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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3
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2answers
46 views

“get a coating”

I recently saw the expression "get a (real) coating" in this book review: Swales, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the only guy who gets a real coating, but only in passing But I just cannot figure ...
1
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2answers
42 views

Meaning of “that's the idea”

I read a book in which a character wrote a poem. She told herself I should fix the first part, but that's the idea. What does this mean, "but that's the idea"? Does it mean she should fix ...
4
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6answers
20k views

What does “the need of the hour” mean?

I came across this idiom in a title, in association with a noun: [noun of a product category] — The need of the hour What does this mean?
1
vote
1answer
51 views

Etymology of “throw good money after bad”?

The idiom "throwing good money after bad" refers to spending more money on something problematic that one has already spent money on, in the (presumably futile) hopes of fixing it or recouping one's ...
10
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2answers
9k views

Origin of “to have a cow”

The phrase "to have a cow" is defined as "to be very worried, upset, or angry about something" in Free Dictionary Online. Other sources also define it to mean to react very strongly and emotionally. ...
7
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4answers
604 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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6answers
4k views

What is the meaning of the phrase “chance would be a fine thing”?

I've heard this phrase used many times. e.g. -Got a completion date back on your new conservatory? -Ha! Chance'd be a fine thing. I think I have a general idea of what it must mean from ...
9
votes
3answers
34k views

What does the phrase “half seven” mean?

I've heard the British term "half seven" (or "half nine," "half five", etc) used to tell time. I can't remember though if it means 6:30 or 7:30 (i.e. half an hour before seven, or half past seven)? ...
3
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3answers
129 views

When and where did saying “nice” become so popular?

When one person tells another something good or shows off something they like the other person will often say "nice". For example, "Check out my new car it has so many bells and whistles" -Person ...
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3answers
1k views

Is there an idiom beginning “when a dog is cornered”?

Is there any saying in a complete sentence including “a dog which is cornered”? I have tried to find a complete one, but there seems to be no one. Actually, what I want to know is how to explain the ...
7
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2answers
96 views

Where does “flying in the face” come from?

To "fly in the face of" something means to be opposite it, with a particular connotation that is hard to describe. Where does the expression come from?
2
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3answers
229 views

“Under/straight from the horse's mouth” — etymology?

I'm reading Kim Philby's autobiography, My silent war, where in the early pages he describes an acquaintance as being under the horse's mouth, the proverbial horse being some high-ranking official. ...
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3answers
174 views

What does “tearing your résumé apart” mean? [on hold]

I gave my résumé to a person and she replied back as follows: When you look at the below list of issues, you’ll probably think I'm tearing your résumé apart. I guess I am, in a way. But, I ...
18
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3answers
9k views

Why does “for good” mean “forever”?

A very recent and similar question was closed asks what "for good" means. While general reference can answer the question, I became curious as to the etymology of the idiom. Googling around got me ...
3
votes
4answers
46k views

What does the phrase “I’m down with” mean?

I was wondering about the meaning of: I am down with something. Also, I was wondering whether people say: I am up with something. If so, what does it mean?
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8answers
2k views

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

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 ...
6
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3answers
5k views

Why do you survive 'by the skin of your teeth'?

If someone does something 'by the skin of their teeth', it means they just barely managed to do it. What is this idiom supposed to be referring to exactly, and how did it originate?
7
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2answers
502 views

Why is it “have someone wrapped around your LITTLE finger”?

I just had occasion to write she's got him wrapped around her finger (under complete control). I'd never really thought about this one before, but my guess would have been the idiom had some ...
2
votes
1answer
77 views

What is the origin of “go suck an egg”?

"Go suck an egg" is a saying typically used similarly to "take a hike" or "piss off": Hey, you going to help me with this or what? Go suck an egg. An few Ngram searches shows that "suck an ...
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3answers
73 views

Does this expression makes sense? [closed]

W : I'm impressed at how expertly you played that piano sonata. M : Sorry. I'm still just an apprentice. When the man says "sorry", what does this exactly mean in this circumstances? Is it ...
3
votes
1answer
62 views

What is the origin of 'pale, male and stale'?

The major Cabinet reshuffle of Prime Minister David Cameron this week has been seen by much of the press as an opportunity taken to dispose of ministers who are white, male, middle-aged, middle-class, ...
3
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2answers
3k views

How to use the idiom “in force”

I'm wondering how to correctly use the idiom "in force". Often "active" can be used instead, but are there any situations in which "in force" can be used and "active" cannot, or vice versa? More ...
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3answers
1k views

To Be Used Of/For

Does "to be used OF" mean "to be used FOR": wikipedia The English term "empiric" derives from the Greek word ἐμπειρία, which is cognate with and translates to the Latin experientia, from which ...
0
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1answer
71 views

Meaning of “get off the hammock” [closed]

Is the phrase get off the hammock idiomatic, and what does it mean if it is?
2
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4answers
567 views

Is “[I am] possessed of impeccable grammar” correct, idiomatic, or ironic?

If it's a correct, non-idiomatic usage, is "possessed" an adjective, or...? What is "of" under that circumstance?
9
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4answers
3k 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?
5
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4answers
63 views

idiom for “if you are not improving, you are deteriorating”

Is there an idiom or expression for "if you are not improving, that means you are deteriorating" Thank you
2
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3answers
355 views

What does “at south of $100 million” mean?

From this article: Judge Alsup did take the unusual step of appointing his own damages expert. That independent expert valued the patent case at south of $5 million, and valued the copyright case ...
14
votes
3answers
16k views

Is it 'what it looks like' or 'how it looks like'?

I live in a country where English is not the native language. Oftentimes I hear my coworkers say they want to know or determine "how it looks like". This is grammatically closer to our native ...
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0answers
26 views

What is the meaning of the usage “will not rate” or “does not rate”? [closed]

This appears to be a common idiom in US military lingo or jargon: "You do not rate such-and-such benefit," or even just, "I will not rate," or "He will not rate." In the first example, it appears to ...
2
votes
1answer
102 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?
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0answers
52 views

What's the meaning of the word “kidney” in this context? [closed]

In this article, there is the sentence: Every extension proposal should be required to be accompanied by a kidney. What's the meaning of the word kidney in this context?
10
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3answers
15k views

What's the origin of the common phrase “I call shenanigans”?

What's the origin of the common phrase "I call shenanigans"? Note that I'm not so much looking for the origin of shenanigans itself, which I expect could easily be found in the OED or something, but ...
2
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1answer
66 views

What is this usage of harrumph?

So this question was just asked and it made me realize I didn't understand what was going on this particular movie scene (Mel Brooks' 1974 Blazing Saddles). Transcript: Governor William J. Le ...
2
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3answers
47 views

Origin of the phrase 'space case'

Just wondering what the origin of this phrase is. When was it first used and by whom?
8
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3answers
30k 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 ...
2
votes
3answers
56 views

Word for “quietly accumulating shares of stock by traders when the stock is at a lower price”?

I'm looking for a word or expression that means "the act of quietly accumulating shares of stock by traders when the stock is at a lower price"?
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votes
0answers
38 views

1 person, 2 persons but 3 people [duplicate]

As far I remember my English lesson I learned these pluralizations at the university. 1: person 2: persons 3 or more: people But English idioms and grammar change over a decade. Are these still ...
0
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0answers
7 views

Is it better to say “Don't forget” or “Remember” in written encouragement? [migrated]

This is more of a subtlety and might go beyond general English Language & Usage and is more about the cognitive process surrounding the use of language. It seems like I heard once that, while it ...
1
vote
3answers
764 views

What is the origin/meaning of “wheelbarrow full of frogs”

What is the origin/meaning of "wheelbarrow full of frogs" I've heard this phrase many times but am unsure as to exactly what it means.
8
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4answers
30k views

Get hold of, get ahold of, get a hold of

Under what circumstances would you prefer one of the below over others? a) Get hold of, b) Get ahold of, c) Get a hold of
2
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3answers
73 views

Alternatives of 'a snowball's chance in hell'

I am looking for a different, common English idiom that expresses the same thing as a snowball's chance in hell. My teacher says I use this expression too much, and that it is not appropriate for ...
5
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
102 views

Is “Go against type” a stand-alone popular idiom?

Today’s New York Times carries an article with the headline, “James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, Going Against Type,” followed by the lead copy: Forgoing Wall Street flash, Morgan Stanley’s chief ...
2
votes
2answers
59 views

“He disagreed with something that ate him.” (spoilers)

In The Living Daylights (a James Bond film), there is a man named Felix Leiter who is [partially] eaten by a shark. The villain writes a paper that says: 'He disagreed with something that ate him.' Is ...
10
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8answers
1k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
12k views

What is the origin of “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”?

I know what this means: "To pay one debt by incurring another" or other variants of it, but where did the saying come from. I'm not aware of any biblical instance of this. Deep down I want this to ...
3
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2answers
689 views

Is “get one’s pants off” a popular idiom or an eyebrows-raising slang?

I came across the phrase “get one’s pants off” impossibly in association with Confucius analects in the following sentence which I found in a website, but forgot to jot down the source: What kind ...
7
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3answers
26k 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 ...
6
votes
6answers
3k views

Why do we say “to be a laughing stock”?

I've come through the expression "to be a laughing stock" to talk about a person who has done something stupid and who people laugh at because of that, and I've started to wonder about it. First of ...