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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49
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4answers
93k views

Origin and exact meaning of the phrase “I have to go see a man about a dog”

I hear my older coworkers use this idiom/phrase occasionally. It seems possibly to be a humorous way to get out of a conversation. Even as a native English speaker, I've never figured out the exact ...
10
votes
2answers
15k views

what is the origin of the phrase “a penny for your thoughts”?

Googling for the origin of "A penny for your thoughts," I have only found the origin of a likely-related phrase "my two cents" and simple dictionary entries for "a penny for your thoughts." What is ...
4
votes
3answers
17k views

What's the meaning of “get one's finger in the air”?

Could anyone give me an explanation of the meaning of "get one's finger in the air" and the usage of it?
9
votes
1answer
2k views

Literal breakdown of the phrase “case in point”

A "case in point" is something like a relevant example. How does the phrase break down literally, though? For example, "with bated breath" makes sense because "to bate" means to hold, so "with bated ...
14
votes
2answers
31k views

What does the “atta” mean in “attaboy” and “attagirl”?

What does the prefix atta mean? What is it trying to abbreviate? What a? Wiktionary claims that it stands for that's a or that's the, but I do not see the resemblance to atta.
3
votes
1answer
234 views

Is “plantingly” an adverb?

Is plantingly an adverb form of plant? Can you give me a example sentence? Edit: This use of plantingly came from the following quote: Firstly I [would like] to thank you for taking the time from ...
5
votes
3answers
686 views

Where did the “three fingered salute” come from?

Where did the phrase "three-fingered salute", meaning to press CTRL-ALT-DELETE on the keyboard, come from? As the "two-fingered salute" appears to be a mainly British gesture, I suspect the three-...
65
votes
7answers
66k views

Which day does “next Tuesday” refer to?

At what point does next Tuesday mean the next Tuesday that will come to pass and no longer the Tuesday after the Tuesday that will come to pass? And, when does the meaning switch back?
2
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the meaning of “laying a fuse”?

What is the meaning of the phrase "laying a fuse"?
2
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the meaning of “being the type to point fingers”?

Here is the whole sentence: Being the type to point fingers, this person decides to run a git blame to see who last modified this line of code.
17
votes
9answers
2k views

Is there any idiomatic expression with the meaning “show all the hidden stuff”?

Which idiomatic phrase can be used to express 'showing all the hidden stuff' (it's supposed that nobody should find that out, some scandal things)?
24
votes
5answers
608k views

What does “What are you up to?” mean?

I overheard my manager asking "What are you up to?" What does that idiom mean? Is it an informal/negative way of asking??
5
votes
3answers
5k views

“Get out of your own head”

Get out of your own head How do I get out of my own head. Kindly explain this idiom!
13
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1answer
2k views

What does “Red tape” refer to?

What does "Red tape" refer to?
3
votes
2answers
445 views

“Friday afternoon” vehicle

New-car buyers often fear that they're getting a "Friday afternoon" vehicle! What does a "Friday afternoon" vehicle mean?
3
votes
5answers
2k views

“Put it at the backseat” or “Put it onto the backseat”?

What preposition should I use in the expression "put ___ the backseat"? The sentence goes like this: I have a few items on my plans, item A is the least important one, so I will put it ___ the ...
25
votes
3answers
78k views

Which is correct: coming down the “pike” or “pipe”?

Is the expression "coming down the pike" or "coming down the pipe"? I've always used pike, but I've heard a few people use pipe recently. I can see how both could make sense, but which is correct?
9
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the meaning of 'That about covers it'?

I am reading a book titled Struts 2 in action, and there is this sentence: That about covers it for aspects of OGNL that are commonly used in Struts 2. What I am confused by it is the structure ...
12
votes
13answers
6k views

What does “from hunger” mean?

What is the meaning of the phrase "from hunger", as in, "This xyz is from hunger"? From the context I found it in, it appears to mean either very good, or very bad, but it's hard to tell which. The ...
5
votes
2answers
6k views

“Up to” vs “up to it”

What does the phrase up to mean in the following? That sketchy character is up to something. That sneak is up to no good. How does that differ from up to it in the following? I'm sick, ...
18
votes
4answers
11k views

Answering the question: Do you mind if…?

The following always puzzles me as a non-native speaker. When somebody asks the question "Do you mind if...", there seem to be two possible responses. "Sure" and "No, not at all", which both mean ...
5
votes
3answers
7k views

How should “Home sweet home” be punctuated?

A quick survey of the internet reveals many instances of "home sweet home", no punctuation. But doesn't "home, sweet home" make the most sense?
2
votes
5answers
2k views

What does the expression “body shop” mean?

I recently encountered the expression "the man in the body shop", and I have absolutely no idea what it means. All help is welcome.
7
votes
4answers
1k views

How can I learn to get collocations right?

I read an article about collocation which includes an example: We can say highly sophisticated, and we can say extremely happy. highly happy and extremely sophisticated would be wrong. How can I ...
7
votes
3answers
48k views

“Intents and purposes” versus “intensive purposes”

I know that "for all intents and purposes" is the correct saying, but I often hear/see people say/write "for all intensive purposes". I was under the impression that the latter is completely ...
2
votes
7answers
626 views

“Aaron is a genius boy”

I wonder whether can we call someone a genius boy? I've been using this term to describe my cousin until someone told me that the correct usage should be boy genius. The question is: Can we say Aaron ...
33
votes
5answers
2k views

Terms for collections of animals

As I watched the murder of crows sitting on the line above my house this evening, I got wondering where all of the collective nouns for animals (pod of whales, gaggle of geese, pride of lions) came ...
12
votes
3answers
53k views

“Differ to”, “differ with” or “differ from”

In what ways are differ to, differ with and differ from different? Providing examples would be really appreciated.
9
votes
7answers
10k views

“Without reason” or “Without reasons”?

Do we say "Without reason" or "Without reasons"? (e.g. She started laughing without (apparent) reason(s).). Is "reason" countable or not? Can we ever use a plural noun after "without"?
6
votes
4answers
589 views

Is domain-specific meaning acceptable/advisable when used in a document directed outside the domain?

Here's the problem. Many common terms in the programmer's lexicon--i.e., used in information communication and in published texts--are identical to everyday words; others are slight 'distortions' of ...
12
votes
4answers
9k views

Difference between “due to” and “thanks to”

When should "due to" be preferred over "thanks to", and vice versa? When can they be used interchangeably?
3
votes
4answers
7k views

What is the meaning of the phrase “a man of the world”?

The name of one of the Ernest Hemingway's short stories is "A man of the world". It seems to me that I understand the meaning of this phrase out from the context of the short story. But all the same ...
10
votes
11answers
98k views

Is there a more modern way to say “it's a pity”?

Is it okay nowadays to use the phrase "it's a pity" in the everyday conversation in the contexts like in following example: "Please how do I get to airport?" "It's a pity, I don't know." If ...
19
votes
3answers
4k views

How should I end sentences with a URL as the last word?

For example, The website I was referring to is hosted at http://english.stackexchange.com. How should I place the fullstop at the end?
46
votes
6answers
25k views

Where does the phrase “dry run” come from?

I've heard the phrase "dry run" being used with the meaning of rehearsal, experiment or test exercise in various contexts. For example: They did a dry run of the demonstration before showing it to ...
9
votes
3answers
5k views

“Pretty” as an adverb

How correct/common/proper is "pretty" as an adverb? It is hard for me to see, since it's my native dialect, but I say "pretty often" pretty often, and "fairly often" fairly rarely. Does "pretty" mark ...
8
votes
2answers
18k views

What alternative would you suggest to “in/with regard(s?) to”?

I see in many of the "corporate emails" I receive the expression: "in regard to". Sometimes, it is also written "in regards to". First, to be sure: "in regards to" (with an extra 's') is incorrect,...
34
votes
2answers
20k views

What does the phrase “Begging the question” mean?

What does the phrase "begging the question" really mean? And does it even matter if I use it correctly? Almost everyone just uses it as a synonym for "posing the question" these days.
16
votes
5answers
33k views

Which is correct: “standing on line” or “standing in line”?

I'm curious to hear from folks in the the Northeast United States (or anyone, really) an explanation of why "standing on line" seems preferable to "standing in line" in the US northeast. I imagine ...
6
votes
3answers
30k views

I thought “spare me with …” means “don't bother me with the details of …”. Does it?

But according to my friend I am wrong. What do you think?
30
votes
4answers
30k views

How does the phrase “used to” work, grammatically?

It is common to hear people say "used to" to indicate that they did something in the past but no longer do; for example, "I used to play basketball." How would "used to," used in that context, fit ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the correct spelling of “buyer* remorse”?

Apostrophical query: a) Buyers Remorse b) Buyer Remorse c) Buyer's Remorse d) Buyers' Remorse My guess is b or c, as it seems like any example is talking about the remorse of one specific buyer, ...