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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (5)

13
votes
12answers
2k views

Is there a suitable antonym for 'Achilles heel'?

I'm trying to juxtapose antonyms in a effort to describe something. The first draft of an excerpt reads something like this: I will tell of their triumphs and downfalls... I would like to ...
13
votes
3answers
166k views

What is the origin of the phrase “Top of the morning to you”?

Each morning, a colleague of mine greets me with the phrase: Top of the morning to you! I've tried to figure out what the meaning of this really is and how to properly respond, however there ...
13
votes
5answers
9k views

You can’t have your cake and eat it too

If you've had your cake, haven't you already eaten it? So why can't you have it and eat it too? It doesn't seem to make sense.
13
votes
5answers
10k views

“Related work” or “related works”

Which expression should be used as a section heading of an academic paper: related work or related works? This is a question that has been bothering me for years, as googling shows that both have a ...
13
votes
4answers
66k views

“Calling dibs” - what does it imply?

The term "to have dibs on something" or "to call dibs on something" plays a recurring role in American film and television (e.g. How I Met Your Mother), so it gets exported a lot. Wikipedia describes ...
13
votes
7answers
1k views

What expression do you have in English as a counterpart to Japanese saying “Earthquake, Thunderbolt, Fire and Father"?

As you know, we Japanese experienced tremendous disasters of Magnitude 9 earthquake accompanied by tsunami exceeding 10 meter high in northeastern regions recently. Living in the country always under ...
13
votes
3answers
19k views

Where does “emphasis mine” go in a quotation?

I have often seen the term emphasis mine used whenever an author wishes to denote that emphasis in a given quotation originates from said author rather than from the original source. What is the ...
12
votes
7answers
5k views

How to give a tip without using 'Keep the change' [closed]

Imagine you're in a bar and order a pint of beer, which is £3.20. You only have a £10 note but want to tip the barkeeper. As you can't use 'keep the change' for obvious reasons, what do you say to tip ...
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
3answers
2k views

Does the word “out” carry sexual-minority flavour?

My NGO and partners are producing a feature film about Russian speakers in the world, and to explain its point as bias-breaking, we came up with the name out, that's nicely expanded in the slogan as ...
12
votes
9answers
8k views

Is it “Check and mate” or “Checkmate”?

I found the expression “Check and mate!” in the following sentence describing furious exchange of words between CNN host Piers Morgan and rightwing radio host and anti-gun-control propagandist Alex ...
12
votes
7answers
627 views

What is the term for the part of a jingle that states the company name?

I have a vague recollection that there's a specific term for the way a company name is set to music in an advertising jingle. The only examples I can find right now are at the end of this Youtube ...
12
votes
6answers
3k views

What does “the darkest of nights” mean?

Over at German.SE we have a question involving "the darkest of nights". I would like to know what this expression actually means, but I didn't find it in an online dictionary (e.g. leo.org, dict.cc, ...
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.
12
votes
2answers
872 views

Roy Hodgson's “Church in the centre of the village” expression

Listening to the current England football manager, Roy Hodgson, speaking on the radio, he used a very curious expression while speaking about his team: "We have to try to get back to putting the ...
12
votes
2answers
7k views

“Pretty please with sugar on top”

Where does this expression come from? I understand when it's used, but I was wondering about its origin.
12
votes
10answers
10k views

“Out of pocket”?

I'm increasingly hearing the phrase "out of pocket" used in America as a colloquialism to mean "away from the office", "unavailable", or "incommunicado". I apologize for not replying sooner; I ...
12
votes
5answers
39k views

Meaning and origin of “if you catch my drift”

What does the expression if you catch my drift mean? Where does it originate? I've heard it in the context to signify something like if you know what I mean.
12
votes
6answers
13k views

Origin of the of the phrase “feeling blue”

Where did the expression "feeling blue" come from?
12
votes
3answers
4k views

“Insofar” or “in so far”

A quick search suggests that insofar is the American variant of the British in so far. I always assumed it belonged to the set of expressions like hitherto, heretofore, therefore and albeit. Is there ...
11
votes
13answers
5k views

An English expression for 'femme fatale'

Femme fatale, meaning "an attractive and dangerous woman", is a French expression which has become part of the English language roughly since the beginning of the 20th century. Is there another ...
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
votes
9answers
3k views

What's an item called that was required to progress in a video game, but now isn't?

This question was inspired by an Arqade question: How do I save a Destiny warp drive?. The premise is this: In order to progress to mission 3 (or 4 etc.) you must complete the second mission. The ...
11
votes
9answers
3k views

Does “is potentially faster” imply “is not slower”?

Someone said to me, "X is potentially faster than Y". Without any clarification at that point, I immediately assumed that the speaker thought that X was at least not slower than Y. It was revealed in ...
11
votes
12answers
2k views

Words to describe a semi-literate person

I once had a manager whose level of literacy was lacking to the extent that he would nearly always return my technical reports with sections rewritten such that they became either ungrammatical, or ...
11
votes
5answers
3k views

An aeroplane, when it leaves the ground, 'takes off'. What does a bird do?

My daughter recently had the experience of a large bird hitting her car windscreen, and smashing it, when she was doing about 70mph on a motorway. Fortunately the bird did not come through the screen, ...
11
votes
10answers
1k views

What's the word for the facial expression over an unexpected disappointment?

If your friend says something sarcastic to you unexpectedly when you are talking about something that makes you exited or your innermost feelings and makes you feel stupid. What's the most widely ...
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
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 ...
11
votes
5answers
16k views

What does “To-may-to, to-mah-to” mean?

What does "to-may-to, to-mah-to" mean? I've seen this expression a few times and it seems to indicate some sort of equality. But what does it really mean?
11
votes
3answers
2k views

Is the term “setting someone straight” offensive to queer people?

I replaced "Thanks for setting me straight" with "Thanks for correcting me" when editing an email to a recipient who is queer. Is the term "setting [someone] straight" inappropriate if the ...
11
votes
5answers
6k views

Is there a non-romantic phrase for missing someone? [closed]

The phrase "I miss you" can be equivocal: suggestive of (a) romantic longing and/or (b) regret of loss. Certainly, context can shape its meaning, including geography, historical period, and the ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Expression “enter [somebody]”

I would like to know what's the meaning and in which situations would one use the expression "Enter [somebody]", like "we were trying to find a solution. Enter John".
11
votes
11answers
10k views

What on Earth does “cheap at half the price” mean?

I hear this all the time, "cheap at half the price", to indicate that something is cheap (mostly in an ironic sense, but often used literally), but it makes no sense to me. Of course, if something ...
11
votes
9answers
16k 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?
11
votes
5answers
193k 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.
11
votes
7answers
28k views

Origin of the expression “Dead to rights”?

I was watching a TV show and this term was used. I am familiar with the definition, but I was wondering the origin of the phrase. It does not make sense to me if taken literally. Reference
11
votes
5answers
3k views

Is the “really” in “I don't really know” necessary?

I know that one can have a greater or lesser amount of surety (i.e. "I'm not really sure"), but don't you either know or not know something? Are there degrees of knowledge? I hear this phrase often ...
11
votes
7answers
6k views

Meaning of the phrase “the wrong side of history”

I've just realized I don't understand what this phrase means. What does "Gaddafi is on the wrong side of history" mean? Does it mean he's about to die, or something else? Here's the relevant ...
11
votes
6answers
1k views

Vulgar way of saying “he killed himself”

I'm trying to translate my acquaintance's cartoon to cite it in an article written in English. For the subject of the article it is important that the translation will be direct, thus very vulgar ...
11
votes
3answers
5k 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
votes
6answers
3k views

Cold turkey as expression

I've discovered a expression : to go cold turkey, meaning something like feeling bad because you have taken drugs and you need to take more. I wonder if another verb rather than go can be used ...
11
votes
3answers
32k 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 ...
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 ...
11
votes
2answers
59k views

Is “nice to meet you” an appropriate online salutation?

When one makes a new acquaintance with somebody in person, you may say "it was nice to meet you", e.g. when you leave. What if you make a new acquaintance over the internet, what do you say when you ...
11
votes
4answers
44k views

Where did the “unavailable” meaning of “Out of Pocket” come from?

The phrase "out of pocket" is often used in my office to mean "unavailable". I've found reference to this on the internet as well, but no obvious clue to where this meaning comes from. Where does ...
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 ...
11
votes
2answers
8k views

How did “tongue-in-cheek” get its current meaning?

A statement is said to be tongue-in-cheek if it is not to be taken seriously. How did this meaning come into vogue? Where did it originate from?
10
votes
14answers
4k views

Single word for “pleasant to look at” [closed]

Consider: It is pleasant to look at. So pleasant that you do not want to let it wander out of your sight. What would be a word for pleasant to look at? Something that's pleasant to my ...
10
votes
10answers
1k views

What is it called when you “refill” a debit card?

How it is called (in the US) when you go to the bank or an ATM to add cash to your VISA/MasterCard debit card? That is, when you add cash to the bank account which is tied to that card. Is it ...