Choosing the best phrase for a particular context or meaning.

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44
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 ...
29
votes
15answers
5k 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 ...
22
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
16
votes
2answers
832 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
868 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
4k 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 ...
13
votes
8answers
19k 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 ...
12
votes
10answers
2k 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
10answers
5k 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 ...
12
votes
16answers
1k 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 ...
12
votes
5answers
39k 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 ...
11
votes
9answers
164k 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
749 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
470 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
11answers
1k 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?
9
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
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
4k 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
10answers
3k 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 ...
7
votes
6answers
1k 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
940 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
7answers
36k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
709 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
254 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
451 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
1k 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
4answers
143 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
146 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
566 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 ...
4
votes
9answers
1k views

A more effective way to say, “Sorry, I was wrong” [closed]

I need an expression for the following context: I had been insisting on an issue, (believing in good faith that I was right) but later realized I was just totally wrong. What is the most effective ...
4
votes
5answers
275 views

Natural tendency that adults have to take care of their small ones

I'm looking for a word or expression, either everyday or scientific, for the natural tendency that adults (people or animals) have to take care of their small ones.
4
votes
6answers
6k 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?
4
votes
3answers
626 views

Is “many fewer combinations” correct?

Is the expression "many fewer combinations" correct? It only gets about 600 hits on Google, against 1,200 for "a lot fewer combinations". What would be a correct way of expressing the idea contained ...
4
votes
2answers
659 views

Is the expression 'more alike' awkward or does it work in an interface?

I want to create a button on an interface that will show me more items (cars) of the same kind (or similar in characteristics). I was thinking of 'more like this' but this is a bit too long and the ...
4
votes
5answers
362 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 ...
4
votes
3answers
946 views

How to check phrasing and word choices?

I'm a native speaker of French, and even though I think I have a rather good level in English, I always try to keep an open mind. (I learned English by absorbing from a lot of sources: TV, movies, ...
4
votes
4answers
567 views

What's the logical fallacy where people dismiss what you say as irrelevant to the real-world?

Quite often I see derision about ideas by people who label them as 'too academic'. Often this appears to result from laziness or an unwillingness to stretch their thinking. What's the logical ...
4
votes
1answer
70 views

Is the use of the dative of possession (from Latin) in English phrases proper?

I am an avid Latin III student studying in high school, and I often think about the effect that Latin has had on English, not just through etymology and morphology, but in semantics and pragmatics. ...
4
votes
4answers
2k views

“Both which” or “both of which”

"This can be done using the technique of Peters, and using the technique of Matthews, both which involve mathematics" Having searched both which and both of which in Google, it appears both of which ...
4
votes
1answer
123 views

Who coined the term 'affluent society'?

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in 1957 used the term 'affluent society' to describe the rising prosperity in Britain in those years. Does anyone know of any earlier reference to the term?
3
votes
7answers
670 views

An expression to define that “very little span of time” [duplicate]

I am referring to the context where you miss or don't miss something by a very short time, like when you miss or succeed in taking a train or a flight by just a few minutes or even a few seconds. ...
3
votes
5answers
317 views

Short expression for “If you are not 100% convinced yet, this last thing will seal the deal”

I'm writing a LinkedIn recommendation for a colleague of mine. I praised his abilities far and wide; now I would like to throw in one last (ironic and informal) punch line to top it all off. Here is ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Shut your mouth

I’m confused regarding these expressions: Shut up Shut your mouth Shut your mouth up Shut up your mouth After some research, I’ve come to believe they are all correct except “Shut ...
3
votes
3answers
88 views

What is the name for group of people who line up to create a corridor?

What is the proper name for group of people who line up in two lines to form some kind of a corridor for other people to pass between the two?
3
votes
2answers
946 views

Expression that means “as soon as something is finished”

I am looking for an expression that means "right after finishing something, start something". For some reason, the words "fresh off the heels" keep springing up but I googled them and it's not an ...
3
votes
3answers
351 views

How to describe “choose to do something by one's own willing”

For example, there is a course (say French course), for students in a college. The students can take it, but they don't have to. Someone, who is not a student in that college, thinks that this course ...
3
votes
4answers
1k views

How can I rephrase “enough rope to shoot yourself in the foot”?

Some time ago I have a read a very famous book of Allen I. Holub "Enough rope to shoot yourself in the foot" (this book on openlibrary.org). I have read it in Russian and the book was titled with ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

“take the initiative” vs “make the initiative”

What is the difference between "taking the initiative" and "making the initiative"? Context : I recently sent an email asking advice on whether I should "take the initiative to contact professor X". ...
3
votes
6answers
2k views

How can I say “not any time soon, but it won't take a long time either”?

I was writing an email to a client about a feature we plan to eventually release, maybe in a couple months, but they want some of the functionality now. I initially wrote: If there's something ...