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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1answer
152 views

What's a British equivalent to the more American expression 'Kiss my ass'? [closed]

I have the feeling that 'kiss my ass' isn't as widely used in the UK as it is in the US. I'm looking for a more British sounding equivalent.
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2answers
25k views

Meaning of “watch your six”

What does "watch your six" mean? Does it mean "watch your back", like in a dangerous area?
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3answers
249 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 ...
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8answers
1k views

What is meant by “same difference”?

Unless you are comparing two different sets of items to then have a couple of differences and the differences are the same, I do not get it. This would be analogous to: 12-9=3, 7-4=3. Here we have ...
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7answers
1k views

The meaning of “blue canoe” in the lyrics of “Where to Now, St. Peter” sung by Elton John

In his song Where to Now, St. Peter, Sir Elton John sings: I took myself a blue canoe, And I floated like a leaf Dazzling, dancing half enchanted In my Merlin sleep. Crazy was the ...
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2answers
79 views

Is “right hand of” means right hand of anybody else? [closed]

Idiom meaning of "right hand of" Example. Right hand of GOD.
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1answer
44 views

Can an abandoned software project “gather dust”?

I was reading a blog of someone who is trying to emulate Nintendo Gameboy hard- and software as a hobby project. In the oldest post, in the following sentence: I eventually [...] bought myself a ...
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1answer
148 views

“silk purses out of a sow's ears”

Yesterday I posted a question(How do expert writers avoid using "I" when they have to refer to themselves in their article?) and received a good yet insult-ish like answer. I'm not a native ...
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2answers
706 views

Usage of “chip off the old block”

Is this phrase exclusively meant with reference to sons similarities with their fathers or can it also be used to refer to "daughters and mothers" or "daughters and fathers" and other relations like ...
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4answers
4k views

What's the origin of “water under the bridge”?

What's the origin/background of the phrase "water under the bridge"? To what does it allude? I understand it means to let bygones be bygones--to move on from the past. But I don't think I understand ...
3
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3answers
174 views

Does the expression, “As sound as a pound” still holds its currency?

There is the following sentence in the New York Time’s (July 24) article titled, “A Chinese gold standard?” written by its Op-Ed Contributor, Kwasi Kwarteng. “For most of the 19th century the ...
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4answers
108 views

Meaning of “that's the idea” [closed]

I read a book in which a character wrote a poem. She told herself I should fix the first part, but that's the idea. What does this mean, "but that's the idea"? Does it mean she should fix ...
3
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2answers
74 views

“get a coating”

I recently saw the expression "get a (real) coating" in this book review: Swales, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the only guy who gets a real coating, but only in passing But I just cannot figure ...
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6answers
23k views

What does “the need of the hour” mean?

I came across this idiom in a title, in association with a noun: [noun of a product category] — The need of the hour What does this mean?
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1answer
87 views

Etymology of “throw good money after bad”?

The idiom "throwing good money after bad" refers to spending more money on something problematic that one has already spent money on, in the (presumably futile) hopes of fixing it or recouping one's ...
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2answers
10k views

Origin of “to have a cow”

The phrase "to have a cow" is defined as "to be very worried, upset, or angry about something" in Free Dictionary Online. Other sources also define it to mean to react very strongly and emotionally. ...
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6answers
4k views

What is the meaning of the phrase “chance would be a fine thing”?

I've heard this phrase used many times. e.g. -Got a completion date back on your new conservatory? -Ha! Chance'd be a fine thing. I think I have a general idea of what it must mean from ...
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3answers
38k views

What does the phrase “half seven” mean?

I've heard the British term "half seven" (or "half nine," "half five", etc) used to tell time. I can't remember though if it means 6:30 or 7:30 (i.e. half an hour before seven, or half past seven)? ...
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3answers
149 views

When and where did saying “nice” become so popular?

When one person tells another something good or shows off something they like the other person will often say "nice". For example, "Check out my new car it has so many bells and whistles" -Person ...
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3answers
1k views

Is there an idiom beginning “when a dog is cornered”?

Is there any saying in a complete sentence including “a dog which is cornered”? I have tried to find a complete one, but there seems to be no one. Actually, what I want to know is how to explain the ...
7
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2answers
120 views

Where does “flying in the face” come from?

To "fly in the face of" something means to be opposite it, with a particular connotation that is hard to describe. Where does the expression come from?
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3answers
343 views

“Under/straight from the horse's mouth” — etymology?

I'm reading Kim Philby's autobiography, My silent war, where in the early pages he describes an acquaintance as being under the horse's mouth, the proverbial horse being some high-ranking official. ...
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3answers
197 views

What does “tearing your résumé apart” mean? [closed]

I gave my résumé to a person and she replied back as follows: When you look at the below list of issues, you’ll probably think I'm tearing your résumé apart. I guess I am, in a way. But, I ...
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3answers
10k views

Why does “for good” mean “forever”?

A very recent and similar question was closed asks what "for good" means. While general reference can answer the question, I became curious as to the etymology of the idiom. Googling around got me ...
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4answers
51k views

What does the phrase “I’m down with” mean?

I was wondering about the meaning of: I am down with something. Also, I was wondering whether people say: I am up with something. If so, what does it mean?
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8answers
2k views

Idiom for saying “You are making someone go mad/angry.”

First, a bit of context. Richard Stallman, father of the free software movement, has struggled all his life trying to explain that the "free" in "free software" is a "free" as in "freedom", not as ...
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3answers
5k views

Why do you survive 'by the skin of your teeth'?

If someone does something 'by the skin of their teeth', it means they just barely managed to do it. What is this idiom supposed to be referring to exactly, and how did it originate?
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1answer
702 views

What is the origin of “go suck an egg”?

"Go suck an egg" is a saying typically used similarly to "take a hike" or "piss off": Hey, you going to help me with this or what? Go suck an egg. An few Ngram searches shows that "suck an ...
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3answers
81 views

Does this expression makes sense? [closed]

W : I'm impressed at how expertly you played that piano sonata. M : Sorry. I'm still just an apprentice. When the man says "sorry", what does this exactly mean in this circumstances? Is it ...
3
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1answer
123 views

What is the origin of 'pale, male and stale'?

The major Cabinet reshuffle of Prime Minister David Cameron this week has been seen by much of the press as an opportunity taken to dispose of ministers who are white, male, middle-aged, middle-class, ...
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2answers
4k views

How to use the idiom “in force”

I'm wondering how to correctly use the idiom "in force". Often "active" can be used instead, but are there any situations in which "in force" can be used and "active" cannot, or vice versa? More ...
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3answers
2k views

To Be Used Of/For

Does "to be used OF" mean "to be used FOR": wikipedia The English term "empiric" derives from the Greek word ἐμπειρία, which is cognate with and translates to the Latin experientia, from which ...
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1answer
88 views

Meaning of “get off the hammock” [closed]

Is the phrase get off the hammock idiomatic, and what does it mean if it is?
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4answers
616 views

Is “[I am] possessed of impeccable grammar” correct, idiomatic, or ironic?

If it's a correct, non-idiomatic usage, is "possessed" an adjective, or...? What is "of" under that circumstance?
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3answers
83 views

idiom for “if you are not improving, you are deteriorating”

Is there an idiom or expression for "if you are not improving, that means you are deteriorating" Thank you
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3answers
401 views

What does “at south of $100 million” mean?

From this article: Judge Alsup did take the unusual step of appointing his own damages expert. That independent expert valued the patent case at south of $5 million, and valued the copyright case ...
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3answers
18k views

Is it 'what it looks like' or 'how it looks like'?

I live in a country where English is not the native language. Oftentimes I hear my coworkers say they want to know or determine "how it looks like". This is grammatically closer to our native ...
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3answers
17k views

What's the origin of the common phrase “I call shenanigans”?

What's the origin of the common phrase "I call shenanigans"? Note that I'm not so much looking for the origin of shenanigans itself, which I expect could easily be found in the OED or something, but ...
2
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1answer
78 views

What is this usage of harrumph?

So this question was just asked and it made me realize I didn't understand what was going on this particular movie scene (Mel Brooks' 1974 Blazing Saddles). Transcript: Governor William J. Le ...
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3answers
78 views

Origin of the phrase 'space case'

Just wondering what the origin of this phrase is. When was it first used and by whom?
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3answers
36k views

Does the casual use of “a la ___” in English preserve the French meaning?

In English, we use a la carte and a la mode, but it is also common for people to add their own word to the basic construction. For example, one might comment on someone's dancing: He showed us ...
2
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3answers
62 views

Word for “quietly accumulating shares of stock by traders when the stock is at a lower price”?

I'm looking for a word or expression that means "the act of quietly accumulating shares of stock by traders when the stock is at a lower price"?
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3answers
823 views

What is the origin/meaning of “wheelbarrow full of frogs”

What is the origin/meaning of "wheelbarrow full of frogs" I've heard this phrase many times but am unsure as to exactly what it means.
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4answers
38k views

Get hold of, get ahold of, get a hold of

Under what circumstances would you prefer one of the below over others? a) Get hold of, b) Get ahold of, c) Get a hold of
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3answers
117 views

Alternatives of 'a snowball's chance in hell'

I am looking for a different, common English idiom that expresses the same thing as a snowball's chance in hell. My teacher says I use this expression too much, and that it is not appropriate for ...
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4answers
4k views

Are people being literal when they say “I like to think that …”?

Sometimes people start a sentence with I like to think that. I like to think that my business plan will attract investors. Are they being literal? In other words, are they stating that they ...
3
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2answers
131 views

Is “Go against type” a stand-alone popular idiom?

Today’s New York Times carries an article with the headline, “James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, Going Against Type,” followed by the lead copy: Forgoing Wall Street flash, Morgan Stanley’s chief ...
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2answers
79 views

“He disagreed with something that ate him.” (spoilers)

In The Living Daylights (a James Bond film), there is a man named Felix Leiter who is [partially] eaten by a shark. The villain writes a paper that says: 'He disagreed with something that ate him.' Is ...
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8answers
1k views

Is there an idiom that corresponds to the Hungarian expression “fall off the other side of the horse”?

There's a Hungarian phrase that can be literally translated as something like "fall off the other side of the horse". (The literal implication is either that instead of falling off this side of the ...
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2answers
13k views

What is the origin of “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”?

I know what this means: "To pay one debt by incurring another" or other variants of it, but where did the saying come from. I'm not aware of any biblical instance of this. Deep down I want this to ...