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

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24
votes
6answers
99k views

What is the difference between “nothing but”, “anything but”, and “everything but”?

What is the difference between these phrases? When is it valid to use which? Should they be avoided as being ambiguous?
13
votes
2answers
4k views

What does “OMG ponies!” mean?

What does this mean and what is the origin of this phrase?
2
votes
3answers
2k views

Meaning of “a glimpse of insight”

I understand the words glimpse and insight, but what is the meaning of the whole idiom a glimpse of insight?
1
vote
3answers
4k views

Difference between “abase” and “abash”

It seems as if both words mean to humiliate and degrade?
7
votes
7answers
13k views

What's the difference in meaning and usage between “target” and “goal”?

What are the differences in usage and meaning? For example, is it, My targets for 2011 are... or My goals for 2011 are... Which one is correct or more suitable here?
1
vote
3answers
30k views

What does “Nothing like anything” mean?

What does the phrase "Nothing like anything" mean? Literally it doesn't make sense to me and also I do not know its figurative meaning either.
7
votes
6answers
25k views

What is the difference between “Class of 2004” and “Batch of 2004”?

What is the difference between "Class of 2004" and "Batch of 2004"? I have a feeling that one means the students who joined the university in 2004 and the other means those who graduated in 2004. Is ...
0
votes
5answers
14k views

Exact meaning of “sense of well being”?

I want to find the exact/literal/detailed meaning of the phrase "sense of well being". Not just "well being", but "sense of well being". (What exactly is meant by "sense"?) Note: I understand what ...
1
vote
2answers
193 views

Question on Champagne

The meaning for Champagne, which one is better? I found both in different reference books. A white sparkling wine. A sparkling white wine. :-)
1
vote
1answer
109 views

“Proportion of IPOs in France”?

Assume you read a text discussing the total value of all IPOs world-wide and those in France, stating France's IPOs' total value is 9% of those world-wide. Is it valid to refer to this percentage as ...
4
votes
4answers
5k views

What does “open up a vein” mean?

I found the phrase 'open up a vein of fury' in the article of today's Washington Post as shown below. The New Year's Day suicide bombing of a church that killed 21 people has opened up a vein of ...
2
votes
1answer
658 views

What is “however” in this sentence referring to?

No definite mass is identified. However, for further evaluation of this patient given his symptoms, an MRI is recommended. In the above sentence, does the "however" refer back to looking for a ...
12
votes
3answers
17k views

“Between A and B” or “from A to B”

Suppose we are talking about the numbers 1, 2, ... , 10. When we use the phrase between 1 and 10, do we include the end-points 1 and 10? Is there any difference if we say from 1 to 10 instead?
7
votes
3answers
6k views

Why can 'kick back' mean 'get relaxed'?

I came across the following sentence in today's NPR news: In 2011, boomers start turning 65, the age when Americans traditionally stop working and kick back. A dictionary at hand gives the ...
3
votes
1answer
265 views

What does Bloomberg's 'concessionary tone' mean?

I found the phrase 'concessionary tone' in today's New York Times: Bloomberg Is Criticized on Storm Response as He Tours City Beyond Manhattan The mayor on Thursday delivered the message that ...
1
vote
2answers
3k views

Meaning of “Render onto Caesar the things which are Caesar's”

Render onto Caesar the things which are Caesar's What does this sentence mean?
4
votes
2answers
4k views

What does “bore down” mean?

I found the following sentence in today's New York Times. Inaction and delays by New York as storm bore down. The city's decision not to declare a snow emergency, transit officials' delay in ...
6
votes
3answers
13k views

What does the phrase “I have but one claim to fame” mean?

I would appreciate if someone could explain the meaning of the phrase "I have but one claim to fame". I understand every separate word, but the meaning of the whole phrase is fairly obscure to me, as ...
1
vote
2answers
415 views

What is the proper way to mention “current” for future events?

I am writing a software user manual so the topic is about possible situations which its users may come across. Here is an example sentence: The button saves the current URL in the browser. ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

“Do it very quickly” vs “do it ASAP”

What is the difference between these phrases? Please, do it very quickly, since the deadline is approaching. and Please, do it ASAP, because the deadline is approaching.
5
votes
3answers
523 views

Use of the word “theory” in “string theory”, “M-theory”, etc

I came across this question on Yahoo! Answers: Should M-theory read, M-hypothesis? It being limited evidence for further investigation, perhaps not yet a theory. I responded thus: (I realise ...
1
vote
3answers
251 views

does “fey-lit” make sense?

I want to say a strangely-lit grove, eerily-lit in an out-of-this-world manner. Does "fey-lit" convey that meaning?
4
votes
1answer
32k views

“Cannabis” vs. “marijuana” vs. “weed”

I know all these words have the same meaning and refer to a kind of drug. Also, as far as I know, weed is slang for marijuana or cannabis. (Correct me if I’m wrong). What I do not understand is the ...
8
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the meaning of 'probe' in the Linux command 'modprobe'?

My understanding of modprobe is that it is a command to load kernel modules. Based on this, I'm wondering what the meaning of word probe is in general English?
12
votes
4answers
45k views

What's the difference between “egotism” and “egoism”?

I am interested in the difference between these two seemingly synonymous terms.
3
votes
1answer
3k views

What is “soft skill”?

Please elaborate what does it mean by soft skill in term of English language.
4
votes
5answers
23k views

Difference between “World” and “Universe”

What are the differences between the two? I thought that "World" means everything, i.e the same as "Universe". But people seem to think it means the same as "Earth".
0
votes
1answer
2k views

Using had twice [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What does “had had” mean? How does this differ from “had”? Is this correct usage? I had had enough food?
13
votes
7answers
6k views

“Fluids” versus “liquids”?

What is the difference between fluid and liquid? I'm thinking of this in the context of drink plenty of fluids.
7
votes
3answers
408 views

Usage of word “meat”

I am not a native English speaker and never lived in an English-speaking country, so I wonder how you would apply this word. Would you apply the term "meat" to the following things? Muscle tissue ...
17
votes
1answer
6k views

What does the joke with the punchline about Chrome and Hollandaise mean, and why is it funny?

A joke goes like this: A friend at work had an unusual dental related problem recently. About a month ago he had to have a small steel plate inserted in his mouth. A week later he noticed the plate ...
3
votes
1answer
3k views

What's the difference between “Cross Country Running” and “Trail Running”?

"Trail running" shoes differs markedly from "road running" shoes and "track running" shoes. I can understand these categories. But I also found an event entitled "Cross Country Running Event". Can the ...
1
vote
3answers
929 views

What do the parts of malevolent and malicious mean?

I understand what the different parts of maladjusted, maligned, and malcontent mean. But what about malevolent and malicious? Could someone break these into parts e.g. mal - adjust - ed and explain ...
4
votes
2answers
15k views

Meaning of “pro” before a noun

First, is "pro" an abbreviated form of "professional"? If yes, does "Pro American" mean "Professional American"?
6
votes
12answers
43k views

What is the etymology and meaning of “fill your boots”?

I have a colleague of whom this is a favorite phrase, used in the sense of "knock yourself out", "go for it", "have at it", "go to town", "help yourself". ("You want to add that feature to the ...
0
votes
2answers
369 views

what does “vertiginous game of chicken” mean and its origin

Taking us behind the scenes, Paulson shows, day by day, how the U.S. government and Federal Reserve got sucked into a vertiginous game of chicken with Wall Street bankers (link)
0
votes
4answers
929 views

What's the meaning of “he walked away a free man”?

I am reading a grammar book. There is an example sentence I can't understand. There is a special pattern where a complement occurs with an action verb, not a linking verb. The related example ...
12
votes
4answers
19k views

Why does “do you read me” mean “do you hear me”?

Why does "Do you read me?" mean "Do you hear me?" This phrase is used (in movies) during radio communication, for example.
1
vote
1answer
204 views

Meaning of: “hollered a shrill, wannabe voice-of-the-people”

"Is anyone up there sober?!" hollered a shrill, wannabe voice-of-the-people, audibly virginal and entitled. What does this sentence mean? I am uncertain of meaning, or implied meaning of 1. ...
1
vote
5answers
9k views

Does “bend over backwards” have bad meaning?

If my boss asks me if I can help him to do something, I reply: I'll bend over backwards to do it. Does this reply literally have a meaning of flattery?
3
votes
7answers
3k views

Alternatives to “hypocrite”

I'm trying to accurately describe a person who acts in one way and does another but knowingly and openly accepts that his actions also include him in the same group he criticizes. This differs from a ...
8
votes
5answers
5k views

What does “new normal” mean?

From one of the survey result (IT related), I came across the following line: Agile Development and Service-Oriented-Architectures (SOA) represent the “new normal.” What does "new normal" ...
1
vote
2answers
636 views

“Mortals” vs “Human Beings”

There is a book titled Running for Mortals. I didn't recognize word mortal. Then I looked up it and get the meaning as below. mortal N - A human being I wonder, is mortal widely used as human ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

Is it right to say “Viewpoints made easy”?

I'm not native in the English language and I'd like to know if when I say "Viewpoints made easy" your perception leads you to something like: Viewpoints made easy. An easy form to connect and ...
6
votes
3answers
34k views

“Money for rope” … meaning and derivation?

I was listening to John Lennon's song "Gimme Some Truth" just now, and in it there's a recurring line: ". . . money for rope." I never thought about it much before, but it strikes me this has ...
12
votes
1answer
650 views

Does underneath imply a greater level of depth than beneath or below?

I was trying to find the origin for the word "beneath" to see when it should be used instead of "below" and I found that it originated from be - neothan and was directed to see the definition of ...
9
votes
4answers
3k views

What does “cable” mean?

I came across the word "cable" very often in http://www.guardian.co.uk. Like: WikiLeaks cables: Drive to tackle Islamists made 'little progress' US embassy cables: How the Guardian protects sources ...
14
votes
5answers
46k views

What does 'ten of six' mean in regard to time?

I am referring of course to the expression describing time. Today a corporate trainer (From north Philadelphia) that is teaching a class at my company used it in the context that the current time was ...
8
votes
4answers
11k views

What does “to give out” mean when talking about a person?

Billy Joel, in the song She's Always a Woman, writes, Oh, and she never gives out, and she never gives in. She just changes her mind. I understand that by "give in" he means "cease fighting or ...
1
vote
2answers
251 views

What's the semantic difference between “How did I <verb> <subject>” and “How I <verb in past tense> <subject>”?

Is there any difference between these two forms? Examples: "How did I take that picture" vs. "How I took that picture" "How did I make the cake" vs. "How I made the cake" "How did I meet my wife" ...