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

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4
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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 ...
3
votes
3answers
5k views

“Cover off” meaning “cover”

I've noticed that some business people (generally management types) have started to use the expression "cover off" to mean "cover". E.g. Can you cover off agenda item 3 for me? or Not ...
2
votes
2answers
494 views

Does ‘long-molared’ have any special meaning?

“You’re joking, Weasley!” said Malfoy, behind them. “You’re not telling me someone’s asked that to the ball? Not the long-molared Mudblood?” (Harry Potter 4 [US Version]: p.404)[Bold font is mine] ...
1
vote
1answer
255 views

What is the meaning of a parenthetic ‘that one’ in a sentence?

“It is too ‘eavy, all zis ‘Ogwarts food,” they heard her saying grumpily as they left the Great Hall behind her one evening. “I will not fit into my dress robes!” “Oooh there’s a tragedy,” ...
5
votes
3answers
129 views

Is there any difference between ‘it’ and ‘so’ as a complement of ‘she looks’?

D’you – d’you want to go to the ball with me?” said Harry. Why did he have to go red now? Why? ”Oh!” said Cho, and she went red too. “Oh Harry, I’m really sorry,” and she truly looked it. ...
2
votes
2answers
414 views

What does “exercise their desire out of them” mean?

“I’m not sure whether they hibernate or not,” Hagrid told the shivering class in the windy pumpkin patch next lesson. “Thought we’d jus’ try an’ see if they fancied a kip … we’ll jus’ settle ‘em ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

What does “in the saddle” mean?

Here is a concrete example taken from a financial article: The ancient regime is in the saddle. I have to laugh whenever I hear Republicans ranting that Barack Obama is a “liberal” or a ...
5
votes
1answer
404 views

Is there a substantial difference between what someone would call a “quotation” or “quote” versus a “saying”?

It can't simply be that the word "quote" seems more formal than "saying" can it?
0
votes
2answers
745 views

What is the meaning of this complex sentence?

The historical roots of democracy in India are well worth considering, if only because the connection with public arguments is often missed, through the temptation to attribute the Indian ...
6
votes
2answers
249 views

“Practise the piano” vs. “practise medicine”

Someone who practises medicine is a professional. Someone who practises the piano is still learning. How have these two apparently opposite senses of the word practise arisen?
5
votes
4answers
12k views

Print vs type. What is the difference exactly?

I am filling out some employment forms and came across the following sentence that I don't fully understand: Print your full legal name, address, date of birth and social security number. Please ...
2
votes
2answers
387 views

A word that means harmful to touch?

I'm looking for a word to describe something that's harmful to touch. A word like corrosive or caustic, but without the implied danger itself (acidic, burning, etc.). Something like: The surface of ...
12
votes
10answers
11k views

'Preternatural' vs 'supernatural'

I am wondering what the precise differences between preternatural and supernatural are. I know praeter is Latin for beyond so that preternatural literally means beyond natural. But how exactly ...
1
vote
2answers
5k views

What does the phrase “the fine point” mean?

I heard about this sentence, "How to do it well? The fine point: ...." What does 'the fine point' mean in this context?
9
votes
3answers
2k views

What does ‘make a buck off’ mean?

I found the phrase ‘make a buck off’ in the following lead copy of the article of Time magazine (July 15) titled ‘Carmaggedon: It May Be a Bust, but It's Already a Bonanza,’ reporting the chaos caused ...
5
votes
7answers
874 views

Are older senses of “anent” still alive in any dialect?

The obscure preposition anent has a long history, going back as far as Beowulf: him on efn ligeð ealdorgewinna [line 2903] ("beside him lies his great enemy") It has carried many meanings, ...
8
votes
4answers
8k views

Is there any difference in meaning between “She is not around” and “She is not here”?

Is there any difference in meaning between "She is not around" and "She is not here"? I heard both, but never quite got the difference.
4
votes
4answers
971 views

What does “subset” mean as a verb?

Quoted from http://xml-tips.assistprogramming.com/sgml-xml-html-xhtml-all-together.html: XHTML is the basis for a family of future document types that extend and subset HTML. I understand ...
0
votes
3answers
219k views

Etymology and meaning of “When does the narwhal bacon?”

There's a meme on reddit where the users tend to ask, When does the narwhal bacon? The only correct answer to that question is At midnight. What is the etymology and the meaning of this ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Correct use of “mooted”

Is the use of mooted correct here? I keep thinking the author wanted bruited. Yesterday I heard an economist in the UK use it in the same way. Coffee mooted as a breast cancer preventer.
2
votes
1answer
5k views

What does it mean to “draw a line under something”?

The intuitive answer to me would be to "emphasize" something. This explanation seems different from others I've seen, however, that say it means to "finish something". Help on this?
1
vote
3answers
782 views

Interpretation of “Are you engaged?”

What's the meaning for engage in the conversation below: Are you engaged, Margaret? Of course I'm not. Why do you ask, Nicholett? I only wanted to practice my English. Oh, I see. You want to ...
1
vote
4answers
5k views

Which is correct: “I am drinking ice cream” or “I am eating ice cream”?

Assuming there is no material in ice cream to be chewed, which is the correct sentence? I am drinking ice cream. I am eating ice cream.
13
votes
8answers
2k views

Does the term “Asian” have different meanings among various English-speaking countries?

I have always had the view that the term "Asian", when pertaining to cultures, primarily refers to the cultures of the Far East. Recently I have been told that it also includes Indian and other ...
13
votes
3answers
4k views

Origin of “quarters” in the sense of living area

I was explaining to my son that HQ stood for "headquarters," when he surprised me by dividing the word into "head" and "quarters." I had never considered this word thusly before, but it's obvious to ...
7
votes
2answers
264 views

How did antonyms “ungodly” and “unearthly” come to have the same meaning and usage today?

Inspired by the debate on this question, unearthly has the original meaning from 1610s, of "heavenly, sublime" which makes it an antonym of ungodly. Today both have the meaning of outrageous or ...
1
vote
2answers
831 views

What does “Every once in a while, however, you’ll find yourself crafting ” mean?

My English is not good and I'm trying to improve it. I came across this sentence while reading an article, and I want to know what it means: Every once in a while, however, you’ll find yourself ...
10
votes
5answers
256 views

What is the radical difference between ‘this’ and ‘a’ when telling a story?

The following quotation is a line from Ron to Harry after the first stage of the Triwizard Tournament. (p359, Harry Potter 4, US edition) “You were the best, you know, no competition. Cedric did ...
2
votes
1answer
136 views

“On the grasping hand”?

I understand on the other hand. But what's on the grasping hand? Source: Stack Overflow blog.
6
votes
4answers
2k views

If someone is an expert in written (rather than spoken) language, can they still be called a “linguist”?

When I think of “linguistics”, I typically think of the study of spoken languages, particularly phonetics. Compared to “language”, which of course is used of writing systems, ...
3
votes
3answers
508 views

“Transitioning” vs. “transitional” phase

I am wondering if it is correct to say: This is a transitioning phase. Personally, I would say This is a transitional phase. but my friend insists that the above is just as correct as my ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the meaning of the suffix “‑don”?

What are the meaning and origin of the suffix ‑don, as in the words pteranodon and megalodon?
8
votes
7answers
35k views

What does the phrase “ungodly hour” really mean?

When I hear people speak of "this ungodly hour" they are usually complaining about being awake (or especially working) earlier than they are accustomed. But why is this called ungodly? It would seem ...
9
votes
5answers
698 views

Has “dilemma” ever been restricted to two options?

I was surprised to discover my dictionary had this entry for dilemma: a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, esp. equally undesirable ones The ...
4
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “Eat our peas” mean - where does it come from?

In a recent speech about the national debt, Obama said it's time to "Eat our peas". What does it mean - where does it come from?
3
votes
3answers
947 views

Pioneers Often Die with Arrows in their Backs

What's the meaning of Pioneers Often Die with Arrows in their Backs I mean i can roughly gauge it to be the first to move dies, but why arrows in the backs ?
1
vote
3answers
1k views

Contrapositive and Contranegative

What do contrapositive and contranegative mean and when are these used with respect to positive and/or negative? I specifically have this article in mind. The word contranegative is used in the ...
1
vote
3answers
552 views

What does “a slightly overblown cartoon figure” mean?

“Harry! Good-o!” said Bagman happily, looking around at him. “Come in, come in, make yourself at home!” Bagman looked somehow like a slightly overblown cartoon figure, standing amid all the ...
3
votes
6answers
455 views

Is the word “single” necessary to be added when specifying a thing?

I think the word single is not necessary because the article a or an has done the job. So the phrase "a single object" should be simplified as "an object". What do you think?
5
votes
2answers
215 views

“Pongo absolutely-ed heartily.”

What is the meaning of "absolutely-ed" in this sentence?
0
votes
1answer
704 views

Expression “making a bid/break for freedom”?

What is the difference between "making a bid for freedom" and "making a break for freedom"? In which situations would one use one and not the other?
15
votes
6answers
803 views

What would be the word equivalent of paperwork in the digital age?

The classic definition for paperwork says Routine work involving written documents such as forms, records, or letters. Now, given that we are in the digital age and computers have taken many ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Is there a double-meaning to “picking my belly button” in this context? [closed]

I understand all the individual words in the following remark, but there doesn't seem to be any connection between the first half and the second. I am left wondering whether there is an English idiom ...
9
votes
4answers
24k views

The expression “hands down.”

How did the expression "hands down" come to mean "without a doubt?"
2
votes
4answers
23k views

Exact meaning of “You must be kidding”?

This is to ask for the exact meaning of the expression You must be kidding. More precisely, is it supposed to be: (a) friendly, (b) antagonistic, or (c) neither one? In French the answer to my ...
3
votes
7answers
4k views

What is the difference between a marque and a brand?

What is the difference between a marque and a brand? For example, why would one use the expression "car marques" instead of "car brands"?
18
votes
5answers
16k views

When I say “comment out”, does it mean to uncomment something or comment it?

When I say "comment out", does it mean to uncomment something or comment it? What is more better, or correctly, used? PS: I'm talking about source code.
9
votes
9answers
22k views

What is the difference between taking courses, classes or lessons?

Currently, I am preparing a letter of my study objectives for an university application. I ask myself what is the exact difference between the following terms? Or can I use them synonymously? taking ...
10
votes
7answers
7k views

Colloquial definition of “douchebag”

Obviously "douchebag" has a literal meaning - however if we see someone wearing sunglasses indoors, we would call them a douchebag. I'm trying to explain this to a friend. How do you verbalize this ...
9
votes
4answers
61k views

What does “five O” mean (and why)?

I've heard quite a few times the term "five O" (eg in the US TV show "the Wire"). It seems to mean "police" (inferred from the context), and I'm curious to know where the expression comes from, and ...