Idioms are a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (3)

6
votes
9answers
841 views

English equivalent of saying “Don’t get in between the nail and the flesh”?

The saying “Don’t get in between the nail and the flesh” from my own language is typically addressed to someone who likes to provide unsolicited help by barging in on a heated conversation between two ...
-1
votes
2answers
82 views

Origin of “blew his brains out” [closed]

I was thinking to myself, when suddenly a thought occurred to me: When was the first usage of "blew his brains out"? Example as used in sentence: He put the shotgun in his mouth with one shell in ...
1
vote
2answers
145 views

Origins and meaning of, “Ham and Egg it”?

This term was used by a MLB sports announcer yesterday (5/10/2015 - Padres vs. Diamondbacks @ 2:10:41) talking about relying on relief pitchers. “Diamondbacks today trying to ham and egg it with ...
3
votes
4answers
318 views
4
votes
2answers
58 views

Idiom or quote that means “Decided to be the opposite of [a person]”

I'm looking for an idiom (or pithy quote) that is equivalent to saying; Having met that person, I decided that I would absolutely do the opposite of what they would do. Any ideas?
4
votes
4answers
4k views

Can “the chickens have come home to roost” have positive as well as negative connotations?

In answering a recent EL&U question (Idiom for the phrase "someone who gets what he deserved"), I cited the phrase "The chickens have come home to roost," and said that it "applies ...
34
votes
13answers
6k views

Is there a word or an idiom for people who only spend their families' money and fool around?

Is there a word or an idiom for rich people who spend only their families' money and do not bother to work, just fool around?
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Origin of phrase “open-and-shut” as in “it's not an open-and-shut case”

I used the phrase "open-and-shut" today, as in, "It's not an open-and-shut case", meaning that the item under discussion has not been decided and the outcome is not obvious. I don't think I've ever ...
0
votes
1answer
42 views

Word for an additional period of time allowed for something

I don't know what word, idiom or phrase to use if I want to say "I want to be allowed to use some specific offers for additional period of time." For example I am allowed to use software for one month ...
2
votes
3answers
89 views

What is the hand gesture called when you knock down your opponent in a fight?

Is there a word or an idiom for the hand gesture, done after finishing a task successfully or after knocking down the opponent in a fight? The one like wiping off the dust from your hands, which ...
1
vote
2answers
69 views

Carry “on camping”

A private student's story contained the cited line below, and it sounded awkward and strange. “I was on camping with my family” You can go on holiday, but you can't go on camping. Similarly, ...
1
vote
1answer
112 views

“In the cards”, “on the cards” origin(s)

In another question in EL&U "Positives changes on the cards" — meaning? , it came up that at least one of us AmE speakers had always heard this idiom as "in the cards" and never as "on ...
1
vote
4answers
95k views

What does “tool” really mean?

In this MSO question, the author refers to himself as sounding like a "tool". What does this mean? Specifically, the way it is used in the linked question implies that being a tool means being ...
0
votes
1answer
74 views

idiom for proceeding slowly and with difficulty

Is there an idiom I could use if I wanted to say that someone is doing something with a lot difficulty and slowly? I cannot think of anything. Thanks Edit from comment: For example: You have learnt ...
2
votes
1answer
112 views

“I better not ask,” vs “I had better not ask.” [duplicate]

Example: Speaker A: Thanks for the fish, I'll feed it to my crocodile. Speaker B: Your crocodile? I (had) better not ask. I better not ask sounds better to me (2,480 results on Google ...
0
votes
0answers
33 views

“It's like with” as replacement of “I'm in the same situation as…”

Is this a valid replacement? Example: Speaker A: I'm planning to quit. Speaker B: Why? Speaker A: It's like with Mrs. Anderson. I'm tired of not making any progress. (Speaker A is ...
7
votes
4answers
4k views

'Between the lines' or 'read between the lines'

Do there exist any circumstances where any verb other than read is used with between the lines? That is, is between the lines an independent and complete idiom, or is it incomplete and meaningless ...
2
votes
2answers
84 views

The quality of things you stick with

I was wondering if there is a word in English to describe the quality of things we stick with. For example, if a training is well designed, people will tend to keep using it. Meanwhile, if it's not, ...
5
votes
5answers
6k views

What is the story behind the phrase 'as it were'? Where did it come from?

This is a question my High School English teacher could not answer 20-odd years ago and every time I encounter it, it bugs me. I only know what it means in terms of other phrases such as 'per se'. I ...
1
vote
2answers
88 views

Euphemisms for rejection (man-women and vice versa)

Example: The more time passed, the more sure I became she’d [...] me. The most common word in this case is reject. I'm wondering, though, what euphemisms I can use aside from turn down?
14
votes
12answers
4k views

phrases: “marry a guy and he'll provide”

Trying to find a similar phrase to this Chinese phrase: 嫁汉嫁汉,穿衣吃饭 which basically means if a woman marries a guy, then the guy will provide food and clothing. I can't think of anything off the top ...
0
votes
8answers
164 views

Is there a word or an idiom for respecting someone because you are afraid of him?

I am looking for a word or an idiom about showing respect to someone superior in work because you are afraid of him. I'm not talking about real respect or showing respect to him or his works, just ...
6
votes
1answer
253 views

'Not feeling clever' - how far does this extend?

The other day, when my wife was unwell, I happened to mention to a relative in Norfolk that she wasn't 'feeling too clever'. He instantly knew what I meant. But it made me wonder how far this idiom ...
0
votes
3answers
1k views

Does “to flatline” only means “to die”, or can it refer to an actual flat graph?

I was looking at this ngram which features a flat line meaning absolutely no usage of the word I was looking for. I thought about describing it in these terms: The Google ngram clearly flatlines ...
2
votes
4answers
5k views

What is the meaning of the phrase “a man of the world”?

The name of one of the Ernest Hemingway's short stories is "A man of the world". It seems to me that I understand the meaning of this phrase out from the context of the short story. But all the same ...
0
votes
4answers
121 views

“on the back of” meaning and implications

A The Independent of London article, The rise and rise of Sudoku, reads: [...] sales of pencils in Britain are reported to have risen 700 per cent on the back of the Sudoku boom. Question: Does ...
0
votes
2answers
39 views

What is the correct method to make a commonly repeated project name stand out?

I have a project titled "Around the World." I refer to this project often in text. I have been instructed not to use quotes, but I am unsure of the best way to identify this phrase as the project ...
1
vote
3answers
4k views

What does it mean “It is hard to get by just upon a smile”?

I am listening to a song by Joanna Wang: "Wild World" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnlQT1I5K9s It is originally by Cat Stevens, and some lyrics are near the end of this question. I wonder what ...
1
vote
1answer
94 views

birthday cake times twelve

I heard this in a documentary about the Peoples Temple. The quote goes exactly: These people would be on time, they’d be polite and nice. They were a span of ages, a span of races. They were ...
1
vote
3answers
94 views

Both arguments are correct

I wrote a paper about two opposing arguments. My conclusion was that the two arguments may be correct. Is there an idiom or phrase that means two opposite things may be correct, independent of each ...
1
vote
2answers
74 views

Can I use the phrase, “open and shut” for other subjects than legal cases?

There was the following passage in New York Times (April 28) under the title, “In Baltimore, we’re all Freddie Gray.”: “We’ve watched as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in conjunction with ...
8
votes
10answers
2k views

Phrase for criticism/insults concealed with humor

Passive aggressive people will sometimes veil insulting, critical, derogatory or generally aggressive comments with humor. The patina of humor makes the comment seem like a joke, not to be taken ...
16
votes
5answers
19k views

What is the origin of the phrase “egg in your beer”?

The phrase "egg in your beer" refers to wanting a bonus or something for nothing. Its common usage is: "What do you want? An egg in your beer?" However, this does not seem to make much sense, as an ...
6
votes
1answer
24k views

Where does “Don't bogart that joint” come from? [closed]

I've looked on Google for several minutes, but I can't find a plausible reason, nor any immediately useful things to follow up. (I understand "Don't bogart that joint" to mean "Pass the [cannabis] ...
12
votes
18answers
3k views

Uncommon Term for an Excellent Orator?

I'm looking for an uncommon term for an excellent orator that doesn’t include adjectives such as “good” or “excellent,” or the noun “orator.” I've googled this request but haven't encountered anything ...
5
votes
4answers
19k views

Why is the term “double-edged sword” used for something that can be favorable and unfavorable?

When something can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences, the term double-edged sword is often used to describe it. Why? Does a double-edged sword have unfavorable consequences? Are ...
24
votes
10answers
4k views

Are there English figurative expressions equivalent to Japanese idiom 馬耳東風 meaning a person who doesn’t listen to other’s advice?

North wind tells the arrival of spring season in Japan. And incidentally, we have an idiom, “馬耳東風,” of which literal translation is ‘the east wind to the ears of horse,’ meaning a person who doesn’t ...
1
vote
3answers
828 views

Is “run the danger” in common usage?

I was interested in the following sentence which appeared in an article titled “Building a Classier Image; Las Vegas Hotels Woo Blue Chip Visitors" by Andrew Pollak in The New York Times (November 13, ...
0
votes
2answers
90 views

Is “I wish I had one of those …” correctly used in the following sentence?

Sex Education Club? I wish I had one of those when I was a student. The bolded part actually means, I wish my university had had one of those so I could have joined . . . But I picked I wish I ...
2
votes
2answers
81 views

Where did the term “Square Meal” come from?

In several older TV shows (think Andy Griffith) I've heard the term "Square Meal" used to describe an ideal hardy and nutritious meal. The term can be applied to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Where ...
1
vote
9answers
333 views

What is the word that defines walking confidently, coldly and calmly?

Is there a word for walking confidently, coldly and calmly...but not angrily, frustrated or in a rush. And not a fake self-confident walk to make people believe you are an important person.
3
votes
4answers
2k views

Why do we say “to fall in love”? Is it something unwished for?

I was exploring the phrases for "to fall in love" in some other languages. And I came out with the result, only English describes the state of starting to feel love for someone as "falling". I wonder ...
5
votes
0answers
310 views

Looking for an Equivalent to the AWL for Academic Idioms [closed]

Coxhead developed and evaluated something called the "Academic Word List" for English Language Learners. This is a list of (supposedly) the most common "academic" terms to be used by students from ...
3
votes
2answers
42 views

Some idioms for “psychotherapist” and the meaning of “therapist” in the US

Some Russian-English dictionaries like Multitran suggest that the word "therapist" has a meaning of "psychotherapist" in the US slang. Is it generally true? Can you please suggest me some compact ...
3
votes
1answer
66 views

Vice and Vice President [closed]

The word "vice" is usually used in a negative sense in the meaning of "immoral or wicked behavior". On the other hand we have a commonly used term "vice president" as the second person in a presidency ...
3
votes
2answers
8k views

“If not for you” meaning

Today I have encountered a phrase: If not for you, I would be poor. I would think it is like "if there were not you", is it like that? On the other hand, how would I say the following as the ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Should I use “the wife” or “my wife”?

I am not sure whether the best form when speaking of my spouse in everyday English is "the wife" or "my wife". I commonly read "the wife" (or "the girlfriend") in reference to the author's ...
1
vote
5answers
101 views

What is the word that describes a demanding look?

Is there an idiom or a single verb for a patronizing stare or a demanding look? As if someone can speak with his looks and says something like "No!", "Stop!", "Do it now!" and makes people obey no ...
-2
votes
1answer
114 views

Is “In any case, with 99.9% probability, …” correct?

I'm wondering whether the meaning of the idiom "in any case" still has a hint of "in every single case". I would like to say We expect an R² of 0.79 (in any case within 0.75 ± 0.15, with 99.9 % ...
2
votes
3answers
10k views

What does "kind of sums things up” mean?

I came across the phrase, kind of sums things up in the article written by Dana Milbank in Washington Post (July 20) under the headline The new party of Reagan. The phrase appears in the following ...