile. A single word noun would be ideal but a phrase is acceptable also....
4
votes
1answer
531 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
votes
1answer
33k 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 ...
3
votes
4answers
308 views

“Tote” vs. “carry” in AE

Aside from formality/informality registers, what is to "tote" that is not to "carry" to AE native speakers? Does "tote", unlike "carry", imply a certain way to hold or support something while moving?
3
votes
5answers
41k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

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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2answers
534 views

Can “must not” be used alternately to “can't” in AE to say that sth is logically impossible?

Does American English allow the use of "must not" instead of "can't" to say that something is believed to be logically impossible? Please consider the following examples: It must not be true! How ...
3
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3answers
877 views

“Will” and “Going To”. What are the real differences of the colloquial usage of them?

I'm from Brasil and here we study the differences of using "Will" and "Going to" to talk about the future. But it is usually very confusing because we have a different kind of conjugation that uses no ...
2
votes
1answer
841 views

Are “kinda”, “sorta”, “oughta” and “sposta” acceptable in formal writing?

I get that sorta, kinda, sorta-kinda (this one I quite like though) oughta and sposta imitate speech but it still niggles me to find them "in print", especially when the overall tone is formal. ...
2
votes
2answers
322 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 ...