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

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236
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38answers
92k views

Is there a non-sexual phrase for sleeping with someone?

The phrase "sleeping with someone" often means "having sex." What is the origin of this sexual connotation? Is there a non-sexual equivalent of this phrase to express sleeping with someone without ...
109
votes
6answers
15k views

How to say “It's not rocket science” before rockets existed

Prior to the invention of rockets, was there a phrase equivalent to: "it's not rocket science"? If so, what was it? Here I am looking for a phrase that makes a comparison with a difficult job/task, ...
96
votes
13answers
158k 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 ...
79
votes
13answers
46k 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 ...
67
votes
8answers
19k views

History of “X is dead. Long live X”

What is the history of "X is dead. Long live X"? For example, Location is dead. Long live Location. JavaScript is dead. Long live JavaScript. I feel like I'm missing out on a joke.
51
votes
12answers
6k views

A way of describing the lesbian parent that is not pregnant?

A friend of mine is in a long term relationship with her female partner. After deciding they wanted a family, my friend's girlfriend got pregnant. Normally when talking about a couple expecting a ...
50
votes
25answers
23k 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 ...
50
votes
4answers
6k views

Why “Speak of the devil”?

Why is the expression "Speak of the devil" and not "Speaking of the devil"? For me, the -ing would make more sense because you're currently talking about someone, when he/she appears. For example, if ...
49
votes
24answers
8k views

Are there counterpart English expressions to Japanese proverb, "the nail that pops up is always hammered down?

I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is always hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received. I wondered ...
48
votes
10answers
5k 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 ...
48
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2answers
2k views

What word denotes a belief that apparently inanimate objects actually express a malicious, autonomous will?

I came across this word a few years ago, but can't find it now. I do not mean deodand, animism, pathetic fallacy, scapegoating, anthropomorphism, or personification (Word for attaching blame to ...
46
votes
9answers
5k views

What is the opposite of the Devil's Advocate?

If I am arguing against a proposal that I may actually agree with, then I am playing Devil's Advocate. However, what if I do not necessarily agree with the proposal but am arguing for it, with the ...
45
votes
21answers
8k 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 ...
45
votes
5answers
7k views

Around how old is “a woman of a certain age”?

"A woman of a certain age" is a common saying. It means more than "a woman of a given age", "a woman who could be any age" or "female, without respect to age". It's usage instead seems to suggest a ...
42
votes
6answers
47k views

What is meant by “don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining”?

I have heard a couple of times recently the phrase "don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining", usually in the context of a heated argument so I've hesitated to ask speaker what exactly he meant ...
41
votes
8answers
204k views

Polite alternatives to “as soon as possible”

I’ve found myself writing the phrase “as soon as possible” just too often. Sometimes I wonder if it sounds a little rude. How can I convey the same meaning in a more polite way but without losing ...
41
votes
7answers
7k views

Why the phrase “thunder and lightning”, and not “lightning and thunder”?

So there was just a thunderstorm, and my sister came with a question I couldn't answer: Why is it "thunder and lightning", because the lightning comes before the thunder? Shouldn't it be ...
40
votes
19answers
6k views

Phrase to describe a moving goal that is forever just out of reach

Ironically, the phrase I am trying to recall is just out of reach, so perhaps someone can help me with a phrase that describes a moving goal that is forever just out of reach. I will try to provide ...
40
votes
6answers
10k views

“For all it's worth” or “for all its worth”?

Should I put an apostrophe in "for all its worth"? The meaning comes to about the same thing either way, as far as I can make out, and it seems like "it's" is more popular. But is there an accepted ...
39
votes
5answers
35k views

Why does Polly want a cracker?

Where does the expression "Polly wants a cracker" come from? Why is the parrot named Polly, and why doesn't she want seeds?
37
votes
14answers
20k views

Friendly way of saying “I love you”

In Spanish, Te amo (I love you) has more romantic feeling than saying Te quiero. The last one is used as a friendly way of saying I love you, but without romantic purposes. However, if translated to ...
37
votes
6answers
22k views

What's the meaning of the word “brand” in the expression “brand new”?

What meanings might be conveyed by something being called brand new, as opposed to it simply being called new? What's behind the word brand here?
36
votes
9answers
5k views

Person who pretends to not understand unless one speaks in exactly the words they expect [duplicate]

I just realized there are some people around my workplace who always try to correct me when using a certain word, saying that that's not how I should speak, and I should use other words (the ones ...
36
votes
3answers
163k views

What is the purpose of using the word “why” in “why, thank you”?

I sometimes have heard somebody replying with Why, thank you. instead of Thank you. What is the meaning of the first phrase? What is the difference between the two phrases?
36
votes
4answers
180k views

Is “yay or nay” an acceptable alternative to “yea or nay”?

Is "yay or nay" an acceptable alternative to "yea or nay"? I have seen it several times in recent weeks, enough to make me wonder whether it is an emerging usage or just a common typo.
35
votes
19answers
6k views

Completing something just to finish it despite lack of interest - is called …?

Recently I started reading a novel that I was excited to read. After getting approximately 45% into it, I lost the pace. It started becoming slow and lousy. I thought to leave it unfinished but it ...
34
votes
14answers
4k views

What's a parallel for 'mitigate', for worsening a good situation?

I recently read an article claiming that employing some tactic was OK but could mitigate many of the good effects of the main action. What word should the author have used, as mitigate means to ...
34
votes
18answers
10k views

Is there a word for being so polite as to appear insincere?

I'm looking for a term in English to describe being so polite that one appears to be insincere.
34
votes
4answers
103k 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 ...
33
votes
10answers
11k views

One word - someone so scared that he can't move [closed]

I am not able to find an appropriate word to fill in for "scared". He was so scared, he couldn't move. He turned to stone. He was too shocked. He almost turned to stone and could not move. ...
32
votes
17answers
11k views

Opposite of 'Midas touch'?

I'm wondering what word or phrase could be used for the counter examples of 'Midas touch' effect. The Midas touch, or the gift of profiting from whatever one undertakes, is named for a legendary ...
31
votes
27answers
12k views

Derogatory term for a corporate employee

I’m looking for a derogatory term for a person who works in a big, international business. In Polish we have a few informal words for that, like korpoludek (“corpo little guy”) and korpoczłowiek ...
31
votes
13answers
12k views

How do I politely say I have used my mouth while drinking water from a bottle?

Is there a one word substitute for the scenario below, and what is the politest way of saying it to another person or colleague? I drink water from my bottle by touching my mouth When someone ...
31
votes
5answers
4k views

Origins of “turn over in his grave”?; “turn over in her grave”? etc., etc

The best result of my google-search for the origins of the idiomatic phrase, “turn over in the grave” was this, from wikipedia: One of the earliest uses is found in William Thackeray's 1849 work ...
29
votes
16answers
3k views

Is there any equivalent to this Persian proverb? “A bad or faulty item should inevitably be kept by its owner”

We use a proverb that implies "A bad property (i.e., a thing belonging to someone) or item should inevitably be tolerated/kept by its owner" when we want to say "This bad item won't be accepted by ...
27
votes
9answers
10k 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 ...
27
votes
4answers
5k views

Word meaning: A slip of the tongue which suggests how you actually feel, often humorous

I'm sure there's a word which matches this definition. Where you make a slight mistake in saying something and a friend will nudge you and say "oh, so that's what you really think?!" One example, ...
27
votes
12answers
41k 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 ...
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 ...
26
votes
4answers
2k views

It's so cold that if it rains it'll snow

I want a replacement for rains in my title, as it doesn't really make sense since it won't rain, it will snow. I think I could use precipitates but I wouldn't use that in conversation as it seems ...
26
votes
1answer
3k views

Is there a term for a foreign word that looks like an English word but has a completely different meaning?

examples: Gift (German) = poison poisson (French) = fish embarazada (Spanish) = pregnant sauce (Spanish) = willow triviale (Italian) = vulgar parentes (Portuguese) = relatives slim ...
26
votes
3answers
103k 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 ...
25
votes
5answers
5k views

Meaning of “give a pony”

I came across this phrase while reading an article by Paul Krugman on the New York Times website. Here's the quotation (emphasis added): … non-GIPSI [the group of Eurozone nations – Greece, Italy, ...
25
votes
6answers
2k views

Does the washing up fairy exist outside of Australia? [closed]

Just to clarify, I'm not talking about the Lush product of the same name. In Australia, the washing up fairy is a mythical creature. People leave their dishes unwashed overnight, and lo and behold, ...
25
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8answers
7k views

Is there a polite way of saying “people like you”?

It seems that "people like you" is almost always used as an insult (similar to "your kind"). e.g. A shop owner might say to an annoying customer that doesn't buy anything, "Go away, I don't have time ...
25
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4answers
4k views

Why do we say that an obscene joke is “off-color”?

Why do we say that an obscene joke is "off-color"? Is a G-rated joke "on-color"? What color? When and how did this idiomatic expression come from?
24
votes
12answers
3k 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.
24
votes
11answers
3k views

Expression for losing something that you never really had

A friend keeps whining about "losing n reputation points" on Stack Exchange. My instinctive interpretation is that some of the votes he had earned were reversed due to vote fraud. What he really ...
24
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is “head over heels” used as if it were exceptional rather than commonplace?

Most people spend part of each day standing, and if they have normal anatomy their heads are over their heels in this position. Even sitting or lying down, the head is higher than the heels (if not ...
24
votes
3answers
77k views

Which is correct: coming down the “pike” or “pipe”?

Is the expression "coming down the pike" or "coming down the pipe"? I've always used pike, but I've heard a few people use pipe recently. I can see how both could make sense, but which is correct?