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

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The condition for saying “You’re the door on the right.” etc. and its construction

This question is a spin-off from “Is you’re the door on the right. grammatically correct?” . After the original question, some ideas came to me, about its conditions and construction. I opened this ...
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Can we use “what the heck” in formal contexts to denote a more friendly environment?

I see in many movies bad words are censored or simply replaced by a beep sound. But the expression what the heck is not censored and you can hear it clearly. You can also see that this expression is ...
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Why prefix a request with “I'm going to have to ask you…”

Say you are in a nice restaurant and, at the table next you, a gentleman lights up the most offensive cigar you ever smelled. You mention it to the manager and then the manager goes up to the ...
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Is “knife-in-one’s-teeth (woman)” frequently used English? Can we use it for a man as well?

I saw the word “knife-in-her-teeth daughter” in Maureen Dawd’s article, titled “Darth Vader Vents” in New York Times (August 27). The article deals with former Vice president Dick Cheney’s new memoir, ...
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Origin and meaning of “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”

I'm having trouble understanding the rationale behind the meaning of an American English phrase of which I just became aware. That phrase is: You catch more flies with honey than you do with ...
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“Agreed” or “agreed to”

Should agreed or agreed to be used in the example below? The member countries agreed the bailout package for the sovereign. NATO will enforce the sanctions agreed in May. The member ...
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2answers
365 views

What’s the meaning of ‘wipe slime from his mother’s boots’?

I’m afraid this question might turn out to be stupid, but I’ll give it a try. I’d like to know if it’s a set phrase and its meaning. ”My mother didn’t have a heart, Kreacher,” Sirius snapped. “She ...
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1answer
105 views

’He was off’ vs. ‘He started’ (in terms of their effect in story telling)

I’m feeling something more energetic from ‘off’ than from ‘start’ because of its shortness and pronunciation, but I don’t know for sure what effect ‘be off’ has in story telling. Is it exactly same as ...
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Can I say “medium-term”, as with the adjectives “short-term” and “long-term”? Do they need prepositions?

I would like to use an adjective to express something in between the two adjectives short-term and long-term. Does medium-term make sense here? What is the adjective I can use? What preposition, if ...
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Is describing someone as “higher-educated” awkward?

I’m updating my résumé and would like to convey in a condensed manner the fact that I have a Masters degree in a particular branch of the humanities (politics and society of the Middle East, but ...
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2answers
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The expression “Pitch a loaf”

I would like to know where the expression "pitch a loaf" came from, what its origin is, and if people really use it nowadays. I heard it in a movie, and I believe it means to go to the bathroom, by ...
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335 views

Is there a name for this kind of phrase? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is there a name for inverting word order to accomplish a different meaning? "Some champagne for my real friends, some real pain for my sham friends." Is there any one ...
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2answers
238 views

Is ‘smaller-bore’ proposal (or plan) an ordinary expression?

I found the expression (Obama needs to present the Congress) smaller-bore job proposal in the August 22 article of Washington Times written by Chris Cillizza under the title Economy has Obama facing ...
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6answers
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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?
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6answers
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Alternatives to “kick your a**” [closed]

I would like to have an alternative phrase that is equivalent to kick your ass, but without using ass. What other words can I use instead? Some friends suggested kick your bacon (but I am not sure if ...
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3answers
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What does ‘alpha’ mean in the phrase, “A plea came for the President to be more alpha.”

I find the articles of New York Times’ columnist, Maureen Dowd, a treasure house of English expressions unfamiliar to non-native English learners. It’s stud with knotty expressions and new words to ...
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What does ‘Red meat rhetoric’ exactly mean?

I see quite often the expression 'Red meat rhetoric’ these days in journals, for example Obama’s red meat rhetoric –CNN Conservative Media July 7. Mitt Romney delivers red meat rhetoric to ...
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Use of “mugging up” for hobby

I have heard of the expression mugging up to mean study intensively as before an exam, but would like to know if it can also be used to investigate a hobby. For example, could I use something like: ...
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Expression for advantages of solution being disadvantages of alternatives

Is there some expression for situations where you can conclude that a solution's advantages are the same as the disadvantages of alternative solutions?
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3answers
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Connotation of “intestinal fortitude”

I have heard the expression intestinal fortitude to mean courage or endurance to achieve something. Is there a connotation for stubbornness in this expression?
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“tailored towards” or “tailored to”?

Which one would you prefer, in particular in combination with "the needs"? Google finds a lot more for "tailored to" (30 millions) than for "tailored towards" (only 600 thousands).
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6answers
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Common antonyms to “happy ending”?

I know you may specify to something like tragic, open end to describe actually what the end is like. But do English critics/reviewer in movie magazines use a common term for movies with bad/evil ...
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Do we say “… is greater or equal to…” or “… is greater or equal than…”?

We do say "… is equal to…", but we say "… is greater than…". What happens when we mix those? What should we say: "… is greater or equal to…" (297,000,000 hits on Google), or "… is greater or equal ...
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12answers
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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 ...
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Executing a plan

To execute a plan is to carry it out. However, isn't this wording strange? Why doesn't executing a plan mean the same thing as shooting it down?
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Is “very less” correct English?

Is using very less correct English? My friend suggests it should be very little. Are they both correct, or is there a difference?
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Is the phrase “for free” correct?

A friend claims that the phrase for free is incorrect. Should we only say at no cost instead?
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Proverb or expression for someone taking on too much

What is an appropriate proverb or expression that means one has: Taken on too many tasks Set out to do something that one isn't qualified to do and hence probably will fail Set out to do something ...
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Usage of “break off one's plans”

I have heard the expression break off one's plans in the context of breaking off one's holidays due to an emergency. He had to break off his holidays to come back for the meeting. What are other ...
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4answers
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Meaning of “rallying call”

I searched for an English translation of the German term Durchhalteparole, meaning to appeal to a group of followers to hold out (especially in politics), but having the connotation of being a ...
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1answer
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Expression “if and when something happens”

What is the level of formality in the expression “if and when” while referring to a possible happening? Googling “if and when X happen” gives me all sorts of entries, some formal some clearly ...
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3answers
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Is ‘Political gold’ a cliché or just a compound noun?

I found the word, ‘political gold’ in the following sentence of the article of Boston News (August 13) titled “Romney sees gain in ‘Corporations are people’ remark.” “Romney's response that ...
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6answers
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Shorter alternatives to “staying up-to-date”

Is this kind of bad foreign English or it would be correct to say "to keep yourself up-to-date"/"informed" when subscribing, e.g., a twitter or a RSS feed? Is there a single verb/adjective/shorter ...
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Is there an expression for creating something from start to finish (e.g. grain to bread)

Maybe this is not really the right place to ask this, I hope I will not be penalized for asking this. I am a webdeveloper, and I do most of the stuff myself, from the basic idea, till the final ...
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“pop bottles all night” - slang or valid term?

I know the meaning of "pop bottles all night" - drink all night long. My question is - is this valid term, or slang invented by the person who wrote the song?
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What does the phrase “putting them in time out” mean?

I have a sentence, but there is an expression I can't understand. Could someone explain it to me? Here it is: "You should treat your employees like adults instead of putting them in time out like ...
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What is the name of this figure of speech?

I've been reading Nevil Shute books recently, and they are set in late-1940s Britain. As a consequence, the characters are always using expressions such as "frightfully good", "terribly good" and ...
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What is the origin of “oh noodles!”

Noodles are tasty. I like them, but why are they also used as an exclamation of dismay in the following? Oh Noodles!
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Meaning of “catch you on the flip side”

I received an email from a coworker, and we're not that friendly. Actually, we're not friends at all, just two good colleagues. In his email, he wrote as his last sentence Catch you on the flip ...
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What does “bad-ass wives” exactly mean? Why did “bad-ass” come to mean “tough and aggressive”?

Time magazine carries the list of ‘Top 10 Bad-ass wives’ (in the world, or in history) in its July 21 issue with the lead copy: When a comedian tried to throw a pie in her husband's face, Wendi ...
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Meaning of “we leave at eight thirty for nine”

In the expression we leave at eight thirty for nine, what time is the departure going to be?
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Word for “a sudden death”

A neighbour of mine died last week a moment after reaching his climax during the sexual intercourse with his young partner. He was 79 years old. Is there any available English word to describe his ...
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“Feel it in my bones”

Does "Feel it in my bones" sound natural? I have never seen or heard any native speakers use something like that, except in a subtitle of a movie I watched long ago. What are other phrases, or common ...
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What is a “mind-share leader”? [closed]

My limited understanding is that it applies to a company that comes first when people think about a particular topic. Could I say Microsoft is a mind-share leader for Operating Systems? The ...
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Why does ‘you’re on’ mean ‘I agree’?

One dictionary says ‘you’re on’ is used tell someone that you accept a bet or an invitation to compete against them. Then why does it use ‘you’ instead of ‘I’? What’s the ‘on’? In terms of the ...
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2answers
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Where does the phrase “possession is ( nine points | nine-tenths ) of the law” come from?

I've seen dozens of arguments for the correctness and/or precedence of one version over the other, but have not come across compelling sources or well-documented explanations for either. Does anyone ...
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“beef cacky” and “cheese cacky” as physical descriptions

Can "beef cacky" or "cheese cacky" be used to describe the physique of a person? I don't know where does this come from, but I found a reference here: ...
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Origins of the phrase “You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”?

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. This phrase is famously used in Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan. The metaphor itself is so simple and powerful I'm sure it ...
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Is ‘eclectic bunch’ trendy instead of simply saying ‘a group of different types of constituents'?

I found the words ‘eclectic bunch’ in the following sentence of a New York Times (July 29, 2011) article reporting increase in foraging in city parks, which is titled ‘Enjoy Park Greenery, City Says, ...
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What might “knock me over with a feather” mean?

I recently received a text message which read: "well, knock me over with a feather!" It was in response to a statement which may or may not have been surprising (I honestly have no idea). Has anyone ...