Expressions are words or phrases used to convey an idea, or else a particular term used conventionally to express something.

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73
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11answers
34k views

Which is correct: “could care less” or “couldn't care less”?

What's the deal with the phrase "could care less"? Whilst growing up, I've always known people (parents etc) to use the phrase "couldn't care less", but I've also come across people who use the ...
46
votes
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 ...
15
votes
2answers
34k views

Neither do I / Nor do I / Me neither / Me either

In this circumstance, which would be the most correct / natural answer? Person 1: I don't eat meat Person 2: Neither do I / Nor do I / Me neither / Me either This says both neither do I and Me ...
24
votes
12answers
20k views

Proverb or expression for a situation with two choices, both leading to a different kind of trouble

I'm searching for a proverb or expression that describes a situation which has two choices or two ways out (that is, somewhat of a forced choice) where both lead to some kind of trouble (but not the ...
3
votes
6answers
5k views

In special cases, can you use “one such family are” vs. “one such family is”? [duplicate]

Is it correct to say "one such family are..." as opposed to "one such family is..." in some circumstances? Say, for instance, as used in this article on gene families: [...] One such family are ...
85
votes
13answers
112k views

When should “no problem” replace “you're welcome” as a response to “thank you”?

I have observed a growing trend in which people substitute "no problem" for "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you". In particular, it seems to be an increasingly common response from servers ...
17
votes
10answers
15k views

Is there a word to describe someone who often inaccurately uses words?

Or a word to describe the act of inaccurately using complicated or unusual words (often in an attempt to sound more intelligent)? I considered 'bombastic' but it doesn't have that quality of ...
20
votes
3answers
69k views

Should I write “that being said” (vs. “that's been said” or “Having said that”)?

I often write what "sounds" right (being not a native English speaker/writer), and I believe the expression "that being said" to be fairly common, as opposed to a more complete form like "that's been ...
15
votes
2answers
986 views

Tendency of using pronouns 'she/her' when talking about a random person

Reading different specifications and manuals I've noticed that more often and often pronouns she or her are being used when some unknown person's behavior is described. For example: "when user opens ...
26
votes
9answers
2k views

“Saving on the parrot's chocolate is futile”

In Catalan there is an expression "ser la xocolata del lloro" that can be translated as "saving by not giving chocolate to the parrot is futile", conveying the meaning that when a household wants to ...
10
votes
4answers
538 views

Why am I always compelled to begin a response with “Well, ”?

Because of a certain 140 character limit I've learned where I can trim characters on responses but even after all this time I still reply with "Well, so and so . . ." and I go back and have to delete ...
11
votes
2answers
5k views

Value (in cents) of big words

I found the answer to this question interesting in that he referred to a "75 cent word". I would have called it a 50-cent word, not because I undervalued his answer but because that is how I have ...
48
votes
25answers
15k views

Is there a secular, non vulgar alternative to “for heaven's sake”?

I know for heaven's sake, for Pete's sake, for God's sake and for Christ's sake. All of those, however are religious references. The only non-religious equivalent phrases I know are for fuck's sake ...
21
votes
20answers
4k views

Are there popular English sayings to express “Big fuss, tiny result”?

The recent EL&U question asked by Mikhail about the alternative expressions of ‘To shoot out of cannon into sparrows’ reminded me of Japanese saying - 大山鳴動鼠一匹- literally meaning people find (get) ...
15
votes
8answers
2k views

Expression for a choice which isn't really one

What would be a nice short expression to describe a choice which isn't really one, in that all of its possible outcomes are ultimately equivalent despite being presented as different? My first ...
15
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7answers
4k views

Is the phrase “for free” correct?

A friend claims that the phrase for free is incorrect. Should we only say at no cost instead?
2
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9answers
3k views

Is there a word for people who always act too friendly in order to curry favor with their acquaintances?

Is there a single noun or adjective for a person who is always flattering friends and acquaintances, not only to be liked and accepted but, at other times, to curry favor with them as well ? I'm not ...
2
votes
2answers
995 views

Why are you “On a train” yet “In a car” when you are inside both vehicles? [duplicate]

Why are you "On a train" yet "In a car" when you are inside both vehicles? "On a bike" makes sense but "On a plane" seems wrong as you are actually inside the plane rather than on it.
3
votes
3answers
3k views

Word for when two people type the same thing at the same time in chat

I have the distinct feeling there's a word often used when two people type the same thing at the same time in Internet chat contexts. Not necessarily exactly the same words, but closely related. ...
12
votes
5answers
4k views

Other expressions for “to be the devil's advocate”?

Is there another way or expression to say: He is the devil's advocate I don't quite like this expression, and I don't know if it is a good idea to use it in a religious context.
6
votes
2answers
755 views

Name for a type of idiom with two things joined (like “raining cats and dogs”, “bread and butter”)

I had heard, a number of years ago, that there is a name for an type of idiomatic expression in which two things are joined to refer to one thing. An example of this would be “raining cats and dogs”. ...
5
votes
3answers
569 views

How did the phenomenon of doubling words come about?

I am referring to phrases such as: "Do you like her, or do you like like her." Can someone provide an explanation of this? There are many more examples but none come to mind at the moment.
5
votes
4answers
4k views

Best source for origins of expressions and idioms? [closed]

I'm often interested in the origins of English phrases, and I know that I can find answers by googling, and I can find good answers by asking here. How can I find good answers myself? Are there any ...
11
votes
5answers
7k views

How to use “you know”

For a non-native speaker like me, I am always wondering how to use you know correctly, as in the following sentence: Alright, well, for example, like on Saturdays, y’know, what I liked to do ...
10
votes
5answers
182k views

rule of thumb for 'however' in the middle of the sentence?

What is the rule of thumb for using 'however' in the middle of the sentence? For example: Some people disagree with this theory, however, as it's never been proven right.
6
votes
1answer
9k views

Is it all right to use “in hopes of” to mean “with the aim of”?

Recently I browsed through the definition of hope in New Oxford American Dictionary (provided by Apple in the dictionary app) to double confirm with its usage as I answered a word-choice question and ...
16
votes
5answers
22k views

Which is correct: “standing on line” or “standing in line”?

I'm curious to hear from folks in the the Northeast United States (or anyone, really) an explanation of why "standing on line" seems preferable to "standing in line" in the US northeast. I imagine ...
11
votes
9answers
14k views

Is there a shorter alternative for “Enjoy your meal”?

The French have "Bon appetit". In Belgium and the Netherlands we have "Smakelijk". Is there a short way to wish someone a good meal in English?
7
votes
9answers
36k views

Is it 'Close to the chest' or 'Close to the vest'?

Apologies if this is a duplicate, I am just curious. Are they both valid? Which originated first?
4
votes
4answers
7k views

Is the construction “It allows to …” proper English?

I frequently encounter phrases like this: "It allows to apply these features to customisable sets of fonts". My question is whether this is proper English or not? In my mind, "it allows the ...
10
votes
5answers
7k views

What is the origin of the phrase “beyond the pale”?

What's the origin of the phrase 'beyond the pale'?
7
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it rude to call a gay person “homosexual?”

I was talking to one of my co-workers today. We have two homosexual persons in our office. I forgot one's name, so I asked my co-worker, "What's his name?" My co-worker said "Who?", and I replied, ...
6
votes
3answers
829 views

Determining which good sentiment to wish at each holiday

Is there any rhyme or reason to how we wish people sentiments for various holidays. For example: "Merry Christmas", "Happy New Year", "Happy Birthday" are all acceptable sentiments but if we ...
4
votes
7answers
778 views

“I'm only grandfathering you in because of Serena.”

In Gossip Girl Season 4 Episode 19 "Petty in pink," Blair says the following sentence to Serena's cousin Charlie after she tried to explain to both of them about her plan. I'm only grandfathering ...
2
votes
6answers
397 views

Is the “will” in “can and will” necessary?

Anyone who's ever seen much American film or television has heard some variation of the following sentences countless times: You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to give up that ...
1
vote
1answer
174 views

Word or phrase for capitalizing pronouns referring to gods

Some publications capitalize He, Him, etc., when referring to a god. What is this practice called? 'Proper noun' is rather generic.
1
vote
1answer
31k views

“To have a dinner” vs “to have dinner”: which one is correct?

Does one need to use the article in this case?
0
votes
3answers
4k views

How did the use of “could of” and “should of” originate, and is it considered correct? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is “of” instead of “have” correct? It bothers me that so many people use could of, would of, should of instead of could've or could have, etc. For instance, I have seen ...
22
votes
14answers
157k views

Different ways to say “you're welcome” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How do native English speakers respond to “Thank you”? Can “Sure” be used to respond to “Thanks”? Is “not at all” still alive and doing well? I'm getting ...
43
votes
21answers
7k views

Is there a saying or proverb for a situation where the weakest party will always lose?

Context - One might use it in the following situations: "An employee has an argument with her boss and a dispute follows." (she gets fired a few weeks later) "A student having an argument with his ...
18
votes
10answers
5k views

Is there a word or phrase meaning to plant my idea in someone else’s mind?

Is there a word or phrase that means to plant my idea in someone else’s mind so they think it is their own idea? Just like what happened in the movie Inception.
11
votes
3answers
1k views

How to speak mathematics [closed]

I've been asked to give lectures on electromagnetism in English, but I encounter many problems trying to express mathematical formulas since they are written and I do not know how to read them. Are ...
34
votes
4answers
80k views

Which is correct, “buck naked” or “butt naked”?

"Butt naked" or "buck naked" both refer to completely naked, or do they? Where the phrase comes from I have no idea but that would be of interest. This is a phrase I am too afraid to google and ...
17
votes
5answers
13k views

“Bob's your uncle” … no he's not!

What is the origin of the phrase "Bob's your uncle"? Is it used internationally or is this just a term used in the UK? I have often heard an extension of this phrase: "Bob's your uncle and Fanny's ...
23
votes
12answers
2k views

Expression that means something like “killing the sheep to keep them from being kidnapped”

I'm looking for an expression that conveys an excessive risk management approach that ends up having a worse effect than what it is trying to protect against.
11
votes
9answers
6k views

How to describe a guy who is popular with girls?

Perhaps I should make it clear: - He naturally attracts girls. - He doesn't chase girls and have no intention for any relationship. - You just see him often together with girls.
11
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3answers
4k views

Why (and since when) is prostitution called “the world's oldest profession”? [closed]

According to Wikipedia, the phrase the world's second oldest profession is "spying" and the world's oldest profession is prostitution. I was always raised with the understanding that prostitution was ...
11
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3answers
30k views

Difference between phrase, idiom and expression [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the difference between an expression and a phrase? Difference between “phrase” and “idiom” What is the difference between a phrase, an ...
9
votes
12answers
5k views

Looking for idiom/expression to describe an instance where one makes something seem better than it really is

Maybe the example would help to describe the expression I am looking for: Say - a sub-par school or organization makes a promotional video, whereby they make the school look way better than it ...
2
votes
3answers
11k views

Is the expression “yesterday afternoon” correct?

Is it proper to use the following expressions I started to London yesterday afternoon . I started to London yesterday morning I ask because it is supposedly correct to say 'last night'. ...