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

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6
votes
2answers
1k 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
3k 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
168 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
294 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
705 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' ...
6
votes
1answer
5k 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
3k 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

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

What is the difference between "appropriate" and "suitable"?
0
votes
5answers
1k 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
1k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
255 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
417 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
791 views

What does “funny farm” mean?

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
312 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
4k 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
219 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 ...
2
votes
6answers
31k views

What does “pregnant pause” mean?

Question is self-explanatory. Just curious and want to expand my knowledge of English.
0
votes
2answers
317 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
2answers
648 views

Meaning of 'sky high'?

China is a rich country, yet food prices are sky high. The word 'sky' seems an adjective.
0
votes
4answers
2k views

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

Are there any differences between these two expressions?
9
votes
3answers
6k 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
549 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
577 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
286 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?
12
votes
6answers
6k 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
313 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
697 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
11k 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 ...
41
votes
4answers
26k 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
416 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
1k 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.
9
votes
4answers
3k 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
413 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
930 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
873 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
746 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
897 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
597 views

What's the meaning of the word “nerd-crush”?

This is the context: I’m just going to come right out and say it, I have a huge nerd-crush on jQuery. I have for several years. Actually, it may be more of a love affair.
4
votes
4answers
2k views

“Peel”, “pare”, and “skin”

I lately learnt these three words of similar meanings: peel, pare, and skin. In what case do you use each of them? Could you give me example sentences along with a concise description for each?
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Does “peculiar” imply “unusual”/“hard to expect”?

When something is called peculiar or having a peculiarity what does that mean? Does it just mean it has some specific features or does it mean that those specific features are unusual, not normally ...
3
votes
1answer
339 views

What does ‘Gut the Roster’ mean?

I find the phrase ‘gut the (one’s) roster’ very often in the sport section of news papers as used in the following examples. What does it mean? Is it used only in sport related context? 1.He ‘gutted ...
4
votes
2answers
544 views

“What is to become of them?”

What is to become of them? = What are they to become? What has become of them? = What have they become? What will become of them? = What will they become? I was wondering if the three ...
2
votes
1answer
277 views

Meaning of “Profit”

I was asking a question about how to deal with sweat in shoes. Some replied: Wash. Let them dry out. Profit. What does "Profit" mean here? Someone suggested it is related to South ...
0
votes
2answers
369 views

“The bastard spawn of Spoo and Vox raised by RSS” [closed]

Does a person who doesn't sweat really exist? Yes. The bastard spawn of Spoo and Vox raised by RSS. What is the meaning of the reply? What do "bastard spawn" and "Spoo and Vox" and "RSS" ...
2
votes
2answers
9k views

What is the meaning of “Good Grief”?

What does this mean: Good Grief! Is it a formal or informal expression?
5
votes
2answers
5k views

What is the difference between “used to” and “I was used to”?

What is the difference in the meaning between the following two tenses? I used to travel alone. I was used to traveling alone.
13
votes
4answers
3k views

Origin of “rub someone the wrong way”

What is the origin of the idiomatic expression rub someone the wrong way? Is it correct to use the idiom in reverse, i.e. rub someone the right way, possibly meaning to calm or to please?
6
votes
2answers
12k views

Cleanness vs Cleanliness

I only heard "cleanness" for the first time yesterday - I did not know this word existed. So what's the difference between cleanness and cleanliness? I've read this ...
3
votes
2answers
262 views

What does ‘[Ronald Reagan’s] colossus with gilded pecs, red-painted smile and an NRA-approved pistol in his fist' mean?

I have been seeing many articles on myths about Ronald Reagan recently in newspapers. I don’t know why Reagan is mentioned so often these days. I guess it is related with American people’s growing ...
4
votes
2answers
24k views

What does “wrt” mean? [closed]

What is the meaning of wrt in the following text? I think this is an excellent idea, but I'd like to see this explicitly reframed under the banner of providing Drupal.org data through ...