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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9
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3answers
10k views

Why is it “I better not (+verb)” instead of “I better don’t (+verb)”?

This question will seem weird to a native speaker because “I better don’t” sounds inherently wrong and unusual. But if you think about it, it’s an irregularity; normally when a verb is negated and ...
3
votes
2answers
301 views

Is “you've coming from” a colloquialism?

In the Take That song, Never Forget, the lyrics run "Never forget where you've coming from". Was that a mistake, or is it a colloquialism (or something else) to say "you've" instead of "you're" in ...
4
votes
1answer
421 views

Can the word 'BFF' be applied to decent adults like Senate members?

The beginning lines of today’s New York Times article titled “As State of the Union Nears, Congress Plays Musical Chairs” provided me with a set of interesting acronym, word, and idiom new to me, such ...
12
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5answers
14k views

What is the origin of the phrase “'til the cows come home”?

What is the origin of the term 'til the cows come home? While discussing this with friends tonight, the group had two possible explanations: Cows return to their barn for milking at a given time ...
2
votes
2answers
880 views

What's the deep meaning in the lyrics of “Heavy Traffic” by Elton John? [closed]

In the lyrics, some pieces I couldn't understand very well: Shakey wake up thirsty from a night in the bar And snake hips Joe is Mr. Cool What's snake hips? And, does the name Joe have a ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

How should I pluralise “as is”?

Let’s say I write: “Just send me these documents as is”. Is that correct? Should it be pluralised into “as are”, which sounds so wrong to me? Or are they both incorrect, in which case I may write “as ...
4
votes
3answers
488 views

What is a “Mexican Ultimatum”?

This is a term I read recently, but I didn't understand what it meant. I can't remember the exact context except that it had nothing whatever to do with Mexico. Edit: ElendilTheTall suggests this ...
9
votes
3answers
512 views

Why one place on stack exchange is called “area51”?

Why this place on stack exchange is called "area51"? Is it a special idiom in English for some places where things are being developed? Does 51 have some special meaning besides being just a number? ...
40
votes
4answers
250k views

“Worse comes to worst” or “worst comes to worst”

Which is correct: worse comes to worst or worst comes to worst? The former seems more logical but the latter is what appears in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
5
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4answers
8k views

Is it “If money were not an object” or “If money were not an option”?

The phrase "If money were not an option" is often used to mean "Don't worry about how much it would cost". However, I just noticed that the last word, option, makes it sound like saying "If spending ...
1
vote
3answers
698 views

What is “the hottest seat/seed in town”?

What is "the hottest seat/seed in town"? I am not sure if it's a seed or seat or something else. I heard it a few times on "CNN" when a new upcoming "Larry King Live" program was being advertised. ...
30
votes
6answers
51k views

Why is it “on *the* one hand”?

According to all dictionaries I can see and everyday use by native speakers, this is the correct way: On the one hand, it's larger; on the other hand, it's more expensive. What makes no sense to ...
10
votes
4answers
33k views

“Time is of the essence”… of what?

I'm having a hard time understanding the purpose or meaning of the definite article, the in the common phrase, Time is of the essence. My first thought is that it refers to the task that is ...
4
votes
4answers
4k views

What does the expression 'Do the fish' mean?

I just recently heard this expression and couldn't quite figure out its meaning from the context, unless it means something like "take the bait." Is this a common expression? Is it perhaps an ...
5
votes
2answers
5k views

What is “what are you on about?” on about?

I live in Florida, and somehow picked up this phrase recently. I use it to mean, "About what are you making such a fuss?," either because I can't understand what is the big deal or because I genuinely ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Sun shining up a dog’s arse?

There used to be (probably still is) a saying that had the sun shining up a dog’s arse ocasionally. Can you remind be how it went?
1
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5answers
495 views

“Listening up and down?”

Is "listening this music album up and down" correct English? It's supposed to mean "listening over and over again", but I've never seen it used.
20
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3answers
95k views

What does “I stand corrected” mean? [closed]

When someone says I stand corrected. What does that mean?
1
vote
1answer
714 views

On being golden

Saying that [someone] is golden means that person is in a desirable situation that will likely lead to some sort of success. I am trying to find out the origin of this phrase. So far, I have found ...
2
votes
2answers
29k views

What is the correct meaning of “held up” here?

Is it grammatically correct to use the phrase "held up" in the following sense? "I got held up with some other work", or "Let's reschedule the meeting. Looks like you got held up."
13
votes
5answers
741 views

Can one “marry one's wife”?

I was vacantly reading the paper the other day when I came across a strange formation in the obituary: "he married his wife in 19XX". I was rather taken aback by this; surely he can't marry his own ...
2
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3answers
2k views

Meaning of “a glimpse of insight”

I understand the words glimpse and insight, but what is the meaning of the whole idiom a glimpse of insight?
4
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4answers
5k views

What does “open up a vein” mean?

I found the phrase 'open up a vein of fury' in the article of today's Washington Post as shown below. The New Year's Day suicide bombing of a church that killed 21 people has opened up a vein of ...
7
votes
3answers
7k views

Why can 'kick back' mean 'get relaxed'?

I came across the following sentence in today's NPR news: In 2011, boomers start turning 65, the age when Americans traditionally stop working and kick back. A dictionary at hand gives the ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

What does “Fight through the pain” mean?

What does sentence "Fight through the pain" mean? I heard this sentence in XBox360 game Gears of War. Can the sentence be also used with other verbs - can it be simply expressed as pattern "Do ...
4
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2answers
4k views

What does “bore down” mean?

I found the following sentence in today's New York Times. Inaction and delays by New York as storm bore down. The city's decision not to declare a snow emergency, transit officials' delay in ...
6
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4answers
42k views

Which is the correct preposition for the end of “pride myself” (is it “on”, “at”, or “in”)?

as in "I pride myself on my ability to speak Klingon and Romulan in the appropriate accents." Which is the correct preposition for the end of that expression?
10
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2answers
4k views

What is a “far cry”?

What is a far cry, and what is its origin?
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2answers
521 views

Idiom: quoted books

If there is, what idiom is used to refer to a book, which is famous and/or has interesting ideas, so that it's often quoted in speech, books etc. Maybe something like "divided into quotations" ? I'm ...
16
votes
4answers
3k views

Definite article — “on television” vs. “on the radio”

Why are these different? We heard the news on the radio. We watched the news on television. In this book, the author says we must use television without the. Why? It makes me crazy. Is ...
3
votes
1answer
3k views

What is “soft skill”?

Please elaborate what does it mean by soft skill in term of English language.
18
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4answers
36k views

Which is the correct idiom: “First thing's first” or “First things first”?

I've gotten into a debate over which usage of an apostrophe in the phrase "first thing(')s first" is correct. My thinking is that one would take the first thing and give it priority, hence the first ...
0
votes
5answers
4k views

Pairs in common idioms/phrases

There are phrases which pair things up. For example, "checks and balances", "bells and whistles", What is the rational behind this construct? Any more examples?
5
votes
6answers
10k views

What does it mean to be “hard done by” - a phrase I heard from a Canadian friend

From the context of discussion, I took "hard done by" to mean "taken advantage unfair of" as in "He felt hard done by by former friends." I had never heard the phrase before and have not heard it ...
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vote
5answers
10k views

Does “bend over backwards” have bad meaning?

If my boss asks me if I can help him to do something, I reply: I'll bend over backwards to do it. Does this reply literally have a meaning of flattery?
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5answers
22k views

Alternative to “skin in the game”

Is there an alternative idiom with the same meaning as "skin in the game"?
8
votes
5answers
5k views

What does “new normal” mean?

From one of the survey result (IT related), I came across the following line: Agile Development and Service-Oriented-Architectures (SOA) represent the “new normal.” What does "new normal" ...
6
votes
3answers
35k views

“Money for rope” … meaning and derivation?

I was listening to John Lennon's song "Gimme Some Truth" just now, and in it there's a recurring line: ". . . money for rope." I never thought about it much before, but it strikes me this has ...
8
votes
4answers
11k views

What does “to give out” mean when talking about a person?

Billy Joel, in the song She's Always a Woman, writes, Oh, and she never gives out, and she never gives in. She just changes her mind. I understand that by "give in" he means "cease fighting or ...
5
votes
8answers
3k views

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

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 ...
11
votes
5answers
65k views

What does 'gotcha' mean?

What does 'gotcha' mean? When would you use it?
8
votes
6answers
1k views

Why is “X on steroids” good?

As someone who follows tech, I have heard over and over that a product is "X on steroids." Now, outside of a few ailments and allergies that are treated with steroids, it is pretty well accepted that ...
12
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2answers
4k views

What does “boy” mean here?

Recently, in a magazine, I read the following line: It's been an eventful year and boy, has it flown past! My question is, what does the word "boy" mean here? Is it an idiom? What is its usage?
13
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3answers
108k views

What does “I'm game” mean and what's its correct usage?

As it is clear from the question title, What does "I'm game" mean and what's its correct usage?
3
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2answers
12k views

Meaning of “living within means”

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.— Oscar Wilde. What does living within means mean?
4
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2answers
1k views

Meaning of the phrase “In the wash”

One of our senior technical architects uses this phrase: it will come out in the wash We generally take that to mean "let's do the detailed/mundane stuff later — and concentrate on the key stuff ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

Using 'to swallow' to indicate having an emotionally hard time accepting a truth

Can 'to swallow' be used to indicate that you have a hard time accepting a truth? Neither a hard time in the sense of being able to understand it nor to accept that it is true, but rather in the ...
15
votes
2answers
14k views

Where does the phrase “Scare the Dickens out of…” originate from?

Where does the phrase "Scare the Dickens out of..." originate from? And does it refer to Charles Dickens?
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Why is a bad bowler called a 'pie-thrower'?

A poor bowler is called a 'pie-thrower' or a 'pie-chucker'. Does anyone know why this is so; particularly, why 'pie' was adopted for this phrase when it could have been just about anything?
5
votes
3answers
4k views

When it came time to

When it came time to... Is the phrase technically correct, or is it an exercise of artistic license?