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

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3
votes
2answers
225 views

What does “famously absent” mean?

What does the term "famously absent" mean? I was reading the wiki article about Ward Lamon and saw it in there: Ward Hill Lamon (January 6, 1828 - May 7, 1893) was a personal friend and ...
3
votes
1answer
4k views

“What it did was” versus “what it did is” versus “what it does is”

I feel a bit uncertain about the use of tense in the above sentence structure. Which one is grammatically correct and sounds most natural between "what it did was," "what it did is," and "what it ...
2
votes
2answers
417 views

Is “of course” just a warning that something is NOT obvious?

I've come to feel that the phrase "of course" is just a warning that--perk up!--something is NOT "of course." Consider these examples: NY Times: "There is of course a difference between speculative ...
7
votes
1answer
461 views

Use of “sleek” as a noun

I encountered a polishing cloth that has a line which says (This cloth) generates sleeks and scratches on the glass surface. What is the definition of sleek in this context? I looked up in a ...
1
vote
3answers
1k views

What does 'wear-wite' mean?

I've got a spoon (probably a boulion spoon) with the following text in capitals: wear-wite rustless nickel silver Sheffield Made in England What does 'wear-wite' mean?
5
votes
2answers
344 views

What does “We don’t do anything that’s not completely up and up” mean?

I found an amusing story titled “Lobster salad, but a key ingredient was missing” in today’s (August 11)New York Times NY/Region section. The article reports that Zabar’s, the famous grocery in Upper ...
10
votes
7answers
19k views

What is the meaning of the term “herbert” in British slang?

In the song Get Out of My House by The Business, the chorus is: Out, out get out of my house, you'd better take your sheepskin too no son of mine's going round as a hippie or a scruffy little ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

What date range is being referred to when someone says {date} is in the first week of {month}?

Conversely, what about: {date} is in the last week of {month}? Is the first week of April the first week that is entirely in April or is it the first week that contains the first of April? Of course ...
4
votes
1answer
148 views

Origin of alternate meanings

How do some words get alternate meanings that have nothing to do with their original definition? For example, the word cool means both moderately cold and permitting such a sensation. How are these ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

“shameful” vs “shameless” [closed]

I have seen shameful and shameless being used interchangeably, but it is surprising that they would mean the same. Is there a difference?
7
votes
1answer
476 views

What is the meaning of the idiom “Like the Nation”?

In the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn there are several curious references to "the nation". For example, in chapter 22: And at last, sure enough, [...] the horse broke loose, and away he ...
1
vote
2answers
4k views

What is a “kinetic” military operation?

General John Allen reports US soldiers killed a group of Taliban: "We dealt with them in a kinetic strike." What's the meaning of "kinetic" here? Timothy Noah says the word is used to designate ...
2
votes
2answers
3k views

What does the phrase “putting them in time out” mean?

I have a sentence, but there is an expression I can't understand. Could someone explain it to me? Here it is: "You should treat your employees like adults instead of putting them in time out like ...
10
votes
3answers
45k views

Correct use of “circa”

I understand the use of circa / c. as it applies to approximating dates. However, I have a writer who (over)uses the word in other contexts. Examples: ... from circa early 1990's up until circa 8 ...
7
votes
5answers
665 views

What does “I believe in making America safe for old-fashioned light bulbs and not those weird curly ones,” mean?

I saw the line, “That’s all I believe in. That and making America safe for old-fashioned light bulbs and not those weird curly ones,” in the speech of Michele Bachmann quoted in Maureen Dowd column in ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Did “Mrs” originally imply possession?

Was Mrs ever intended to mean Mr's, as in mister's to indicate possession? I started thinking about this when someone brought a breakdown of the word history (his-story) to my attention. It ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

What does “guinea” mean here?

The following lyrics I'm about to post from the song Virginia, rapped by Pusha-T from the now defunct duo, Clipse. For background in answering my question, in the rap, Pusha-T has begun bragging ...
13
votes
2answers
9k views

Why does “unisex” mean both sexes?

There are some places where men and women are segregated — for example public toilets and public swimming pool changing areas. By this I mean, for example, that there are "Men's toilets" and "Ladies' ...
1
vote
5answers
11k views

What is the meaning of “she can be obtuse”?

A friend of mine once described a mutual acquaintance in this way: She can be obtuse. The dictionary definition of "obtuse" seems to suggest a "lack of intellect or intelligence". However, this ...
1
vote
1answer
613 views

What's the meaning of 'haler'? [closed]

This doesn't seem to be general reference, because in the context I've seen it used tonight (the London riots), it certainly isn't referring to a coin, or 'a person who hails'. I've heard it used ...
6
votes
3answers
3k views

Meaning of “one order of magnitude improvement”

There is no single development, in either technology or management technique, which by itself promises even one order of magnitude improvement in productivity, in reliability, in ...
27
votes
7answers
7k views

What does “information porn” mean?

On several occasions while browsing Meta Stack Overflow, I have encountered the phrase information porn, typically used by Jeff Atwood. What does it mean?
6
votes
4answers
27k views

Meaning of “catch you on the flip side”

I received an email from a coworker, and we're not that friendly. Actually, we're not friends at all, just two good colleagues. In his email, he wrote as his last sentence Catch you on the flip ...
12
votes
6answers
55k views

Origin of the idiom “falling off the wagon”

I often hear the idiom "falling off the wagon", as in "Has Robert Downey Jr. fallen off the wagon?" (i.e. Is he drinking alcohol again?). Where did the phrase originate? What wagon? And why is being ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Reason for the strange meaning of “for any length of time”?

Consider the sentence [emphasis mine]: Foreign producers cannot sell all commodities at lower prices than domestic producers for any length of time because the depreciation (or pressures for ...
1
vote
3answers
3k views

“Scholar” vs. “scientist”

I mainly associate scholar with scholarship. But what's its etymological origin? On scientific websites both scholar and scientist seem to be used with the same meaning; A graduate working actively on ...
5
votes
2answers
4k views

Difference between “memoir” and “biography”

I am an avid reader, and noticed that books I checked out from the library lately seem to use "memoir" and "biography" interchangeably, although they are all shelved as "biographies". Is there an ...
-2
votes
2answers
261 views

Understanding “that” as in this statement

If I only say something as below without further more explanation, will a native speaker understand me? He may be sexually dysfunctional, lately he can't do that his best. That's why I am here to ...
38
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the meaning of the phrase 'Here be dragons'?

What does here be dragons mean in the example below? WARNING Here be dragons. Relative source binding can not only encourage bad application practices, such as binding to things defined in ...
-1
votes
1answer
113 views

“Know” and “know not”

I don't recognise the name Herb Sutter. I don't know him. I know him not. What's the difference?
4
votes
3answers
658 views

Is the term “antagonym” widely used to describe a word that is its own antonym?

There are several words which have contradictory meanings. They may have one meaning now, and have had a different meaning in the past. For example, the current definition of peruse is: to look ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

What does “very approximate” mean?

An approximate answer is one which is close to the correct answer. Likewise, we can talk of an approximate model, or approximate methods in mathematics. The etymology is from the Latin ad, "to" and ...
11
votes
1answer
2k views

Definition of “scolt”

We found a gravestone in Ashby MA. with an old word on it we could not understand. "Lot, son of ... was scolt to death Decr. 8, 1806, aged 2 years and 10 months.". We are not sure what scolt ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

“cold cash” vs. “hard cash”

Context (New York Times): Besides piling into Treasuries, institutional investors are also seeking out the safety of cold, hard cash, pouring billions into commercial bank accounts backed up ...
1
vote
4answers
558 views

Word for company that takes bets on illegal events or helps you bet

As I understand bookmaker in English is a person or company that takes bets on events. But I have two questions related to this word: Is there any special word for a person or company that takes ...
-3
votes
1answer
221 views

Confusion about meaning of sentences in Economist

I am confused about the parts in bold while reading Economist. And the feeble recovery is petering out. Their prescription for a weak economy is a large slug of austerity. Why do we use the ...
5
votes
5answers
10k views

Difference between “to fear” and “to be afraid of”

I fear/am afraid I changed my gender. The very thing I fear/am afraid of is the thing that I can't realize that I actually changed not the thing that I consciously know that I changed. That ...
4
votes
2answers
364 views

What is the meaning of the subclause of 'goes off the deep end'?

If a real-time program goes off the deep end, the system can become unresponsive.
-2
votes
2answers
399 views

“Win the lottery”, “win a lottery”, “win lottery” [closed]

Should it be win the lottery or win a lottery or just win lottery? The sentences below sound the same to me. Are they? I lost $5000 to lottery. I lost $5000 for lottery.
2
votes
1answer
16k views

“No more”, “no longer”, “not anymore”

You love me no more. You no longer love me. You don't love me anymore. How are these three sentences different from one another? I use not anymore more often than the others. But once I ...
12
votes
6answers
8k views

What is the meaning and etymology of “ruthless?”

A "standard" definition is something like "cruel," or "remorseless." But what does this have to do with "ruth" (or lack thereof)? Is this a reference to a kind person named Ruth? Perhaps a clue may ...
3
votes
2answers
112k views

What does “proverbial” mean?

This word proverbial has been bothering me a lot lately. I cannot understand it even after translating it into my native language. I would like to know its meaning as well as its origin.
0
votes
2answers
825 views

What does “life plays tricks on him” mean?

What does this statement mean? Life plays tricks on him. Is it similar to He has a twisted fate.
5
votes
3answers
9k views

What does “möbius” (moebius) mean?

In Starcraft II there was a mission called The Moebius Factor. Unrelated to that, a new Futurama episode called Möbius Dick was recently released. Does anyone have any idea what does the word mean? ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

What does “This being…” mean here?

This being Silverlight, you’d expect there to be some way to get the XAML representation of the selected text—and you’d be right. What does the clause 'This being Silverlight', and especially ...
1
vote
2answers
2k views

What is the meaning of “upon” here?

In the New York Times: "And it worked — boy, did it work. Visitors flooded Hulu upon its public opening in March 2008." Dictionary.com: 4. immediately or very soon after 5. on the ...
5
votes
4answers
17k views

Difference between “the same…as” and “the same …that”

I have the same book as you have. I have the same book that you have. In Korea, we learn that the same...as and the same...that have different meanings. Teachers or grammar books say that ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

“Intent” vs. “intention”

How are intent and intention distinguished in terms of usage? My guess after checking my pocket dictionary is Intent is used to mean a bad purpose. Their intent to kill the boy is crystal ...
1
vote
5answers
807 views

“Drinking water” or “drunk water”

Why do people use bottled drinking water instead of bottled drunk water? I am puzzled by the two sentences. I am drinking some water. Some water is being drunk. I know they are the same ...
1
vote
2answers
578 views

Does ‘dislodge’ mean removing accidentally or intentionally?

I’d like to focus on one of the meanings of ‘dislodge’, to remove something. A dictionary says it means forcing or knocking something out of its position. What I’d like to know is if the word of ...