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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2
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9answers
13k views

What's the origin and reasoning behind the phrase, “I've got a monkey on my back”?

900lb Gorilla I can appreciate, but "I've got a monkey on my back" - two opposable thumbs down...
3
votes
7answers
10k views

Who were the 'pros from Dover'?

I was reading Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy this morning, and he compares his characters to the 'pros from Dover'. This was a phrase that I also remember hearing in the movie M*A*S*H - so it seems to be ...
5
votes
5answers
3k views

What does “devil a bit” mean?

I’ve read this in older books, and I get the impression that it means “not at all”, but the construction doesn’t make sense. Am I right as to the meaning? And how should I interpret the form? ...
3
votes
4answers
3k views

Why do we say “to fall in love”? Is it something unwished for?

I was exploring the phrases for "to fall in love" in some other languages. And I came out with the result, only English describes the state of starting to feel love for someone as "falling". I wonder ...
0
votes
2answers
59 views

Is “fortune favors the bold; cheek brings success” a popular idiom or proverb in English?

I want to express the idea that: If you want to be rich, you have to have guts and take a big risk. If you want to achieve a high position in your society, like becoming a doctor or lawyer, you ...
1
vote
3answers
112 views
+100

the idiomatic use of “no more than” and “no less than”

I have questions about the use of no more than and no less than . The following is the item 14. phrase of the word more from COBUILD online dictionary. You use no more than or not more than when ...
3
votes
2answers
22k views

Reservation “under the name”, “in the name”, or “by the name” of Ms. X

Which idiom of "by the name", "under the name", and "in the name" is appropriate for reservations? e.g. There's a reservation by the name of Cullen... She made the reservation in the name of Jordan ...
0
votes
0answers
41 views

Bernie Taupin's “Voyeur” lyric

I cannot understand the meaning of the folowing excerpt from Bernie Taupin's lyrics to Elton Johns "Voyeur" (the bold lines): I’m looking, I’m looking back I’m trying to imagine this and that ...
6
votes
6answers
235 views

Is there a good alternative to “low man on the totem pole”?

Since "low man on the totem pole" is potentially ambiguous (and is possibly offensive to some), are there any good alternative idioms to mean someone of low rank who gets stuck with undesirable ...
0
votes
1answer
71 views

Avoiding Ignorance

Is the phrase "avoid ignorance" idiomatic? In my mind something is wrong about the combination of the verb "avoid" and the noun "ignorance".
0
votes
1answer
20 views

Meaning of “Green” and “GreenBack” in American english?

I found 2 new words on my American Slang book (Talk the way americans do). 1) Green 2) GreenBack Meaning of these words on my book : Green : money (Referring to the color green seen on U.S. paper ...
3
votes
2answers
127 views

Expression meaning crying in reaction to beauty [closed]

Is there a word or phrase that means crying because of beauty or crying in reaction to beauty?
1
vote
1answer
85 views

That's a lot of 'pizza'!

I've heard this expression on TV suggesting 'a lot/(too)big amount of something'. Is it just an extension of the expression that's a lot? Is it a common expression (AmE or BrE) or just a one-off ...
2
votes
1answer
97 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 ...
3
votes
6answers
6k views

What is the origin of the phrase “needle in a hay stack”?

What is the origin of the phrase "needle in a hay stack"? Initially I thought it was a game once played but I haven't found any mention of it outside of it's idiomatic use.
-1
votes
0answers
43 views

Is there any other way of the expression on this phrase? His breathing was becoming less labored

Or, "Eventually, the old guinea pig was unable to move and her breathing was labored." I am looking for other way of saying in an exactly same meaning.
0
votes
0answers
29 views

How to tell effectively, When someone just follows the existing custom or system as it is, without asking any questions [closed]

How to tell effectively, When someone just follows the existing custom or system as it is, without asking any questions. Sometime people just follow the existing custom or systems as it is, without ...
0
votes
2answers
63 views

What do 'drive' and 'hard' refer to in 'drive a hard bargain'?

If I have to say that "this person(X) does very good bargaining" in a more refined way, I should ideally write "X drives a hard bargain". (I saw it in a book). I know that I have to use 'bargain' word ...
4
votes
3answers
4k views

What is the origin of 'common or garden'?

Why do we speak, for example, of a 'common or garden' bicycle, meaning one that simply does the job of a bicycle without alloy wheels, Sir Bradley Wiggins pedals or any other bells and whistles. ...
0
votes
1answer
81 views

Common word for two people who want to meet but are not acquaintances

I'm looking for a word to describe two people (instructor and student), who are trying to find time to met each other. Preferably one or two word expression.
0
votes
3answers
77 views

Proper response to “Do the needful”, when the “needful” might not be clearly defined

I have worked in various places where "do the needful" is quite the common idiom. However, in some situations, both parties might not be quite aligned precisely with what falls under the scope of ...
5
votes
4answers
697 views

English-language equivalent to the Russian idiom, 'Not let someone within firing distance near X'

I've been hard put to come up with the most appropriate English expression for a particular Russian one. In Russian, an expression that roughly translates as "To not let someone come near X within a ...
10
votes
6answers
5k views

Why are reveries sometimes called “brown” studies?

Though this idiom is by no means very common, one comes across it now and then. (I just came across it again today, which is why I'm asking this question.) Why is a "brown study" so named?
2
votes
1answer
75 views

How to understand “cat's evening wear”?

I really had a difficult time to understand this. It comes from a book I am reading, and it is used to describe a concept the author speaks highly of. Does it mean that something is very special? Or ...
0
votes
2answers
56 views

Looking for a phrase: a needlessly overcomplicated method of accomplishing a simple task [duplicate]

In my language, there is an expression for this - you can touch the tip of your nose normally, or you can move your hand behind your neck, across it, then touch the tip of the nose from the opposite ...
8
votes
6answers
1k views

You cannot “eat your cake and have it” or “have your cake and eat it”?

Which is it? You cannot eat your cake and have it, too. meaning you can have it or you can eat it, but once it's gone there's no cake left to eat. You cannot have your cake and eat it, ...
2
votes
5answers
4k views

Origin of “to have an axe to grind”

Where does the idiom to have an axe to grind come from? To have personal, selfish reasons to do or say something.
1
vote
2answers
87 views

“be on holiday” and “be on camping”

A private student's story contained the cited line below, which sounded awkward and strange. “I was on camping with my family” I know you can “go on holiday”, but you can't “go on camping”. ...
2
votes
4answers
60 views

Synonyms for wondering hard

Can someone help me to identify some English synonyms/idioms meaning to "wonder so hard"? The word or phrase I'm looking for could be used in a situation where somebody tries to solve a very confusing ...
3
votes
6answers
8k views

Origin of “to blow your own horn”

What's the origin of the idiom "to blow your own horn"? Is there some metaphor behind it with some animal horn or whatnot?
0
votes
3answers
292 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
6k views

“two kinds of” or “two kind of”

In the sentence: The two methods require two different kinds of prior information a colleague of mine suggests that it should be "kind of" instead. I was quite certain that the first form was ...
7
votes
4answers
908 views

Better than the next?

I've heard people using this idiom, such as "each day is better than the next", or "you hope that each experience you have is better than the next" (heard this one on a TV show not long ago), ...
12
votes
10answers
2k views

Is there an idiom that corresponds to the Hungarian expression “fall off the other side of the horse”?

There's a Hungarian phrase that can be literally translated as something like "fall off the other side of the horse". (The literal implication is either that instead of falling off this side of the ...
1
vote
2answers
44 views

“I don't believe you” VS “I don't believe that you did that”

For examples, if A washed the dishes and came to B to tell him that, but B didn't believe it. Should B say: I don't believe that you washed the dishes ! Or just I don't believe you ! Is ...
11
votes
8answers
12k views

Where did the idiom “giving a heads up” come from?

I know giving heads up means to inform someone, but how does that relate to the literal meaning i.e. giving heads up? What's the background? Where did it come from?
0
votes
3answers
105 views

(go) off the boil

"(go)off the boil" seems to mean "past the crisis" in British English. What is the origin/etymology of this expression? Is it used nowadays?
0
votes
1answer
49 views

What to use for 'first unimpressive but later better'?

I will explain a few situations : It is often the case that I listen to a song which doesn't impress me in the first minute or so but as it progresses, I like it A trained batsmen struggles in the ...
3
votes
2answers
107 views

Is “Gone to Texas” a widespread idiom?

I have just learnt an idiom Gone to Texas which "was a phrase used by Americans immigrating to Texas in the 19th century often to escape debt". I like it. But is this idiom still used? Will native ...
25
votes
7answers
5k views

Is 'I f*cked the dog' an actual idiom and are there alternatives

I am a non-native speaker from Germany. In German there's one idiom that goes: Sich die Eier schaukeln Literally translated, this means "to rock the eggs", where "the eggs" are testicles. This ...
3
votes
4answers
18k views

What does “I am all yours” mean?

In the sentence If you can change his idea, I am all yours. What does I am all yours mean?
-1
votes
3answers
957 views

What does “cat in the hat” mean? [closed]

I have seen this idiom recently. Cat in the hat. What does it mean?
0
votes
3answers
45 views

What is the verb omitted in an idiom like “back to the drawing board?”

"Back" is used in many expressions. For example, something like "Well, it’s Monday morning. Back to the salt mines" is often said. Would the full sentence be "I'll be back the salt mines" or "I'll go ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the difference between “Strike the match” and “Strike a match”?

In reference to my question about the meaning of “It’s one thing to dance like Fred Astaire, but Ginger did it backwards in high heels,” on the Time magazine’s article (June 29) of John Roberts’ ...
0
votes
1answer
38 views

What is the origin of “to leave to one's own devices”?

My father-in-law noted that when I leave my children to their own devices, nowadays it could mean that they were each playing on their own iPhone. It got me to wondering what the source of this ...
-2
votes
1answer
347 views

Do I understand the phrase “due time pal” correctly?

I thanked someone really important for following me on Instagram. his reply: due time pal Does it mean that it was time to do so? thanks
0
votes
3answers
47 views

“It works for you” vs “it goes with you”

Example: "I like your nickname. It works for you." "I like your nickname. It goes with you." The first one has 3 hits on Google Books. The second has 1. But, still I'm a bit confused. ...
2
votes
1answer
47 views

Is there a word for the relationship between my cousin's family and mine?

My mother's brother is my "uncle". His son is my "cousin". His wife is my "aunt". Each of these words names a specific person based on their familial relationship to me. Together the three of them ...
0
votes
0answers
15 views

The converse of 1up is …? [migrated]

In videogames we usually see that extra new lives are called 1up. What would the converse of 1up be? 1 down?
3
votes
2answers
38k views

Die hard or die heart?

I just saw someone write that they were a "die heart" fan. I always thought the term was supposed to be "die hard" but I decided to google it just in case I was wrong. Google was unable to give me a ...