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

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2
votes
4answers
6k views

Difference between ritual, festival, and ceremony

I am trying draw a line of distinction between these three events. As I understand it: Ritual is somewhat related to a religion. Festival is associated with a group of people and that brings ...
5
votes
1answer
423 views

What is a “BEA bag”?

I read this in an Agatha Christie novel from 1965: He certainly left here on Thursday evening carrying his BEA bag. What is a BEA bag? Is it a brand or a specific type of bag? Googling doesn't ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the difference between “urgent” and “critical”?

When it comes to "the level of importance", what is the difference between "urgent" and "critical"? I have my own idea, but I recently came upon a scenario where the relative level of importance was ...
20
votes
11answers
4k views

Is “chubby” offensive?

I said to a person that she is "chubby" and, apparently, she took it very seriously. What I meant to say is that she's not skin and bones, she carried more pounds than needed but, precisely because of ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Difference between “lore” and “folklore”

What is the difference between lore and folklore? What are the best examples where to use one and not the other?
2
votes
5answers
377 views

Is it all right to say “all men have one head”?

I've just found this quote, "All things have two handles: beware of the wrong one." (Emerson, The American Scholar; after Epictetus, The Enchiridion, 43) My questions are: Why shouldn't it be ...
1
vote
3answers
732 views

Use of the term Hans in an American name in the 1700's

I'm doing some research on family history. I am trying to track some people that came to the U.S from Germany in 1737 on the ship "Charming Nancy". Here's the link: ...
4
votes
1answer
3k views

What might “knock me over with a feather” mean?

I recently received a text message which read: "well, knock me over with a feather!" It was in response to a statement which may or may not have been surprising (I honestly have no idea). Has anyone ...
15
votes
4answers
6k views

Why does “fishwife” mean “mean woman”?

I have looked at the meaning of fishwife at Collins Language (I can't link directly to the definition) and it tells me: fishwife n (pl -wives) a coarse or bad-tempered woman with a loud voice ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

What does 'cut each other off' mean?

What does 'cut each other off' mean when it is in the context of driving or walking?
7
votes
5answers
332 views

What is the “sports” in “sports car”?

Why are nice cars called "sports cars"? Where does the "sports" come from? Is it simply because they are eligible for racing and racing is a sport (or is it)? Or is there some other origin?
1
vote
2answers
463 views

What kind of sound is a chirruping noise?

The sound I’d like to know is that made by a man toward a cat and a horse, not made by animals. According to a dictionary, when a man chirrups, it means to make clucking or clicking sounds with the ...
3
votes
3answers
511 views

Is this correct usage of the word “spoil”?

Is the following statement appropriate? A concerned expression starts to slowly spoil his looks. I am trying to say that a person's expression saddens within a minute or two while pondering over ...
5
votes
4answers
3k views

What is the meaning and etymology of 'scut' from 'scut work'?

What is the origin of scut in scut work? According to Merriam-Webster, scut work: routine and often menial labor Probably from medical argot, scut meaning 'junior intern' First known use: circa 1962 ...
5
votes
5answers
7k views

“Ineffectual” vs “ineffective”

Skeptics argue that these kinds of initiatives are doomed to remain perennially peripheral and ineffectual. Intuitively, changing ineffectual to ineffective in the sentence above seems to ...
4
votes
3answers
7k views

“Adaption” vs “adaptation” [closed]

I'm writing a formal paper and have a section about the process of adapting a model to a new situation. Should I title the section model adaption or model adaptation? I'm rather confused by the ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

Does “commute to” refer to both there and back from work?

I want to tell someone the following: "I bring an e-reader with me on the bus every day so that I have something to do during my commute to work." Does the phrase "commute to work" clearly refer to ...
13
votes
4answers
59k views

“Warranty” vs. “guarantee”

Is there any relation or difference between warranty and guarantee? What do they mean? In what situations do we use them? For example, I suppose we say When we buy something it has a warranty.
3
votes
2answers
2k views

What does ‘peer around something’ mean?

Broadly speaking, peer seems to have two meanings, looking intently and being partially visible. a). She peered into the darkness. b). The moon peered from behind dark clouds. However, I ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

“A guy whose job is to” vs “a guy whose job it is to”?

I've been hearing the phrase "whose job it is to" quite often lately. Consider these two sentences: We have a guy whose job is to clean windows. We have a guy whose job it is to clean ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

Is 'verbiage' still considered to be insulting?

All the references I'm finding says that 'verbiage' is used when trying to insult a work or person for being too wordy. My experience with the word (by my own usage and the usage of others around me) ...
5
votes
4answers
34k views

What is the meaning of “I got you”?

What does I got you mean? Does it mean Ok, I understood what you said or Hey, I know that you did that? If they are both correct, when should we use which?
5
votes
5answers
2k views

What does “devil a bit” mean?

I’ve read this in older books, and I get the impression that it means “not at all”, but the construction doesn’t make sense. Am I right as to the meaning? And how should I interpret the form? ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

What construction does ‘A wise man is never less alone than when alone’ have?

I think this proverb roughly means that a wise man isn’t lonely even if he is without company. However, when considering its construction, my understanding is starting to get shaky. Let me explain ...
1
vote
3answers
2k views

What does “of a kind” mean?

I'm not referring to "one of a kind" or "first of a kind" but "the two were of a kind". This turns out to be remarkably un-Googlable so I am having difficulty providing examples. In context I have ...
52
votes
8answers
9k views

History of “X is dead. Long live X”

What is the history of "X is dead. Long live X"? For example, Location is dead. Long live Location. JavaScript is dead. Long live JavaScript. I feel like I'm missing out on a joke.
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Fish fish fish [closed]

I have seen that buffalo buffalo... has been posted here before. However some sites claim also that the sentence Fish fish fish fish fish fish fish. makes sense. Can someone confirm and ...
2
votes
1answer
321 views

“This thing will hang me up if I live to be.”

"This thing will hang me up if I live to be." What does this sentence mean? It's from Columbo S02E01. I can provide context if neccessary.
2
votes
1answer
646 views

What is the modern day equivalent of a “dandy?”

The Japanese still use this word to describe how a person dresses. However I'm sure that their idea of dandy is different from what I saw in Wikipedia, which shows pictures of men from hundreds of ...
0
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “Kooing” mean?

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081226070704AAhqTFt; Maybe its the sound like a Kooing, like a little baby would make? What does Kooing mean in this context? Is Koo a word or ...
0
votes
1answer
435 views

What does “If only the same could be said for every aspect of JavaScript!” mean?

I am trying to learn JavaScript, but my English is not that good. While reading Simply JavaScript by Kevin Yank & Cameron Adams, I came across this paragraph, and I want to know what one sentence ...
1
vote
2answers
779 views

What is the connotation of the word 'O'? [closed]

What is the author trying to convey with the word 'O' in the following: He has told you, O man, what is good;
2
votes
3answers
180 views

Change of meaning by changing “of” to “in”

Poland is the historical bone in the throat of both Germany and Russia, and it is in the American interest to make sure that it is firmly lodged there. and Poland is the historical bone ...
2
votes
3answers
471 views

How should I understand “archaeocyte” in this sentence?

Consider the following sentence: The fossil consists of a complete skull of an archaeocyte, an extinct group of ancestors of modern cetaceans. Does it mean "the fossil consists of a complete ...
2
votes
2answers
9k views

What's the difference between “swollen” and “inflamed”?

As the title says, what is the difference between swollen and inflamed?
19
votes
1answer
57k views

What is the proper name for “AM” and “PM”?

I know that AM/PM is for ante/post meridiem, but what is it actually called? Meridian indicator? 12 hour indicator? Something way more clever?
3
votes
1answer
491 views

Letters after a number, such as 1st

Is there a name for letters that follow a number, such as the "st" in 1st or "nd" in 2nd?
10
votes
5answers
5k views

“Known unknown” vs. “unknown known”

I was recently reading a review of Donald Rumsfeld's autobiography. The reviewer cited one of his famous phrases; he quoted it as "unknown known." Now my memory was that the phrase Rumsfeld used was ...
11
votes
3answers
20k views

Difference between phrase, idiom and expression [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the difference between an expression and a phrase? Difference between “phrase” and “idiom” What is the difference between a phrase, an ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

“State-of-the-art” and “technology”

I recently saw the etymology of the word technology and it comes from Greek thchni meaning art and logos which means word, reasoning, and stuff like that. So I reckon technology means doing something ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

“Should” vs “have to”

Consider: You should do it. You have to do it. Does should show suggestion and have to show compulsion or motivation? Correct me if I'm wrong.
0
votes
4answers
984 views

What is the meaning of “Set us up the [noun]”?

Why would someone frequently say "Someone set us up the (thing)" when referring to things done to or for them. For example: "Someone set us up the breakfast." "Someone set us up the ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

What's the meaning of “bootstrap”?

Can anyone explain the meaning of "bootstrap" to a Spanish Speaker? Here is some context: One aspect of ... (something) ... is the need to bootstrap the configuration.
40
votes
6answers
25k views

What is meant by “don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining”?

I have heard a couple of times recently the phrase "don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining", usually in the context of a heated argument so I've hesitated to ask speaker what exactly he meant ...
1
vote
3answers
337 views

What does 'a beautifully-proportioned room' mean?

“Oh I would never dream of assuming I know all Hogwarts’ secrets, Igor,” said Dumbledore amicably. “Only this morning, for instance, I took a wrong turning on the way to the bathroom and found ...
2
votes
2answers
78 views

What is the meaning of 'an expression of such smugness that Harry thought it ought to be fined'?

Harry took the hint and sat down next to Percy, who was wearing brand-new, navy-blue dress robes and an expression of such smugness that Harry thought it ought to be fined. (Harry Potter 4 [US ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

“Extract” v. “Extricate”

I was having a debate with my family about the differences between the usage of extract and extricate. For example, can one extricate a non-living item? Can one extricate a hair? We have heard of ...
3
votes
2answers
555 views

Why does the verb “overlook” have such a different meaning from “oversee”?

Oversee: -verb (used with object), -saw, -seen, -see·ing. 1. to direct (work or workers); supervise; manage: He was hired to oversee the construction crews. 2. to see or observe secretly ...
1
vote
1answer
1k views

“Such is life, and every day is getting sucher and sucher”

Where did this saying come from? Such is life, and every day is getting sucher and sucher. It doesn't make any sense to me, perhaps because I'm not a native English speaker. Can someone explain? ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

What does “to trap in amber” mean and where does it come from?

I guess that’s one of the reasons I do write here, to trap in amber these states of emotion and experience in some way so I can look back and ultimately think that I was writing a lot more in ...