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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Question on indefinite article (in couple weeks or in a couple weeks)

I have a question on indefinite articles. I thought a is only used with singular nouns, by definition. Why is "in a couple weeks" the right way? Isn't a couple weeks more than one? I thought it would ...
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1answer
57 views

Is “scathingly small” used correctly?

I heard a quote today on the radio from Dr. Michael Fine, Rhode Island's director of the Department of Health, where he used the phrase "scathingly small" (e.g. here) when referring to Ebola's chances ...
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2answers
89 views

Is “in a huff ” a commonly used idiom?

I have heard this idiom, but I don't know how frequently it is used by people. Please, help me out, because I have no other way checking it.
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1answer
51 views

not on your life (why not in your life)

I'm curious to know why the idiom below made with the prep "on" and not "in"? not on your life Not on your life! (informal) : Something that you say in order to tell someone with a lot of force ...
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1answer
56 views

What is the meaning of “gassed for”? [closed]

I was reading a comment on ELU and it is... ... when you've been gassed for your oral surgery. Is it an idiomatic thing to say "gassed for or gassed up"?
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3answers
67 views

You really want to help someone, but that individual becomes suspicious of the nature of your help and questions it

I don’t know what to call the behavior of those who don’t believe that anybody acts with good intentions, so I'm looking for a suitable word, idiom or expression.
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1answer
274 views

Origin of 'the new normal' as a freestanding phrase

This morning, in a New York Times article called “Waters Warm, and Cod Catch Ebbs in Maine,” the following sentence appears: Fishermen, scientists and regulators often disagree over whether the ...
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9answers
3k views

What is it called when something you previously took to be a mistake turned out to be the correct decision?

Sometimes your “mistake” results in a big success, or you find out that it actually was the correct way of doing it. I sarcastically call this a “correct mistake”. What do you call it? I don’t know if ...
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1answer
108 views

Can “my pleasure” carry negative connotations

Is it appropriate to say 'my Pleasure'- In a job interview and e-mails closings. "I really enjoyed talking with you - my pleasure" Or would a simple 'thank you' be more appropriate. Can "my ...
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2answers
65 views

Overkill or wrong tool idiom

Is there another idiom for using too strong a tool for the job: not "bring a gun to a knife fight" or "use a sledgehammer to crack a nut"? Or turn it around - one about using a simpler, more direct ...
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11answers
1k views

How do you describe someone who can hear you or see you but pretends or ignores your presence while you are trying to get his or her attention ?

you are trying to get somebody's attention by waving your hand or saying hello! but he or she ignores you; I am looking for an Idiom or word to describe the situation or attitude of that person.
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2answers
140 views

master or master's

I know from here here that I have to say Master of .... and master's degree. But let's consider another situation: I was half the way through my master, or I was half the way through my master's. ...
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2answers
88 views

How do I refer to an idiom in text?

What is the best way to refer to the idiom "Keeping up with the Joneses"? I'm referencing the idiom in a paper, but not sure if I should include it in quotes or not in quotes, but italics.
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4answers
71 views

“Easy to adhere to” alternatives?

Apparently "adherable" should not be used in formal language (if the opposite is true, please correct me). Are there any more concise ways of saying "easy to adhere to", such as in this phrase: For ...
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5answers
187 views

I'm looking for a slang word or idiom for someone who insists on intruding his presence on two others who would rather be alone

This person usually pretends not to see that he is unwelcome at the moment, but it may be that he just doesn't notice it. Depending on the circumstances, one of the two persons (typically lovers) ...
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0answers
141 views

Looking for an Equivalent to the AWL for Academic Idioms

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 ...
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135 views

Synonymous idiom for: You can't run before you can walk

I'm looking for an alternative way of saying "You can't run before you can walk." This is equivalent to saying "you can't take on higher level things before you have mastered the basics". I am ...
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1answer
86 views

correctly dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s in the expression “dotting the i's and crossing the t's” [duplicate]

I've found questions here at ELU related to the meaning of the expression (I'm clear on that), but this is about the best way to punctuate the expression in the title. Possibilities: a. It's ...
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1answer
79 views

Telephone as an idiom [closed]

Is "telephone" considered an idiom? If we pull apart the meanings, "tele" means "far;" or "distant" and "phone" means "sound." So, it would, on the face of it, mean "far-sound." But that is not ...
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1answer
72 views

Using Verbpathy as a Tool to Connect with English [closed]

Does anyone use the tool of "verbpathy" in their own English studies? This is a device that lets the language learner connect with the positive, negative, or neutral aspect of a word, phrase or ...
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2answers
258 views

“No less than” vs. “None less than”

Is the expression none less than similar to the idiom no less than? Which form is preferable to use in the following example: None less than the country's president attended today's meeting. OR ...
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1answer
143 views

“No less than” idiom root

I know that "No less than somebody/something" means that this somebody/something is important. What I don't understand is why this idiom means so!! What I literally understand is that "No less than" ...
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1answer
86 views

Why is there an 'A' in phrase 'Times are a changing'? [duplicate]

I am not sure if the phrase Times are a changing is used exclusively within or related to the Bob Dylan song but the A is bugging the hell out of me every time I see it. Why is there an indefinite ...
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2answers
127 views

Can blue also have a positive connotation?

I came across a statement that roughly translates as: I hope everything is blue with you. The original German/English statement is: Ich hoffe, alles ist "blue" bei dir This was sent to a ...
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1answer
68 views

“Caldoniafied” In General Use in the 1980s?

I am curious about the word "Caldoniafied" meaning, roughly, hard headed, and presumably coming from the song entitled "Caldonia" ("Caldonia, Caldonia, what makes your big head so hard?". )Louis ...
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1answer
112 views

Origin of Spread Oneself Too Thin

Three questions: What is the origin of the English idiom, "spread oneself too thin?" Is this used as frequently in the U.K. as it is in the U.S.? What about Australia and New Zealand: Is it as ...
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3answers
66 views

Word or phrase designating the consensus reached at the last conversation about a topic

I vaguely remember hearing a term for this, but can't remember what it was. The word or phrase refers to the consensus reached at the end of the last conversation about a topic, just before the group ...
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2answers
196 views

How far (technically) is a “stone's throw?”

A "stone's throw" means a short distance. Questions: (1) How far--technically-- is a stone's throw in terms of its usage? (i.e., Can you use it for a few feet as well as a mile away?) (2) Is it ...
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6answers
336 views

Something as an “antechamber” for something else

In Italian there is the expression "something as an antechamber for something else", meaning something can precede and somehow cause something else. For example: Data show prisons are far from ...
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2answers
1k views

Knock On Wood in the UK?

In the US, it is common to use the idiomatic expression "knock on wood" to keep "a good thing going." Is it the same in the UK, or do they use a different idiomatic expression?
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2answers
195 views

“…Which I have a basic knowledge of”

Russian, which I have a basic knowledge of Is the entire phrase which I have a basic knowledge of idiomatic in English? Or is it just an Italian phrase construction I inadvertently transposed ...
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72 views

What's going on with *nuthin' doin'*?

The phrase nuthin' doin' in American slang means "There's nothing interesting or exciting going on". How does doin' come to mean "happening"?
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3answers
178 views

Can One Jump To Good Conclusions?

Jump To Conclusions is noted in the free dictionary's entry for jump a few different ways: To form an opinion or judgment hastily: jump to conclusions. to proceed abruptly, ...
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517 views

What does it mean to wax a cross?

On the TV show Archer, the saying "get some wax for your cross" is used. What does it mean? I'm guessing from context it means that you carry around a cross so often you need wax for it.
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99 views

Origin, logic, and range of use of the verb ‘untrack’ and the phrase 'get untracked'

One of the terms that appears in Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) but not in the Tenth Collegiate (1993) or earlier editions of the Collegiate series is untrack: untrack vt ...
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1answer
92 views

High and Tight Meaning

This is a quote from the movie Avatar: "Col. Quaritch: I want this mission high and tight. I wanna be home for dinner." I seem to remember hearing "high and tight" used elsewhere. But I couldn't pin ...
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2answers
149 views

What does “Obama goes big” mean?

The article of New Yorker (November 21) begins with the following sentence under the title “Obama Goes Big on Immigration”: For a two-term President whom his critics used to call “the ...
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2answers
198 views

“Must of ” vs “must have”

I was browsing a completely unrelated site and came across the following interesting discussion on the ever increasing proliferation of the phrase, "must of": ... You mean "must have", btw. Or ...
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131 views

Should/can the idioms “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” both support the main issue

The motivation for this question came from this Software (C#) question "Why is it faster to check if dictionary contains the key, rather than catch the exception in case it doesn't?" and ...
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76 views

Is *to see something through* a productive phrasal verb?

Some verbs in English make the use of additional particles, often called prepositions, due to the fact that they are always homophonous. I do not call them adverbs because I claim they are not always ...
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2answers
171 views

Liquid Metaphors in the World of Finance

I want to use the terms in bold, to illustrate how these aquatic expressions can be used to a student of mine who is a trader. Obviously, I've exaggerated and greatly simplified the theme but I would ...
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1answer
49 views

When did “down” or “down with” in the sense of approval start to be used?

Uses include: "She's down," an absent member of a group is known to think something is a good idea or wants to do it and "I'm down with that," I like that idea, I want to do that, include me in, etc. ...
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3answers
115 views

What is a possible equivalent for *not worth the paper it's written on*

What is a possible modern equivalent, in our internet, and supposedly paperless age, of the expression not worth the paper it's written on.
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4answers
437 views

“One in a million” or “A million to one”?

Last week I took part in an English course, and the teacher was constantly saying a million to one (when he meant "an extremely small possibility"). Is this correct? Is it the same as one in a ...
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4answers
1k views

What does “There’s less to the deal than meets the eye,” mean?

There was the following passage in New Yorker’s (November 18) article that came under the title, ”Is China really going green?”: “But here was President Xi Jinping pledging that, by 2030, his ...
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343 views

Is the idiom “what price [something]?” used here in the sense of “how about [something]?” - or not?

An excerpt from the movie 49th Parallel (1941), a dialogue between heroes. (the bulk of it by an anthropologist (A) writing about Indian tribes of Canada) (A) Yes, I've discovered some rather ...
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3answers
95 views

An idiom for “seen clearly” or “plainly”

I'm looking for a way to convey how multiple things are very well seen from a certain vantage point. In my native language there is a very appealing expression for that, that can be translated as ...
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47 views

Meaning of “Noble of us” idiom in context

It would be noble of us to not revel in it, though. The sentence above has some idioms that I don't know the whole meaning of the sentence. What dos it say? Or when such a sentence could be ...
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2answers
191 views

His “get-up-and-go” is likely to have “got-up-and-gone” Any hidden meaning in this comment?

I once overheard a conversation between two young women on a long distance flight and one of them said: "He is past seventy, you know. His get-up-and-go is likely to have got-up-and gone." And they ...
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73 views

“To show for” correct usage

Came across this sentence in a newspaper article. "But as the months passed by quickly with little other than grand announcements and declarations to show for, the case for more hands at the wheel ...