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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15answers
1k views

Uncommon Term for an Excellent Orator?

I'm looking for an uncommon term for an excellent orator that doesn’t include adjectives such as “good” or “excellent,” or the noun “orator.” I've googled this request but haven't encountered anything ...
1
vote
1answer
55 views

birthday cake times twelve

I heard this in a documentary about the Peoples Temple. The quote goes exactly: These people would be on time, they’d be polite and nice. They were a span of ages, a span of races. They were ...
2
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4answers
11k views

Why is “bloody hell” offensive or shocking?

It seems to me that if one describes hell as 'bloody', that is simply describing one of the properties you'd expect of it. So, why is 'bloody hell' used as an offensive or shocking phrase?
4
votes
6answers
1k views

Expression “to arrive at a place with your hands hanging”

In Spanish language there is an expression "llegar con las manos colgando", that can be literally translated to something like: If you are invited to a friend's party or social gathering, you need ...
0
votes
2answers
57 views

Is this usage of “account for” correct?

Can "account for" mean "take into consideration", such as in the sentence "I forgot to account for the time it would take to drive here, so I'm late"? Oddly, I couldn't find such usage in any ...
2
votes
2answers
62 views

Does “on earth” replace “on the earth” in modern English?

I am a non-native English speaker. Since school, I was taught "on the earth" is equal to "in the world", and "on earth"'s meaning should be "indeed". But nowadays, I find "on earth" has replaced "on ...
19
votes
7answers
3k views

Are there English figurative expressions equivalent to Japanese idiom 馬耳東風 meaning a person who doesn’t listen to other’s advice?

North wind tells the arrival of spring season in Japan. And incidentally, we have an idiom, “馬耳東風,” of which literal translation is ‘the east wind to the ears of horse,’ meaning a person who doesn’t ...
1
vote
2answers
55 views

It took everything within me?

In a documentary I'm watching, a teenager is missing and her car is found. In the car's truck a bag can be seen, and they suspect that she might be inside of the bag. Her father states: It took ...
3
votes
2answers
48 views

what does “to walk at grade” mean?

"John was walking at grade and slipped on a patch of ice. When John slipped he did not fall to grade as he caught himself with his right hand [...]" Does "at grade" mean "on an uneven/inclined ...
-5
votes
0answers
39 views

Is the cat that satisfaction brought back female? Did it definitely die? [on hold]

Is the correct wording for the saying: Curiosity killed a cat, but satisfaction brought it back Or Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back Or Curiosity killed a cat, ...
1
vote
2answers
46 views

To have ALL + adjective + noun

I am wondering whether the sentence That school has all smart students is a valid alternative to All the students of that school are smart. Is it idiomatic/grammatically sound? (Let's ...
46
votes
8answers
6k views

Is there an English idiom that means “you can always find a law to convict anyone”?

There's an infamous phrase in Russian (attributed to Stalin's Chief Prosecutor Vyshinsky): "Был бы человек, а статья найдется" Translated literally, this means "if there was a man, an ...
5
votes
6answers
83k views

“Take a rest” or “have some rest”?

Which one of the these is the correct, or can I use both? take a rest have some rest Or is there any better way to say that?
6
votes
3answers
356 views

“Went” vs. “went along”

At work, he made up lies as he went along. At work, he made up lies as he went. Is one of those two wrong?
0
votes
3answers
32 views

“come on as” versus “come across as”

Would you say that both sentences sound correct? On the whole, I think you came ON as sincere and credible, and your soft-spoken demeanor, laced with a dash of wry humor, was quite charming. On the ...
4
votes
3answers
120 views

Is “back the hall” accepted usage?

In response to the question "Where is she?", I've heard someone say, "She's back the hall." (Cf. "She's back there.") I understand the meaning to be something like "She's down the hall," "She's in the ...
2
votes
3answers
70 views

Term for someone very good at dodging being blamed?

How do you call someone who is very good at dodging responsibility for his mistakes?
2
votes
4answers
75 views

Is there a name for this: an idiom that ambiguously refers to itself?

Two examples I can think of: The athlete's Achilles heel was her Achilles heel. The chef's bread and butter is his bread and butter. In both cases, the order of the idiom and the thing it ...
-3
votes
1answer
29 views

wait on the laurels [on hold]

I heard this in a documentary that I'm translating. Can you tell me what it means? Here's the quote: But one thing I can say, at least we tried and we didn’t sit back and wait on the laurels for ...
3
votes
3answers
891 views

bear trap memory

What does "bear trap memory" mean? Or bear-trap memory? Any why "bear trap"? I googled and saw a few examples. But none is very explanatory. An example of usage: ... I was caught by his bear trap ...
0
votes
0answers
87 views

“Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)”

"Sounds like a plan (, Stan!)" (idiom, used to agree to a suggestion that you think is good) It seems to be of relatively recent origin, if there's really a sound origin, that is. Main Q: What ...
3
votes
3answers
801 views

“The Moving Finger writes even in Heaven.”

Following is an extract from a Rabindranath Tagore story called, "A Wrong Man in Workers' Paradise". I need help in understanding the contextual meaning of a line in it. The story is about a man who ...
0
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0answers
45 views

What's the meaning of “spray into eyes” [on hold]

I'm not a native speaker so I looked for the verb spray but I'm still do not get the meaning. Is this an idiom?
2
votes
2answers
79 views

Why do we say “be to blame”, not “be to be blamed”?

I wonder why "be to blame" is used rather than "be to be blamed"? I've googled it, and what I found is that it is considered as an idiomatic expression.
0
votes
1answer
32 views
4
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5answers
523 views

Single word for an idiom giving advice

I'm trying to find a word referring to an idiom that gives advice (e.g. "Fake it till you make it"). "Nugget of wisdom" is kind of what I'm looking for, but I want a single word, not another idiom. ...
3
votes
5answers
3k views

What is the meaning of “paint it black” and when to use it?

I stumbled upon the phrase "paint it black" in a tv series (Elementary) and was wondering what does it exactly mean? Also, in which situations would you use it normally? Except when you tell the ...
0
votes
2answers
56 views

Sometimes “you don't want to do that” means “I dont want you to do that.” Is there any opposite saying? [closed]

Sometimes "you don't want to do that" means "I don't want you to do that". It is said that some great bosses will use these words when they want to help you think through. Is there any opposite ...
10
votes
10answers
1k views

What's the word for the facial expression over an unexpected disappointment?

If your friend says something sarcastic to you unexpectedly when you are talking about something that makes you exited or your innermost feelings and makes you feel stupid. What's the most widely ...
3
votes
2answers
506 views

The person who marries for money usually earns every penny of it

The person who marries for money usually earns every penny of it. ...anonymous quote. What does this phrase mean? It seems to suggest that if you marry for money, you will earn all of the money ...
0
votes
1answer
87 views

Is “In any case, with 99.9% probability, …” correct?

I'm wondering whether the meaning of the idiom "in any case" still has a hint of "in every single case". I would like to say We expect an R² of 0.79 (in any case within 0.75 ± 0.15, with 99.9 % ...
13
votes
2answers
9k views

Origin of “the nature of the beast”

The nature of the beast is a well-known phrase or saying which means something like an essential property of the thing, particularly when the property is a vexatious one. For example: I don't like ...
0
votes
3answers
66 views

How do you express high proficiency in a succinct way?

I heard the following phrase in movies: -- Do you know how to use A? -- I am a f****g surgeon with A I like it a lot, but I can imagine a lot of people will not understand the meaning. I ...
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votes
2answers
115 views

Come out of the closet [closed]

'Come out of the closet ' derives from the phrase 'a skeleton in the closet'. Why is it perfectly OK to say come out of the closet but not come out of the cupboard as a follow-on the British phrase ...
4
votes
3answers
4k views

Why did this Brit say “took a punt”?

Recently listening to a podcast, I heard someone (of unknown British origin) use 'take a punt' in the sense of 'take a chance.' Perhaps this is due to punting in American English referring to American ...
11
votes
6answers
2k views

Cold turkey as expression

I've discovered a expression : to go cold turkey, meaning something like feeling bad because you have taken drugs and you need to take more. I wonder if another verb rather than go can be used ...
3
votes
3answers
359 views

Origin of phrase “pulling for you”

When somebody is going through a difficult life situation, people will commonly say, "We're pulling for you." Where did this term come from? It sounds rather strange!
9
votes
3answers
13k views

Grammar parsing for “if need be”

I have a following question. There is an idiom 'if need be'. The meaning is clear, but I can't comprehend it from a grammatical point of view. How should I parse it? 'if [smth] needs to be'? Why not ...
2
votes
1answer
148 views

What does “ought to have been a wheelbarrow” mean?

My grandmother (who was of Irish descent) was born in the New England area of NSW, Australia. She used an idiom that she "ought to have been a wheelbarrow". I think it meant something about a lack of ...
28
votes
10answers
13k views

Opposite of “literal”

I was listening to the radio today, and someone said, "The couple came across a literal 'pot of gold.'" It made me think: how do you say the opposite of that? I'm looking for a statement or phrase ...
0
votes
2answers
61 views

To “take something under advisement”

Does the idiom "I'll take that under advisement" in a non-legal context always (or usually) mean "I'll ignore your advice"? i.e. is it a polite (or not-so-polite) way to snub someone? For example, ...
3
votes
2answers
75 views

What does “About its lot” mean?

In Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Chapter 2, when talking about how long the Electric Monk believed silly things, the book says: How long did the Monk believe these ...
11
votes
2answers
14k views

What is the etymology of “…kick ass and take names”?

Inspired by What is this idiom?, but that question doesn't actually ask for where the expression originated. I Googled around, but couldn't find any reliable source. Surely the expression originates ...
32
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17answers
3k views

Secular alternative to “preaching to the choir”?

Is there a secular alternative to the phrase "preaching to the choir"?
0
votes
2answers
69 views

Definition of “get a lot of mileage by”

I came across the expression "get a lot of mileage by..." in a book on creative writing. Here is the quote: (on a method the author is suggesting which is to say or write nonsensical things) ...
0
votes
2answers
68 views

Idiom for new-employee training period

There’s a certain amount of time that organizations apply to new employees who are undergoing training. What’s the idiom? I’ve heard spin-up or train-up time, but neither of those two is clicking as ...
4
votes
2answers
371 views

Meaning of: “The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right”

This is a Mark Twain aphorism: The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. This is apparently intended to be easily understood, but the ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

What's with the third degree?

Where did the phrase "third degree" (referring to intense interrogation) originate? Additionally, how did "grill" come to have its related meaning?
10
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4answers
4k views

Is there a better phrase that means “non-zero–sum game?”

A "zero-sum game" is a reasonably well understood phrase, though often incorrectly used as "zero sum gain." The opposite of this is a "non-zero–sum game," which I find rather unwieldy. Is there a ...