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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1k views

“Hot Diggity …”

Ok, perhaps the last one was too easy :) Here's one that a friend of mine uses, and I'd love to know if it's something he coined, or is it a more common expression than I think: Hot diggity-dag-...
5
votes
4answers
8k 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 ...
6
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3answers
2k views

What is the origin of the “Dear John” letter?

You might receive one of these when you are getting dumped by your erstwhile partner. I don't think it is a coincidence that the a recent movie called Dear John includes a Dear John letter as one of ...
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5answers
5k views

What is the meaning of “I've gotten over __ recently”?

I came across the phrase "I've gotten over [tool] recently" in an article written by someone who had tested the tool. From the article's context, it seemed that the author was not particularly fond of ...
6
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4answers
2k views

Idiom for “very little, compared to real value”?

Norwegian has an idiom that means roughly "small change compared to the real cost or value", which would translate literally as "buttons and scraps". Is there a similar idiom in English? Some usage ...
7
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2answers
4k views

Where / how did the term “sell them down the river” originate?

In a meeting today a colleague used the phrase, "We don't want to sell them down the river." It is my understanding that to sell one down the river is to trick or deceive a person in order to gain ...
3
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2answers
10k views

“Take your ball and go home” - meaning of this odd phrase?

On a business website regarding the takeover of a radio station, I noticed this unusual phrase: Can't really see Orion Media changing Gold much, unless Global take their ball home and say that if ...
2
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2answers
2k views

'As I heard' vs. 'When I heard'

Which of the following sentences is correct English, and why? As I heard that Greenday got a new CD, I went to the store to buy it. As soon as I heard that Greenday got a new CD, I went to ...
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2answers
2k views

Touch the blue paper

I have recently heard that phrase (touch the blue paper) from a native English speaker¹. Is it an erroneous alteration of the expression light the blue touchpaper or is it a correct² phrase in its own ...
9
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5answers
39k views

What does the British idiom “taking the piss” mean?

I most recently heard this in the context of a business deal: Sorry gents, looks like we'll be taking the piss on that one. I understood that the business had suffered a financial loss, although ...
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3answers
2k views

Why is “ass” considered obscene?

Spam filters replace obscene "Ass" for "butt" Meanwhile, in literature, newspaper articles, forum posts, sayings, proverbs, etc. I am encountering many more expressions with ass but not with butt. ...
0
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2answers
223 views

And lead raptivity captive

What do raptivity and "And lead raptivity captive" mean?
7
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3answers
455 views

How to determine if a “[something] fighter” fights for or against [something]?

In freedom fighter the fighter supports freedom. In fire fighter the fighter fights fire. How do you determine when it is the first or the second case? What is the meaning of spam fighter? @...
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3answers
703 views

“indulger of” vs. “indulger in”

A person can indulge in something. Is he therefore an indulger of something or an indulger in something? Are both okay? If both are okay, is there any difference between these two phrases or are ...
6
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3answers
1k views

What does “strike home” mean?

What does "strike home" mean in this sentence?: "This example ought to strike home for you"
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3answers
91k 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 ...
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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
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2answers
302 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 ...
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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 ...
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5answers
15k 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
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2answers
895 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 ...
12
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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
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3answers
489 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
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3answers
513 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?
41
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4answers
259k 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.
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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 ...
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3answers
713 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. ...
31
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6answers
53k 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 ...
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4answers
34k 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 time-...
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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
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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
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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?
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5answers
503 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.
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3answers
97k views

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

When someone says I stand corrected. What does that mean?
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1answer
734 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
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2answers
32k 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
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5answers
749 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 ...
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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?
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4answers
6k 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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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4answers
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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
532 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 ...
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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
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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
37k 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 ...
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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?
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6answers
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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 ...