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

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7
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3answers
3k views

What is the meaning and etymology of the adjective “jammy”, of Yorkshire English?

What is the etymology of the adjective jammy? As in, Thou art a jammy bugger! I confess I've never seen the word before. When I looked it up, I found confusing etymologies: one source says it ...
2
votes
4answers
1k views

What does “How do I feel this good sober” mean?

Help settle an argument. There's a song whose chorus "How do I feel this good sober?" One interpretation is, "How is possible that I feel as good as I do, even though I am sober?" The other is, "...
12
votes
2answers
20k views

Origin of the term “fast asleep”

I know some people who can fall asleep pretty fast, but the term "fast asleep" doesn't seem to mean that. When I looked it up, all it showed was "someone sleeping tightly". How did fast come to be ...
7
votes
5answers
9k views

What does ‘shpritz’ mean?

I came across the word shpritz in the following sentence of a New York Times article (May 12th) titled, "At 100, Still a Teacher, Quite a Character": At 100 years old, Ms. Kaufman is still ...
14
votes
8answers
32k views

Meaning of “go figure” and its origin?

Sometimes, people use a colloquial phrase of "it figures" or "go figure", which is kind of an acknowledgement of the correctness of a fact, or something like that. It's also sometimes abbreviated even ...
4
votes
2answers
678 views

What is the relationship between fame and infamy?

In layman's terms, what is the relationship between fame and infamy? Is fame required to be infamous? Are they (definitively) mutual exclusive?
7
votes
3answers
7k views

What are the meaning and possible origin of “word!” and “word up”?

Several times, I have had conversations, all over instant messenger, finish with "word" or "Word up G". As it ends a conversation, I am guessing it is like "goodbye". My question is what is the ...
19
votes
10answers
14k views

How should “deceptively” actually be used?

I'm not sure if this is a duplicate question, but I couldn't find anything on here on the topic. I can't seem to figure out what is actually meant when using the word "deceptive," or rather, what is ...
4
votes
3answers
632 views

Meaning of 'patchy at best'?

Its social web services initiatives have been patchy at best, so Google hasn't managed to muscle in on Facebook or Twitter like it has with Microsoft and Yahoo.
0
votes
2answers
7k views

What is the meaning of “judgmental comments”? [closed]

What is the meaning of "judgmental comments" and where can it be used?
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Etymology of a strange sense of “kick”, as in, “I'm on a Sailor Moon kick right now”

[I'm not really on a Sailor Moon kick. ^_^] Still, the use of the word kick to denote the feeling of a "current or temporary pleasure" is pretty strange, isn't it? How did it evolve from its ...
29
votes
6answers
143k views

What does “pax” mean in the context of the apartment rental?

I'm looking at apartment ads in Singapore, but I don't understand what pax means. Here's an example: View 8pm today @ Hdb Approved HDB 1+1 Blk 3 Jalan Kukoh (Chin Swee Rd): 15 min walk ...
7
votes
5answers
4k views

What does “I like girls just fine” mean?

I watched a movie about a boy — and someone asks him: — You don't like girls, do you Nathan? (Edit: with a smirk) — I like them just fine. I confused with 'just fine'. What does it mean ...
0
votes
1answer
1k views

Difference between “how you want” and “how you will”

Is there any difference in meaning betweeen these two? Is one a valid grammar construct and the other not?
3
votes
6answers
8k views

What is the difference between “environment” and “geography”?

I'm writing a paper on how environmental and geographic factors influence economic development and, having already established that as my research question early in the semester, am having trouble ...
6
votes
3answers
54k views

What does “campy” mean?

I was reading this answer to another question and came across the word campy (towards the end of the answer). I’ve definitely seen it used before to describe science fiction movies and shows but have ...
4
votes
4answers
645 views

What does “jakery” mean?

I was listening to a New Yorker podcast and came across the phrase "jakery", referring to the White House Correspondant's dinner. What does this mean? A cursory scan of online dictionaries did not ...
6
votes
1answer
128 views

“You took… and you…”

How would the grammar of this construction be analysed? I am trying to identify and define the difference between using this and the regular way of saying the same thing. Examples: You took this ...
4
votes
5answers
9k views

What is the meaning of “uber-”?

What is the meaning of "uber-"?
8
votes
3answers
3k views

Meaning of “laughing on one side of the face”

These two children were talking, and one boy was assuring the girl that his big ball would fall faster than her ball, which was smaller. When I heard this, I was naturally amused, and laughed. The ...
19
votes
7answers
185k views

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth. What is a gift-horse? Why shouldn't you look in its mouth? What does this idiom actually mean and how is it used?
4
votes
2answers
22k views

Face that launched a thousand ships

Last Wednesday, I went out to tea with several friends, and one of the men said that he had a new girlfriend. I asked him what she looked like, and all he said was,"She has a face that launched a ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Use of “do” in affirmative statements [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do you use “Did + 1st form” instead of “2nd form” When is do used in affirmative sentences? For example: I do think that this is going to be... Is it only used ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

What is “Godspeed”?

Title says it all. What does it really mean? What is its origin?
14
votes
4answers
3k views

What does “it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” mean?

I read it here. The New Jersey guy said that the Unix solution was right because the design philosophy of Unix was simplicity and that the right thing was too complex. Besides, programmers could ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do we call snail mail “snail mail”?

Why do we call snail mail "snail mail"? So by default mail will refer to email?
5
votes
5answers
5k views

How can I know the exact meaning of “cousin” in a sentence?

How can I know the exact meaning of the word cousin in a sentence? How do English speakers distinguish between different kinds of cousins? (Arabic distinguishes both the sex of the cousin and the ...
4
votes
5answers
2k views

Which thesaurus best describes the differences between several similar words? [closed]

Which thesaurus (online or paper) best describes the differences between several similar words? As a non-native English speaker, it is often difficult for me to distinguish the slightly different ...
9
votes
4answers
4k views

What is the difference between 'speculative', 'hypothetical' and 'conjectural'?

What is the difference between 'speculative', 'hypothetical' and 'conjectural'?
1
vote
1answer
698 views

How “Barely better-than-even-odd” success is better as compared with 50:50 success?

According to Washington Post’s Breaking News Alert (May 8), President Obama faced sharply divided counsel and, in his mind, barely better-than-even odds of success when he ordered the daring May 1 ...
2
votes
4answers
2k views

Large as life and twice as natural

What does this idiom mean? Where did it originate from? In what circumstances could I use this phrase? (Because it is so cool.)
4
votes
3answers
529 views

What's the word for “twelvely”?

If something is nested twice, it's "double nested". If something is nested three times, it's "triple nested". If something is nested twelve times, it's ... What? "Dodecly nested?" Edit: Apparently, ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

“periphery” and “perimeter” — are they the same?

I looked up in the dictionary and found they both mean the boundary of a closed curve, or the extended meaning “not the center”. Are they synonyms?
6
votes
2answers
1k views

What is a “bernie”?

Proper nouns are not playable in Scrabble, but I know (from studying words) that "bernie" and "bernies" is playable in Scrabble. But I cannot find a definition for the lowercase version anywhere ...
3
votes
6answers
192 views

“someone nodded abstractly”

for the first time, I read something using the 2 words "nodded abstractly". I Google it. People use it quiet often... I read it there: “Welcome aboard,” said Justin, one of the programmers. He ...
3
votes
4answers
1k views

Is there such a word as 'tractless' and what does it mean?

I recall hearing the phrase 'tractless wilderness' but no dictionaries has 'tractless'. Up until now, I believed the meaning to be 'expansive'. There is a possibility that I'm confusing it with '...
8
votes
3answers
20k views

Why does “one-night stand” mean sex?

What does the word stand mean in this phrase?
4
votes
1answer
2k views

What does the word “rolling” mean in “rolling grassland”?

I found the following definition of "prairie" online: An extensive area of flat or rolling grassland, especially the large plain of central North America. I understand what "flat grassland" ...
2
votes
3answers
870 views

The word “getting” in “getting a divorce”

My parents are getting a divorce Is the getting just an auxiliary verb or does it have some real meaning? Why not: "My parents is going to divorce"?
4
votes
4answers
30k views

Meaning of “have an agenda”

What does it mean when someone says he has an agenda? Is there a negative connotation to agenda? If there is, then why and what is a word that means the same thing but has a positive connotation?
9
votes
2answers
4k views

What does it mean to “talk a dog off a meat truck”?

He is someone who could talk a dog off a meat truck. What does this idiom mean?
2
votes
3answers
35k views

What is the meaning of “personnel”? What is its plural form?

From Wordweb: Group of people willing to obey orders The department responsible for hiring and training and placing employees and for setting policies for personnel management The two are kind of ...
8
votes
7answers
2k views

Is it true that etymology is the leading tool to understand the correct use of words?

In discussions about the meanings of words I often find participants bring up the etymologies as though they are conclusive deciding factors. On the other hand there is concept of the "etymological ...
-1
votes
3answers
8k views

Monosyllabic and polysyllabic [closed]

what exactly would monosyllabic words and polysyllabic words be? Google definition isn't helping to understand...
11
votes
11answers
14k views

What on Earth does “cheap at half the price” mean?

I hear this all the time, "cheap at half the price", to indicate that something is cheap (mostly in an ironic sense, but often used literally), but it makes no sense to me. Of course, if something ...
2
votes
2answers
5k views

Logic behind “at most”

Does the term 'at most' mean there is at least one?
2
votes
3answers
356 views

Does “All” imply one or more?

Does all imply that there is one or more of something? Does the statement "all of the books are red" imply there is at least one red book? Could there be zero books and the statement still be ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

What is the difference between a command and an invitation?

What is the difference between a command and an invitation? Both seem to be directed to elicit an action. Are there structural differences between the two?
1
vote
2answers
914 views

What is the difference between a question and an invitation?

What is the difference between a question and an invitation? Is there any difference? Do they accomplish different things? Are they structurally different?
7
votes
8answers
5k views

What is the origin, and correct spelling of, “shtook”?

I quite frequently use a word that sounds like "shtook", to mean, trouble with the law or other authorities, as in, "You'll be in dead shtook if you do that" or "you'll be in real shtook if you don't ...