This tag is for questions related to definitions and nuances of meaning of a word or phrase.

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4
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4answers
1k views

What does “subset” mean as a verb?

Quoted from http://xml-tips.assistprogramming.com/sgml-xml-html-xhtml-all-together.html: XHTML is the basis for a family of future document types that extend and subset HTML. I understand ...
1
vote
3answers
222k views

Etymology and meaning of “When does the narwhal bacon?”

There's a meme on reddit where the users tend to ask, When does the narwhal bacon? The only correct answer to that question is At midnight. What is the etymology and the meaning of this ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Correct use of “mooted”

Is the use of mooted correct here? I keep thinking the author wanted bruited. Yesterday I heard an economist in the UK use it in the same way. Coffee mooted as a breast cancer preventer.
2
votes
1answer
6k views

What does it mean to “draw a line under something”?

The intuitive answer to me would be to "emphasize" something. This explanation seems different from others I've seen, however, that say it means to "finish something". Help on this?
1
vote
3answers
992 views

Interpretation of “Are you engaged?”

What's the meaning for engage in the conversation below: Are you engaged, Margaret? Of course I'm not. Why do you ask, Nicholett? I only wanted to practice my English. Oh, I see. You want to ...
1
vote
4answers
6k views

Which is correct: “I am drinking ice cream” or “I am eating ice cream”?

Assuming there is no material in ice cream to be chewed, which is the correct sentence? I am drinking ice cream. I am eating ice cream.
13
votes
8answers
3k views

Does the term “Asian” have different meanings among various English-speaking countries?

I have always had the view that the term "Asian", when pertaining to cultures, primarily refers to the cultures of the Far East. Recently I have been told that it also includes Indian and other ...
13
votes
3answers
5k views

Origin of “quarters” in the sense of living area

I was explaining to my son that HQ stood for "headquarters," when he surprised me by dividing the word into "head" and "quarters." I had never considered this word thusly before, but it's obvious to ...
7
votes
2answers
303 views

How did antonyms “ungodly” and “unearthly” come to have the same meaning and usage today?

Inspired by the debate on this question, unearthly has the original meaning from 1610s, of "heavenly, sublime" which makes it an antonym of ungodly. Today both have the meaning of outrageous or ...
1
vote
2answers
912 views

What does “Every once in a while, however, you’ll find yourself crafting ” mean?

My English is not good and I'm trying to improve it. I came across this sentence while reading an article, and I want to know what it means: Every once in a while, however, you’ll find yourself ...
10
votes
5answers
281 views

What is the radical difference between ‘this’ and ‘a’ when telling a story?

The following quotation is a line from Ron to Harry after the first stage of the Triwizard Tournament. (p359, Harry Potter 4, US edition) “You were the best, you know, no competition. Cedric did ...
2
votes
1answer
140 views

“On the grasping hand”?

I understand on the other hand. But what's on the grasping hand? Source: Stack Overflow blog.
6
votes
4answers
3k views

If someone is an expert in written (rather than spoken) language, can they still be called a “linguist”?

When I think of “linguistics”, I typically think of the study of spoken languages, particularly phonetics. Compared to “language”, which of course is used of writing systems, ...
3
votes
3answers
677 views

“Transitioning” vs. “transitional” phase

I am wondering if it is correct to say: This is a transitioning phase. Personally, I would say This is a transitional phase. but my friend insists that the above is just as correct as my ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the meaning of the suffix “‑don”?

What are the meaning and origin of the suffix ‑don, as in the words pteranodon and megalodon?
8
votes
7answers
39k views

What does the phrase “ungodly hour” really mean?

When I hear people speak of "this ungodly hour" they are usually complaining about being awake (or especially working) earlier than they are accustomed. But why is this called ungodly? It would seem ...
9
votes
5answers
761 views

Has “dilemma” ever been restricted to two options?

I was surprised to discover my dictionary had this entry for dilemma: a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, esp. equally undesirable ones The ...
4
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “Eat our peas” mean - where does it come from?

In a recent speech about the national debt, Obama said it's time to "Eat our peas". What does it mean - where does it come from?
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Pioneers Often Die with Arrows in their Backs

What's the meaning of Pioneers Often Die with Arrows in their Backs I mean i can roughly gauge it to be the first to move dies, but why arrows in the backs ?
1
vote
3answers
1k views

Contrapositive and Contranegative

What do contrapositive and contranegative mean and when are these used with respect to positive and/or negative? I specifically have this article in mind. The word contranegative is used in the ...
1
vote
3answers
587 views

What does “a slightly overblown cartoon figure” mean?

“Harry! Good-o!” said Bagman happily, looking around at him. “Come in, come in, make yourself at home!” Bagman looked somehow like a slightly overblown cartoon figure, standing amid all the ...
3
votes
6answers
498 views

Is the word “single” necessary to be added when specifying a thing?

I think the word single is not necessary because the article a or an has done the job. So the phrase "a single object" should be simplified as "an object". What do you think?
5
votes
2answers
216 views

“Pongo absolutely-ed heartily.”

What is the meaning of "absolutely-ed" in this sentence?
0
votes
1answer
857 views

Expression “making a bid/break for freedom”?

What is the difference between "making a bid for freedom" and "making a break for freedom"? In which situations would one use one and not the other?
15
votes
6answers
931 views

What would be the word equivalent of paperwork in the digital age?

The classic definition for paperwork says Routine work involving written documents such as forms, records, or letters. Now, given that we are in the digital age and computers have taken many ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there a double-meaning to “picking my belly button” in this context? [closed]

I understand all the individual words in the following remark, but there doesn't seem to be any connection between the first half and the second. I am left wondering whether there is an English idiom ...
10
votes
4answers
31k views

The expression “hands down.”

How did the expression "hands down" come to mean "without a doubt?"
2
votes
5answers
28k views

Exact meaning of “You must be kidding”?

This is to ask for the exact meaning of the expression You must be kidding. More precisely, is it supposed to be: (a) friendly, (b) antagonistic, or (c) neither one? In French the answer to my ...
3
votes
7answers
5k views

What is the difference between a marque and a brand?

What is the difference between a marque and a brand? For example, why would one use the expression "car marques" instead of "car brands"?
20
votes
5answers
20k views

When I say “comment out”, does it mean to uncomment something or comment it?

When I say "comment out", does it mean to uncomment something or comment it? What is more better, or correctly, used? PS: I'm talking about source code.
11
votes
9answers
29k views

What is the difference between taking courses, classes or lessons?

Currently, I am preparing a letter of my study objectives for an university application. I ask myself what is the exact difference between the following terms? Or can I use them synonymously? taking ...
10
votes
7answers
9k views

Colloquial definition of “douchebag”

Obviously "douchebag" has a literal meaning - however if we see someone wearing sunglasses indoors, we would call them a douchebag. I'm trying to explain this to a friend. How do you verbalize this ...
10
votes
4answers
72k views

What does “five O” mean (and why)?

I've heard quite a few times the term "five O" (eg in the US TV show "the Wire"). It seems to mean "police" (inferred from the context), and I'm curious to know where the expression comes from, and ...
3
votes
2answers
33k views

Is there any full form for NEWS?

Many people tell me that the full form of NEWS is North,East,West and South. For quite a long it looked convincing to me as the full form seemed to cover all the direction giving an impression that ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Meaning of a quote in movie Casino Royale (2006)

Vesper Lynd: There are dinner jackets and dinner jackets; this is the latter. And I need you looking like a man who belongs at that table. Here what does the line "There are dinner jackets ...
3
votes
2answers
397 views

Does the end of this sentence convey what I want it to mean?

My sentence: "It is quite a remarkable piece of prose because intuitive, humanities related metaphors are often used to explain difficult mathematical ideas (à la Blueman), not the other way ...
4
votes
3answers
818 views

“Never mind” in AmE and BrE

Reading some forum pages about the meaning of this phrase, I realized that there's a difference in usage of it, between American and British English. What's the difference in meaning of "never mind" ...
5
votes
5answers
1k views

“Dead, and never called me mother!”

I was watching the Secret Service Dentists sketch by Monty Python, and in the video, The Big Cheese says the following after shooting his pet rabbit: There -- poor Flopsy's dead, and never ...
6
votes
2answers
13k views

What does “somebody plays things close to the vest” mean?

I heard this phrase in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" and also found it online by googling it. What does the phrase mean?
0
votes
1answer
3k views

Meaning of “What's shaking?”

I can guess it probably means "what's happening", or "what's up". Am I right? I am curious where this phrase comes from and how to use it properly.
3
votes
1answer
10k views

What does “get some life” mean?

I made a comment and received the following reply: Ha ha! Go get some life you stupid. I know that this is some kind of insult. But what does "get some life" exactly mean?
4
votes
2answers
10k views

“Referrer” versus “referral” versus “referer”

Which word is correct and what do they mean? I've seen $_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'] (PHP), but I have also seen referrer in can I forward “referrer” information to other address? and referral on the ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

What's the meaning of “large hug” in definition of “bearhug”?

Context: I have an uncle who is huge and any time he hugs anyone in the family, it's so tight that they are almost choked. We call this the bearhug among the family. Researching ...
2
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “ain't” mean?

What does the contraction ain't mean? Is it appropriate to use it in formal settings?
13
votes
4answers
3k views

What does “She was young and blithe, 22 going on 16” mean?

I found the phrase ““She was young and blithe, 22 going on 16” in the article of the Time magazine (July 6 issue) dealing with the Casey Anthony Verdict, under the title, “The Casey Anthony Verdict ...
1
vote
1answer
755 views

What does “cavernous room” mean or look like?

I saw this phrase used in this New Yorker article. I think I understand it intuitively, especially with the help of google images, but I'd like to know for sure.
2
votes
7answers
4k views

Better than premium

Is there something higher (better) than the word premium, or does it mean the best? Also, is there something in between premium and deluxe? Graphically: Does any word fit here? > Premium > Does any ...
39
votes
5answers
17k views

What is the difference between “illicit” and “illegal”?

What is the difference between "illicit" and "illegal"? Are they just synonymous? Used in different contexts?
2
votes
3answers
8k views

Difference between “invest in” and “invest into” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicates: Difference between “in” and “into” When should “into” be used rather than “in to,” and vice versa? Since solar ...
1
vote
2answers
5k views

What is the meaning of “chewing the carpet”?

I was digging about Load-Balancers (computer networking stuff) and came across this expression: Sometimes it (Load-Balancer) sits down chewing the carpet while backends go idle ... I guess "chewing ...