Choosing the best phrase for a particular context or meaning.

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46
votes
12answers
4k views

What's the English equivalent of the Japanese saying, “A fart ruins 100 days of sermons by the priest (bishop)”?

I was amused by the expression "Paid a penny and only farted" (related by @FumbleFingers), which suggested a similar Japanese saying: 大山鳴動鼠一匹 - "Find only a small mouse coming out after hearing ...
30
votes
15answers
6k views

A word for a joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh

There is a word for this in Indonesian language: jayus. (Maybe, it is used in Filipino and Malaysian language also.) It is a joke that is so bad, it's funny. It is often mentioned as ...
26
votes
9answers
6k views

What is a polite way of talking about a recently-deceased person?

In my language (Arabic), we say things that can be translated to: Mr X, God have mercy on him, was .. Mr X, God puts him in heaven, was. . . . Mr X, God forgive him, was. . . . How does one talk ...
22
votes
6answers
4k views

Are “Fish in a barrel” and “Sitting ducks” similar?

Do the phrases "Fish in a barrel" and "Sitting ducks" convey the same thing? In my opinion, they have the same tone and express something to be an easy target. Eg: Out there, they are just fish in ...
17
votes
2answers
973 views

Term for Only “Unbelieved Warner”

I'm looking for a word, phrase, or idiom to describe a person or fictional device. In stories, especially horror and fantasy, there can be a character who is dismissed when they try to tell others ...
15
votes
18answers
1k views

Term for “will consume time and almost certainly yield nothing”

Can anyone point to an eloquent word or term that means "will consume time and almost certainly yield nothing"? Could be used in response to: I'm going to have one of the developers contact ...
15
votes
14answers
999 views

An expression for trying to futilely apply old methods that once worked

We are looking for an expression that captures this idea: When someone tries to adapt an old way of doing something, holding on to the original core of their process, in a futile way, instead of ...
15
votes
7answers
5k views

Expression for someone who doesn't like to eat

Is there an expression for a person who eats very little, doesn't like eating, avoids it? I don't mean the medical condition of anorexia, I mean a common preference, like kids who need a lot of ...
14
votes
12answers
3k views

Ways of saying “You don't have to be a rocket scientist” [closed]

I'm trying to find different ways of saying that "You don't have to be a rocket scientist", but I can't seem to get any good ideas. I got a variation, "You don't have to be a brain surgeon...," but ...
14
votes
5answers
65k views

“Please advise” — why is this a common turn of phrase for foreign speakers of English?

I was just browsing through StackOverflow just now, and randomly hit on this question, where the question-asker signed off his request with a "please advise." Certain I'd heard this turn of phrase ...
13
votes
10answers
15k views

Alternative expression for “bang for your buck”

I have been hearing the expression "bang for you buck" many times a day and I find myself distracted when I or others use it. In an effort to be an attentive listener, what is a good alternative ...
13
votes
8answers
32k views

When do you use “Cheers” instead of “Thank you” in spoken English?

A lot of time, people say "cheers" instead of "thank you". As I am not a native speaker, I wonder in which case you can use what. It is used a lot for polite gestures, such as holding a door or ...
13
votes
13answers
18k views

Is there a term for someone who “can see multiple perspectives”?

A colleague of mine is trying to describe herself as "capable of seeing a situation from multiple perspectives" or "able to look at the big picture from various viewpoints". I feel like there must be ...
12
votes
9answers
217k views

Any other good way of saying “Happy Birthday”?

Quite a few of my friends are having their birthdays in the coming weeks. I feel a little awkward posting plain words like "Happy Birthday" on their Facebook pages. I've decided I should come up with ...
12
votes
10answers
3k views

Is there a term I can use for a boss's favorite employee?

Over dinner tonight, one of the guests was describing herself as her boss's favorite employee, and asked for a term to describe this. As the only guest who spoke English as a first language, the ...
12
votes
16answers
2k views

A way to express an overreaction to something positive

I am looking for a word or an expression to describe an overreaction to positive news or positive events. Something that has to do with excessive enthusiasm like when you you are unable to control ...
11
votes
11answers
2k views

How else can I express the concept of ' just to be on the safe side'

I always use this expression when I want to say that I just want to be prudent about something. Are there other ways to convey the same concept, other idioms or expressions I can use alternatively?
11
votes
4answers
1k views

“Who is that for?”

Showing a baby bottle to my son I ask him "Who's that for?", obviously waiting for a "That's for me!" answer (which turns out to be just "Me!") But I am not a native speaker and I kind of translate ...
11
votes
7answers
536 views

What is the verb for developing a chip on one's shoulder? [closed]

I want to say that an individual has a chip on their shoulder, but a month ago, they did not. Did they "raise a chip on their shoulder", as might be inferred from the first cited history of the ...
10
votes
10answers
1k views

An appropriate term for the 'contamination' of a language

Italians, for some reason, tend to accept and use foreign terms quite easily. The foreign terms that have entered and are entering common usage are mainly from the English language. Their usage has ...
10
votes
10answers
2k views

Is there a word for something loved by the masses but whose true value is lacking?

Is there a general word for someone or something popular or loved by the masses but that has not been proven to be effectual (like how some would use the term "pop psychology" pejoratively)? Examples ...
10
votes
7answers
55k views

Should I say “have a good night” at 5:00 PM?

We're off work at 5:00PM. I've never tried to say "have a good night" at this time of day. In fact, I wouldn't even say it at all unless I'd like to say it to someone who is heading to bed. When I'm ...
9
votes
11answers
3k views

Non-religious equivalent expression for “Pray for [Country X]” after a disaster

When a big disaster occurs in a country, you can often see messages saying: Pray for [Country X] Are people really writing this to incite people to ask their God for anything? For instance ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

What does the most common usage of 'Korea' mean in modern-day English-speaking world?

On Meta.Travel.SE, we have a debate whether our 'Korea' tag should be mapped to 'South Korea'. One of the answers - from the moderator who made the synonym mapping - is that common usage of the word ...
9
votes
13answers
1k views

Historical or literary examples of misguided or botched attempts to help that end up causing harm [duplicate]

I'm looking for examples from history, folklore, literature, movies, or pop culture, of situations in which a person or group attempted to do something helpful but, due to their own poor judgment, ...
9
votes
4answers
997 views

What would you call that feeling of something crawling on the body

Morgellons is a controversial and poorly understood condition in which unusual thread-like fibers appear under the skin. The patient may feel like something is crawling, biting, or stinging ...
8
votes
8answers
1k views

Term for situation where alternative choice is not really one [duplicate]

What would you call a situation where the current one sucks but you have a 'choice' to an alternative, however the alternative is not really one. Such as, "Sure living in an area under a ...
8
votes
10answers
5k views

Is there a word for fake kindness or hospitality?

Is there a word for faking kindness/hospitality to sound more tactful and decent than you really are (which could be categorized as some sort of hypocrisy)? For example, saying: Pay us a visit ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

What can we call those ladies?

I am looking for a word or expression to describe those ladies, usually high society ladies, whose main aim in life is to find a good match for marriage and whose main activity is organising lunches ...
8
votes
10answers
7k views

“You get what you deserve nothing more nothing less”

In this world we reside, what we acquire depends on what we can acquire. In other words, if we have the money to, we can buy a house; if we have the necessary educational qualifications to, we can get ...
7
votes
11answers
1k views

Idiom/expression for changing the subject in a conversation

Is there an idiom/expression in English for changing the subject in a conversation (and if possible, in a sarcastic way)? For example, there is an expression in Turkish: gelelim fasulyenin ...
7
votes
6answers
2k views

What is a word or expression to define that you have reached the limit of your capabilities?

I am referring to the stage where someone reaches his/her capabilities limits, especially professional limits. I am thinking about career advancements as well as the growth in professional life. We ...
7
votes
5answers
1k views

Is there a word for someone who is usually in the minority?

My original question was "Is there a legitimate word for 'a balancer'?" but I think it's a little hard to understand... Let's just say there is a person, and most of the time, he is in the minority. ...
7
votes
5answers
908 views

Term for something similar to hijacking a meeting?

When someone says hijacking a meeting, IMO it usually means that someone has made the meeting all about his/her agenda. One time, I was invited to a meeting to talk about "ABC", but they only ...
7
votes
1answer
94 views

What Charles Ingalls was really going to say?

Here is full paragraph: Pa was on top of the walls, stretching the canvas wagon-top over the skeleton roof of saplings. The canvas billowed in the wind, Pa's beard blew wildly and his hair stood ...
6
votes
14answers
1k views

Opposite of “out of date”? [closed]

Can anyone think of a phrase we would use to describe a situation where something is the opposite of "out of date"; that is, it's "too new"? For example, a banana that's been sitting around for ages ...
6
votes
5answers
2k views

Less derogatory term for dump

I’m making a (multiple-)photo editing web-app, and there is a certain feature which allows users to sort of “hibernate” their accounts and log out, allowing them to pick up exactly where they left off ...
6
votes
5answers
349 views

A word for a man who offers his services to have sex with a woman unable to conceive

Recently, I read an advert in a local Chinese daily, it read: Surrogate father services available for unpregnant, unable to conceive woman: Healthy, medically certified and fit male companion ...
6
votes
5answers
905 views

What is an expression for a priest not wearing official attire?

Is there an English expression for a priest or monk not wearing his religious attire? (any Christian doctrine, or even more general). Clarification: I'm trying to say that someone looks like an ...
6
votes
8answers
179 views

Expression for personality/lifestyle of somebody that likes to step outside of the comfort zone?

This is maybe a difficult question. In my mother tongue we have a word for it, but I can not find anything similar in english: How to describe a person/characteristic/way of life of somebody that ...
6
votes
2answers
869 views

How suffixes like -ness and -ship are chosen when forming abstract nouns?

In some programming situations I came across making up abstract nouns to give name to an information that indicates some quality. Eg. if the quality is orange one may be tempted to form the word ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the common expression to describe position starting from the last one?

Suppose we have letters: a, b, c, d, e, f ,g. I want to describe the position of letter "e" starting from right hand side, what should I use? "e" is the last third letter. "e" is the third last ...
5
votes
3answers
524 views

What is the behavior where one closes their nose with their lips to elude foul odour called?

I have seen this question, and it is not exactly what I'm asking. Sometimes people (most especially in developing countries) raise the tip of their lips to cover their nose when a foul odour is sensed ...
5
votes
5answers
2k views

Is there another way of saying “less is more”?

Is there another way of saying “less is more" in the following context? They changed their packaging and left only the essential branding on it. It epitomizes "less is more".
5
votes
6answers
9k views

Difference between “meant to” and “supposed to”

Those two expressions have close meaning: He is not meant to do this He is not supposed to do this What is the difference between them, and when I should use one or the other?
5
votes
5answers
370 views

What is the best word or expression that describes the Hindi word “Jootha”? [duplicate]

Jootha is a Hindi word which means that the food, which actually belongs to me has been tasted by someone else, without my permission. In India this is considered as a taboo and states that the food ...
5
votes
4answers
201 views

Term for when someone gets overly pepped up and thinks he/she can do anything

What is it called when someone gets encouraged by people around him/her or gets pepped up by the atmosphere around to the extent that he or she gets a wrong impression about his/her powers and ...
5
votes
5answers
428 views

Synonym or equal phrase to “merely philosophical”

When something is bound to be of little substance, or the discussion of it surely only giving rise to opinion or sophistry, sometimes the phrase "merely philosophical" is used. In this article I'm ...
5
votes
5answers
197 views

a phrase for “to lure and chop a turtle's head”

There must be a similar phrase in English, meaning to lure the target from protection (like turtle's shell) or hiding, in order to capture or kill it. My English dictionary gives "draw a snake out of ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

To know something “inside out” or “inside and out”?

As a native English speaker (Australia) I've always known and used the expression "to know something inside out", meaning "to know thoroughly". Just now when editing a post on another SE site that ...