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

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14
votes
6answers
62k views

What's the difference between “client” and “customer”?

I already asked a similar question (customer vs. client vs. user vs. consumer of on-line service) but, I believe, there may be some differences between technical and legal jargon and general usage of ...
3
votes
5answers
667 views

What can't you describe without a picture?

What do you call objects, or kinds of objects, that cannot be described without visual aids?
0
votes
2answers
799 views

What's the meaning of 'cub/s'? [closed]

What's the meaning of "cub" or "cubs" and in what context is it used?
4
votes
3answers
5k views

“Trust” vs. “Cartel”

The establishment of trust is quite difficult but for cartel it is comparatively easy. What is the difference between trust and cartel? Does the word "oligopoly" have a different meaning in ...
5
votes
1answer
203 views

Meaning of “to scratch”

Can the verb to scratch mean "start from the beginning"? Can I say "I scratched" to say "I started from the beginning"?
6
votes
2answers
4k views

What does “to pick someone's cherry” mean?

Does it strictly refer to taking someone's virginity, or does it express sexual intercourse in general?
2
votes
3answers
1k views

What do “muckraker” and “rake muck” mean?

Are they the same? What do they mean? Here is the sentence: I was one of the most experienced. All of us were judged by our ability to rake muck. The head muckraker was Frederica Jansz...
8
votes
1answer
5k views

Which of these meanings for the word “pet” came first?

The word "pet" has a few different definitions (my own paraphrase): n: An animal kept for companionship. v: To affectionately caress. My question is, which of these usages originated first? Do we ...
16
votes
4answers
6k views

Isn't the word “uninstall” wrong?

I've never understood this. Why is the proper usage "uninstall"? You can't actually "unin" something at all and this isn't that case with most (all?) other use cases. Examples: You make someone sane,...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

What did Charlie Sheen mean when he said ‘Tired of pretending like not a total bitchin' rock star from Mars’?

In the latest interview of Charlie Sheen in the NBC’s ‘The Good Morning America,’ Sheen said that he was tired of pretending he’s not a total bitchin rock star from Mars. Although I guess he is ...
8
votes
2answers
4k views

What is funny in this paraprosdokian?

I was reading the wiki page about paraprosdokians when I come across this sentence. One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas, how he got in my pajamas, I don't know. What is funny about it?
6
votes
5answers
31k views

“State” vs “country” as “nation”

I came across an article talking about the difference between state and country, when they mean nation, like United States of America, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and ...
2
votes
1answer
6k views

Intimate and Intimate

I was thinking about the "intimate" word used here: How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend? How can I differentiate both words? Edit: in response to comments, I don't quite ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

How does “have to” function in this sentence?

Usually, I think "have to" indicates obligation, which is pretty similar to "must". But today I found this sentence and its usage of "have to" confused me: (it is from NYTimes.com) Long-term ...
6
votes
4answers
5k views

What does 'two-bit paper pusher' mean?

I often find a joke titled, ‘When a grandma goes to court’ followed by the line, ‘Lawyers should never ask a question if they aren’t prepared for the answer.’ I don’t know if it’s a popular joke or ...
0
votes
1answer
227 views

What is “the spirit of aloha”?

I’ve read this expression in a news article related to a Hawaiian politician: “He is well-regarded in both Washington and in the islands for his gracious manner and spirit of aloha.” I understand ...
4
votes
6answers
1k views

Is 'learn' the new 'teach'?

With seemingly increasing frequency I come across a phrase using 'learn' when I think it should be 'teach'. The classic example is 'that will learn them!', as in "Shoot all criminals - that will ...
2
votes
6answers
1k views

'Target group' or '(Target) market'?

I am looking at a corporate brochure that includes the phrase: Our international target group includes governments, businesses and semi-private organisations. Somehow the word 'target group' ...
8
votes
1answer
14k views

“They're not” vs. “they aren't”

How dissimilar are "they're not" and "they aren't"? Is it dependent on context or are these exactly the same? They are supposed to be going, but they are not. They are not going.
0
votes
1answer
8k views

What's the meaning of the phrase “take a stand on”? [closed]

The object model and relational model are different schemas and as such compromises have to happen. NHibernate makes a very good job in hiding those compromises in most cases, but when it comes to ...
12
votes
3answers
10k views

What is the difference between “appropriate” and “suitable”?

What is the difference between "appropriate" and "suitable"?
0
votes
5answers
2k views

Is “got insane” a correct sentence with a meaning?

First of all: it should be obvious English is not my native language. ;) A customer of mine just bought a domain, gotinsane, and I am just wondering if it has some meaning and if it is correct ...
2
votes
1answer
4k views

Where does the “busman's holiday” expression come from?

I understand the expression to mean doing something on a holiday that you would normally do at your job. So, am I to understand that the expression simply refers to a bus driver going for a ride on ...
4
votes
1answer
550 views

What does “undoable” mean?

When something is undoable, does it mean that it has the ability to be reverted back to its previous state or does it mean that it's not feasible? I broke something on my computer and a fix is ...
3
votes
4answers
497 views

What do ‘a little Marilyn Monroe drag,’ 'whassup,’ and 'worked her derriere off' mean?

The Washington Post’s article on the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on ABC written by Hank Stuever under the headline, At Oscars, the kids were all right and the 'Speech' was well-prepared was full of ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

What does “funny farm” mean? [closed]

What does funny farm mean in the following lyrics? They're coming to take me away ha ha They're coming to take me away ho ho hee hee ha ha To the funny farm Where life is beautiful all the ...
0
votes
3answers
342 views

What is the tipping point for “non sequitur”?

What is the point at which a non sequitur morphs into the incongruous? Is it predicated upon contextual ideas leading up to the statement, or is it subjective based on the conclusion of the idea ...
1
vote
8answers
9k views

Could you name some numbers that have a special meaning in English, like 666? [closed]

The question "What does the term “86'd” relate to?" made me wonder what similar cases we have in English. I'd like to know some other numbers that have a commonly understood meaning beyond their use ...
0
votes
2answers
258 views

What's the reason of prepositioning Internet with “on” but not “in”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “in the internet” and “on the internet” Why do we say "on the Internet" but not "in the Internet"? This seems to be against the meaning of these ...
3
votes
6answers
53k views

What does “pregnant pause” mean?

Question is self-explanatory. Just curious and want to expand my knowledge of English.
0
votes
2answers
517 views

What is “take note of the fine print”?

A friend of mine bought something on Groupon, and received a mail about how to use the voucher. It says: Open the pdf file attachment Print voucher Take note of the fine print Redeem ...
1
vote
3answers
1k views

Meaning of 'sky high'?

China is a rich country, yet food prices are sky high. The word 'sky' seems an adjective.
0
votes
5answers
4k views

“You are not going to be able to … ” versus “you can't …” [closed]

Are there any differences between these two expressions?
11
votes
3answers
18k views

“Bless you” & sneezing

Why do you say Bless you when people sneeze? Is there good reason or history? When someone sneeze, if I don't say Bless you, am I rude?
6
votes
1answer
2k views

What does dig mean in “You are dug into a position”?

The context is : I think you are dug into a position. And you think it's a sign of weakness to change your mind.
4
votes
4answers
870 views

What does ‘Pinkie-sized’ mean?

I found the word, ‘Pinkie-sized’ in the following examples. From the definition of ‘pinkie’ as ‘small –Scottish / child talk in a dictionary at hand, and ‘small finger’ in Oxford Advanced Learner’s ...
3
votes
1answer
407 views

Does a road that “snakes” always imply a “winding” road?

If one says that a road snakes, does it necessarily imply that the road is winding? Or can it also express that the road is long and stretched out?
13
votes
7answers
19k views

What does the term “86'd” relate to?

What does it mean when someone or something is referred to as being "86'd"?
1
vote
1answer
522 views

What's the meaning of the phrase “to name others”?

By using this behavior, you can change some of the default settings for this provider like the connection string or whether the instance should be removed from the database after its ...
4
votes
2answers
982 views

What does ‘cutting with’ mean in ‘someone is right there cutting with the rest of them’?

I read the following lead copy in today's Washington Post article titled "Back home, GOP freshmen find fiscal responsibility can be tricky business." What does "cutting with" mean? I don’t find the ...
13
votes
3answers
22k views

Difference between “sorcerer” and “wizard”

What is the difference between sorcerer and wizard? I know that the nomenclature is unclear. However, the common usage seems to indicate: a wizard is born an ordinary mortal, learns magic and ...
58
votes
4answers
82k views

What does “something 101” mean? [closed]

Many times I saw the phrase something 101, such as Microsoft Excel 101. What exactly does it mean?
3
votes
3answers
450 views

What does 'Tear yet’ mean on the Charlie Sheen’s rant about his qualms with CBS

I stumbled on the word tear yet in the following sentence in today's Washington Post article titled "Charlie Sheen radio outburst spurs shutdown of ‘Two and a Half men.’" What does tear (yet) mean ...
3
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the difference between omnidirectional and non-directional?

As I understand it, omnidirectional and non-directional both indicate that something: ...is not affected by direction in any way Is the meaning of these two words equivalent.
16
votes
8answers
8k views

What is “the exception that proves the rule”?

I've heard the phrase, "the exception that proves the rule," but it's not clear to me what it means. It sounds self contradictory. What is a good example of "an exception that proves the rule?" Can ...
2
votes
4answers
492 views

What does “What the monarchies have going for them are royal families that allow them to stand above the fray” mean?

I saw the sentence in the following quote of Kenneth M. Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, about Middle East upheaval in New York Times’ ‘...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the significance of the name John Doe in the 1940's?

What is the significance of the name John Doe in the 1940's?
0
votes
2answers
2k views

What's the meaning of the phrase “take cares of”?

What is the usage, and why use plural? The context is here: The automatic support for long - running workfl ows that the WF infrastructure provides is the most evident benefi t. The ...
1
vote
1answer
1k views

Classical language [closed]

What are classical languages? How they are different from other languages? Is English is an example of classical language?
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Interpreting the meaning of 'but' as an implication for exclusion/inclusion

I often find it difficult to interpret the meaning of but in some of the sentences where it is used to imply exclusion/inclusion. For example: Drink everything you want but alcohol. Also, sometimes ...