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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2answers
175 views

If you're “balled up” why are you confused?

I believe the expression 'balled up' dates back to the first decade of the twentieth century and I believe it means 'confused' but I'm all balled up as to why it means 'confused'. The only ...
7
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5answers
2k views

Is there an idiom or euphemism for when someone has an average/small penis but knows how to use it?

Really, what the question title states. In my language there's a more "flowery" phrase to say "size doesn't matter". It would roughly translate to "even a small clown can work in the big top" – I'm ...
2
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5answers
102 views

Single word for “at one's wits' end”

While there often appears to be a word that could replace an idiom or a phrase in meaning, this one seems to be an exception (for me that is). I've tried: Confused : Less powerful, isn't it? ...
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2answers
69 views

Is “…written by the author it claims to be and not by someone passing themselves for them” correct?

I have a question to this sentence: Sometimes you need to know if the book was really written by the author it claims to be and not by someone passing themselves off as them. Is that correct? I ...
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3answers
81 views

Is a tin-ear one who dislikes music or one who dislikes new popular music? Why?

I know folks who couldn't hear well used to use a tin-ear to help but I don't understand the connection between a tin-ear and a dislike of music or of new popular music.
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1answer
134 views

Why does the word “joed” mean weary, tired, exhausted, fatigued, etc.?

The word "joed" is a word I use frequently to describe my feeling tired or exhausted. As a child, I used to hear my grandfather say "I feel joed" before he would sit down for a respite or turn in; ...
4
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3answers
220 views

Is the idiom, “one person's word against another” or “another's”?

A common idiom is: This is just one person's word against another. Is the correct form another or another's? I assumed the extended forms would be: This is just one person's word against ...
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1answer
50 views

Where does the term 'board' come from in 'room and board'? [closed]

Where does the term 'board' come from when its used in the 'room and board' context?
7
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4answers
692 views

Why does to “take a powder” mean to run away or to leave?

From Flappers to Rappers: American youth slang by Dr. Thomas Dalzell cites "take a powder" as a 1930s expression meaning to run away or to leave. Does anyone have any ideas why taking a powder would ...
3
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2answers
85 views

Why does to “cheek it” mean to bluff?

From Flappers to Rappers: American Youth Slang by Dr. Thomas Dalzell cites the 1930s expression "cheek it" as meaning to bluff. I don't quite understand why and I'm hoping someone on here may help me ...
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4answers
251 views

What is the meaning of “having one's kitten in one's pocket”?

This is an extract from 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' by Alexander Baron: Corporal Turnbull was a young man, but he was not a man to be trifled with. He had come back from Dunkirk with all his ...
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1answer
124 views

What does “to take/catch someone off stride” mean in AE?

I guess it might originate from ball game terminology, and mean pretty much the same as "catch/take someone off balance". But, sad to say, I just can't seem to find an authoritative source online that ...
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1answer
90 views

Looking for an idiom similar to 'pros and cons' but with different meaning

I'm writing an essay where where the protagonist faces betrayal & hurt etc (negative things) but along with that she also experiences compassion & affection (Positive things). All the emotions ...
0
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2answers
62 views

'Master of the universe' or 'Nucleus of the universe'

Can I say: No one likes man thinks he is a nucleus of universe. I've just seen on some website the use of "master of the universe" I'd better use this word? And please correct my grammar.
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2answers
268 views

Upset the apple cart meaning

I'm 32 and today was the first time I've heard the expression 'upset the apple cart' used. It was on reddit and the context was: "Once again, my colleague Stephen Hawking has upset the apple cart. ...
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5answers
4k views

You can’t have your cake and eat it too

If you've had your cake, haven't you already eaten it? So why can't you have it and eat it too? It doesn't seem to make sense.
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1answer
65 views

Deconstructing 'for crying out loud'

How did the phrase/idiom for crying out loud come about? I don't understand what is "for" doing here. For X means that X is a requirement that has to be fulfilled. Why don't you do it *for X* means ...
3
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4answers
338 views

“Shag” for “chase and bring back, fetch” in AE

Does "shag" have any currency in modern day AE to mean "chase and bring back, fetch (an escaped animal/prisoner)"? Is its use limited to the pursuit of runaways, or can it be extended to a broader ...
1
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1answer
31 views

“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 ...
1
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1answer
193 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?
0
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1answer
48 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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5answers
545 views

What's the origin of “rob someone blind”?

To rob someone blind either means to steal freely from them, or to overcharge them: Fig. to steal freely from someone. Her maid was robbing her blind. I don't want them to rob me blind. Keep an ...
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8answers
1k 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 ...
0
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1answer
110 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
66 views

Is an excessively shy person a “gussie”?

I'm sure most of us are familiar with a shrinking violet as being an excessively shy person; however, while reading from Flappers to Rappers: History of American Youth Slang Dr. Dalzell defines a ...
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2answers
58 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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4answers
158 views

What does “throw down (an order, an idea)” as in “The offer was thrown down to join the Sith” mean?

What's the actual meaning to "throw down something" as in "His offer was thrown down"? Is it the same as saying "His offer was rejected", or is it like saying that the offer was made for ...
0
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1answer
215 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 ...
9
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5answers
352 views

Term for “[Idiom], [Rhyme]”

Browsing the web, I came across this image of the cast of the television show Community using a type of structure familiar to me, and I wondered if there's a name for it. The most familiar instance ...
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1answer
55 views

Why does “to wire” mean to trick?

A Collection of College Words & Customs written by Benjamin Homer Hall in 1856 defines a "wire" as a trick and I'm curious to know if it is of any relation to a magician using invisible wire to ...
1
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1answer
112 views

What does “keeping someone in shoe leather” means?

In the following sentence: Unless your work is pro-bono, you should make sure that your customers keep you in shoe leather. What does "keeping someone in shoe leather" means?
2
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1answer
104 views

How does the word “gas” relate to cheating and deception?

According to A Collection of College Words & Customs by Benjamin Homer Hall, written in 1856 I believe, gas is defined as cheating or deceiving someone. Any ideas why that may be?
4
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1answer
124 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 ...
4
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4answers
869 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
180 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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2answers
60 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.
26
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10answers
6k 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 ...
1
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2answers
261 views

Idioms or phrases for “Be it good or bad”

Can you suggest some idioms or phrases for Be it good or bad? For example: Be it good or bad, television has become an indispensable part of our lives.
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3answers
124 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 ...
2
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2answers
236 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"?
0
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1answer
427 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"
0
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1answer
94 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
71 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 ...
1
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1answer
81 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 ...
0
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3answers
139 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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3answers
205 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
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1answer
91 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
66 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
750 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, ...
1
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1answer
637 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 ...