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

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“Snag (a chance, an opportunity, etc.) for ”seize/snatch" in AE

Does "snag" have any currency in modern day AE to say "snatch (or seize) (a chance, an occasion, etc.), and can it be used just about interchangeably with the latter? Or, is there a subtle difference ...
2
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1answer
68 views

It's fine by me

"Fine by me" seems like an unusual use of the word 'by'. Is it unique, or are there other cases like this? Is there a special term for this specific pattern?
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8answers
985 views

Describing a person who values the unimportant while ignoring the important [duplicate]

How do you describe a person who gives the most importance to little details (of little value) while ignoring the aspects of much greater importance? It would describe one who places more importance ...
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1answer
41 views

Is “skin and bone fighting it out and the bone winning” an idiom?

I found this sentence in Peter Orner's The Raft: They turned their backs to the light, so all we could see was their backsides, skin and bone fighting it out and the bone winning. I think the ...
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1answer
46 views

Old slang words for a kiss--cherry smashes and honey cooler--why?

Cherry smashes are defined as feeble kisses and a honey cooler is simply a kiss. Cherry smashes was slang from the 1920s and a honey cooler was slang from the 1930s. Any ideas why feeble kisses would ...
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1answer
57 views

Why does “all to the mustard” mean excellent?

While reading P.G. Wodehouse's The Inimitable Jeeves I came across a fascinating expression of "all to the mustard!" It is defined as meaning excellent. Why? Can anyone please help me understand this ...
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3answers
99 views

Need native expressions for “something happened but no one wants to undertake the responsibility”

Are there native expressions in oral and formal writing English about something happened - mostly negative incidents or events, but those, who should be responsible for it , don't want to undertake ...
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2answers
55 views

Is the sentence “Format complete” wrong?

As a Windows user, I see a message box with the message: "Format complete!" when I have finished to format a drive. According to the dictionary, complete is a verb or a adjective. If it is a verb, ...
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2answers
782 views

Difference between “keep something on”, “hang something on”, and “leave something on”

I came across three verb + on phrases in today’s New York Times article written by Maureen Dowd and titled “Stripped off Dignity”; it dealt with unpleasant airport pat-down practices. In the ...
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5answers
1k views

What is the oldest trick in the book?

Is there one trick that is the oldest? I understand the Oxford definition of the idiom but when was it first used and what did it refer to?
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1answer
55 views

“Assist someone do” vs. “assist someone to do (or ”in/with“ doing)”

I just recently came across "assist someone do" searching Google for examples to my previous question, and would like to check with you whether it is an acceptable option to "assist someone to do (or ...
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2answers
138 views

'too dangerous to let live' or 'too dangerous to be let live'?

I was writing something down that came to me in a passing while I was watching TV, and I found myself discombobulated with the way one should phrase the notion of letting someone do something in the ...
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1answer
75 views

Why were “skin” and “niggle” slang words meaning to hurry?

I've read in a book From Flappers to Rappers: The Study of American Youth Slang two words used commonly within the same decade 1900-1910 meaning to hurry were "skin" and "niggle". I'm puzzled as to ...
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5answers
4k views

Origin of “to blow your own horn”

What's the origin of the idiom "to blow your own horn"? Is there some metaphor behind it with some animal horn or whatnot?
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0answers
42 views

If someone is feeling despondent are they “in the bushes”?

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the expression "down in the dumps" which I believe dates back to the late 18th century; however, From Flappers to Rappers: A Study of American Youth Slang cites ...
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1answer
75 views

Is the use of “Talk to something” correct by english grammar standards? [duplicate]

Is it correct to say "Can you talk to point X" when meaning "Can you talk about point X?" My co-workers are constantly using "talk to" in this context. It sounds wrong, but maybe because I've never ...
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10answers
4k views

Opposite of “literal”

I was listening to the radio today, and someone said, "The couple came across a literal 'pot of gold.'" It made me think: how do you say the opposite of that? I'm looking for a statement or phrase ...
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5answers
4k views

Where did the term “Goofy” (referring to boarding stance) come from?

My mom tore me a new one when, while teaching my little sister some snowboarding tips, referred to her stance as "Goofy". I told her it was the common term used in snowboarding, skateboarding, ...
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4answers
7k views

Where did the saying “Bite the dust” come from?

Hypothetical example usage: "Another one bites the dust." He said as he watched another building burn to the ground. It just means that something is destroyed. What does biting dust have to do ...
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4answers
776 views

Is “Know how to cook leeks”an idiom? What does “Read “Hamlet” and know how to cook leeks” mean?

There was the following sentence in New York Times’ article (February 28) titled “What you learn at 40s.”: "Victor Hugo supposedly called 40 “the old age of youth.” - - The conventional wisdom ...
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2answers
152 views

When the waitress at a diner calls her male customer a ''good girl'' after getting tipped, is it meant to be offensive?

My friend got called that and since neither of us are American, it just sounded offensive to us.
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5answers
6k views

How do you get from the literal meaning of “all bets are off” to the idiom?

Most everyone knows what the common turn of phrase all bets are off means: "anything can happen." But all idioms have to start from somewhere, and the question I'm wondering is how did this one start. ...
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3answers
2k views

Is there a better phrase that means “non-zero–sum game?”

A "zero-sum game" is a reasonably well understood phrase, though often incorrectly used as "zero sum gain." The opposite of this is a "non-zero–sum game," which I find rather unwieldy. Is there a ...
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2answers
44 views

can “happy” bells toll?

can "happy" bells toll: Say wedding bells? or does "toll" have an ominous connotation, suggesting doom, funerals, death, etc.? : "For Whom the Bells Toll", etc.
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4answers
30k views

Origin and exact meaning of the phrase “I have to go see a man about a dog”

I hear my older coworkers use this idiom/phrase occasionally. It seems possibly to be a humorous way to get out of a conversation. Even as a native English speaker, I've never figured out the exact ...
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3answers
3k views

Difference between “due to” and “thanks to”

When should "due to" be preferred over "thanks to", and vice versa? When can they be used interchangeably?
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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 ...
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1answer
63 views

What's meaning of “get to the meat of”?

For example, "let's get to the meat of the problem"? When could I use this phrase? Does this mean "let's get to the most important part of the problem"?
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2answers
1k views

What does “sit in the back of the bus” mean?

What does "sit in the back of the bus" in the following sentence mean? It has been taken from Harvey Milk's "The Hope Speech." The first gay people we elect must be strong. They must not be ...
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9answers
29k views

Origin of the term 'country mile'?

A 'country mile' is a term used casually in some areas of the English-speaking world to refer to a very great distance, but what's the origin of the term? Obviously 'mile' refers to what could be ...
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1answer
101 views

Idiom origins: “Piece of cake” and “Walk in the park” and “Close, no cigar”? [closed]

Anyone know the origins/etymology of the following idioms: "Piece of cake" "Walk in the park" "Close but no cigar"
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4answers
4k views

“Have got” — verb form and tense

In the following sentence, what is the main verb and in what tense does it occur? I have got a car. There are two possible explanations that I can think of: get as the main verb in the present ...
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2answers
57 views

idiom: much the worse for wear [closed]

idiom: much the worse for wear Somehow this expression seems twisted. The comparative worse is irritating. What words are lacking and how can it become a clear and logical expression? What ...
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1answer
629 views

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” vs. “Out of sight, out of mind” [closed]

So which is it? Do we feel more sentimental when we are apart from our loved ones, or do we tend to forget friends and lovers easily once they are out of our sight? Which idiom came first, and was the ...
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3answers
29k views

What does “I stand corrected” mean?

When someone says I stand corrected. What does that mean?
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2answers
4k views

What does “waxed rhapsodic” mean?

See context below: Bloomberg is well known for his malapropisms and mispronunciations: he's introduced former Yankee manager Joe Torre as "Joe Torres" [and] waxed rhapsodic about the famous ...
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1answer
62 views

Priscilla--a girl who prefers to stay home? Who could this term be resultant of?

From Flappers to Rappers, a book of American youth slang, records "Priscilla" as a 1920s slang word for a girl who prefers to stay home. I'm curious to know why they've chosen that name. Is there any ...
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1answer
64 views

Why does pine feather period signify the period in a woman's life when she blossoms?

In a book titled From Flappers to Rappers it lists youth slang from the 1920s and one of the terms it lists is pine feather period. Pine feather period is defined as a period in a woman's life when ...
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3answers
44k views

Meaning of “let bygones be bygones”

What is the exact meaning of the phrase let bygones be bygones? If I had a fight with my best friend and then say it, which of the following does it mean? I want to forget the past and reconcile ...
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3answers
102 views

Do I say: “Hook me up to this nice party!” or “Hook me up on this nice party!”

Do I say: Hook me up to this nice party! OR Hook me up on this nice party! I am trying to give a connotation that the party sounds good and I want my friend to give me an invitation to go ...
3
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2answers
118 views

“If it ain't in writing it don't exist” - why the broken grammar?

In the idiom "If it ain't ... it don't exist.", why is "don't" used instead of "doesn't"? I'm thinking the intentional error might serve to draw the attention of the listener to the word ...
3
votes
3answers
416 views

Meaning of “pit technically something against something”

Is "to pit technically something/somebody against something/somebody" an idiom ? I'm not sure whether it is an idiom or not. If it's an idiom, then how do I use it in a sentence? Does it have another ...
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9answers
13k views

Indirectly saying “I love you”

I want tell to someone "I love you", but not in that manner (indirectly but to get that idea). How can I do it in a modern way?
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1answer
3k views

What does the phrase “smiling to beat the band” mean?

What does the phrase "smiling to beat the band" mean? In Vera Farmiga's new film Higher Ground, a character describes her uneasiness with door-to-door religious solicitors in this way: "Really nice, ...
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2answers
50 views

Does “shall no longer be” imply “forever not?”

Can "no longer" refer to a finite, forseeable time period, or does it indicate a long-term finality? For example, if someone says, in anticipation of a large meal, "I shall no longer be hungry," does ...
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1answer
80 views

“This is Figure 7 on page 777” or “This is Figure 7 on the page 777”? Why not “the”?

I cannot understand what is wrong with "on the page 8"? My instructor claims that it is "on page 8". It is a specific page to which I referring to on a particular book. What is wrong with "the" in ...
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2answers
224 views

“Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” meaning and etymology

In my experience, referring to someone in an organization as "chief cook and bottle washer" has multiple possible meanings: person has a wide variety of duties in the organization person is very, ...
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1answer
155 views

Are “the fact of the matter” and “as a matter of fact” the same?

For a long time, I had only known the phrase "matter of fact" to be used in "as a matter of fact..." However, for quite a few days, I have also been hearing, "the fact of the matter is..." in news ...
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1answer
102 views

Is “haha” disrespectful? [closed]

When a woman says haha! to me, is she laughing with me or at me?
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1answer
117 views