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

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181
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36answers
74k 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 ...
67
votes
13answers
40k 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 ...
65
votes
11answers
23k 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 ...
57
votes
20answers
321k views

What are some expressions that can be used to end an email? [closed]

At the end of every email, we use ending expressions like Best regards, Kind regards, Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully, What other expressions can be added to this list? Which ones should ...
52
votes
8answers
9k 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.
49
votes
12answers
5k 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 ...
47
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
45
votes
24answers
4k 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 ...
44
votes
25answers
11k 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 ...
44
votes
11answers
3k 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 ...
41
votes
9answers
3k 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 ...
40
votes
6answers
25k 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 ...
39
votes
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 ...
36
votes
5answers
16k 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?
34
votes
18answers
7k 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
49k 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
6answers
7k 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?
30
votes
5answers
68k 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 ...
27
votes
4answers
93k 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.
26
votes
16answers
5k 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 ...
25
votes
4answers
1k views

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

I want a replacement for rains in the above, 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 ...
25
votes
4answers
2k 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
5answers
3k 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, ...
24
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 ...
24
votes
8answers
5k 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 ...
24
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6answers
1k 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, ...
23
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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.
23
votes
3answers
84k 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?
21
votes
20answers
3k 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) ...
21
votes
3answers
44k 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?
21
votes
3answers
848 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 ...
20
votes
12answers
11k 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 ...
20
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9answers
4k views

Are there English equivalents to a Japanese old saying, “Be the mouth of cock rather than remaining as the tail of ox”?

Every time I hear about the success story of entrepreneurs such as IT business, not to mention Apple, Microsoft, and Soft Bank founders, an old Japanese saying, 鶏口となるとも牛後となる勿れ‐“(Choose to) be the ...
20
votes
8answers
8k views

Are there any expressions that describe going from a bad to a worse situation?

Are there idioms or expressions in English that describe going from one bad situation to one that's even worse? I heard "between a rock and hard place" but this describes a dilemma not really a ...
20
votes
10answers
3k views

“Fluctuates widely” or “fluctuates wildly”

I think changes to phrases that don't change their meaning are interesting. Example: an ice cold beer and a nice cold beer mean pretty much the same thing. I heard another one this morning on the ...
20
votes
2answers
642 views

Is there a name for this method of writing that includes pictograms?

I've seen people write (usually in a humorous way) a 'code-like' message where parts of words are replaced with a pictogram that sounds like that word-part. E.G.: (eyeball) (tin can)(rope knot) ...
20
votes
6answers
47k views

What is the meaning of the phrase “The morning constitutional”?

What exactly is the meaning of the phrase “The morning constitutional”? Is it an early morning walk or the first visit to the bathroom during the day? What is the origin of this phrase? What is the ...
19
votes
11answers
2k views

[S]he has the ears of a …?

Often, when overheard from far away, I find myself saying/thinking: [S]he has the ears of a hawk! Which doesn't really make sense as hawks aren't particularly well known for their sense of ...
19
votes
14answers
105k 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 ...
19
votes
10answers
7k views

What's the verb for making that “pffft” sound?

I have a dialogue like this: "All I wanted to do was to keep a low profile" "Pffft. That worked well, we not only have the entire police force but also the entire mafia chasing us" I don't ...
19
votes
8answers
4k views

Alternative to “We'll just have to agree to disagree”

Is there a polite alternative to "We'll just have to agree to disagree" that can be used as an exit strategy from a relatively friendly debate when a person feels they've said all they have to say and ...
19
votes
2answers
2k views

Answering a question with another question when the answer is obviously 'Yes'

I heard it in the TV Series Fargo, Episode 9. Here is the transcript: A: We still on for golf next week? B: Course we are, Burty Burt. A: But more importantly, are you and Louise still gonna ...
19
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8answers
4k views

Why do we “get cold feet”?

A sudden loss of nerve when embarked on a venture is called cold feet. Does anyone know why that should be? An etymology is suggested at englishdaily626. If your 'feet' are 'cold', you can't walk ...
18
votes
5answers
13k views

Why do some people say “Happy New Years” with an “s” at the end of “years”?

Why do some people say "Happy New Years" (with an "s" at the end of "years")? Here are some examples on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/search/%22happy%20new%20years%22 It seems like "year" should be ...
18
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5answers
12k views

What is the origin of “holy smoke”?

What is the origin of holy smoke? To what is holy smoke referring?
17
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10answers
8k 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 ...
17
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3answers
4k views

Which is correct: “Set up something” or “Set something up” or “Setup something”?

As a programmer, I often have to use this expression: Set the application up. or something like that. But I'm not sure what the correct grammar is, and what this grammatical area is called in ...
17
votes
2answers
49k 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 ...
16
votes
15answers
3k views

Describing “not knowing what to do” (as a response to an unexpected event that happened)?

Is there a good word or a great expression that describes not knowing what to do (as a response to an unexpected event that happened)? Something uncanny happened, and I do not know what to do. ...
16
votes
5answers
5k views

What expression would be the opposite of “Deal Breaker”?

I understand that "Deal breaker" is an expression used for a feature/characteristic that would make one not go for a deal (or terminate a contract), even if the deal's other features are great. What ...