This tag is for questions seeking a phrase that fits a meaning. If you're specifically seeking only a single word, see the "single word requests" tag too.

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3
votes
5answers
915 views

Opposite of “straight talk”

What is the opposite for the straight talk idiom? How do I best call the activity when someone makes a very long preamble before he says what he wants?
2
votes
1answer
102 views

Is there a better name for this than “emphatic and”?

In semi-poetic writing, I have had occasion to deviate from the standard prose list practice (interpose commas or semicolons between items, with an "and" preceding the final item), by utilizing a ...
2
votes
2answers
3k views

Idiom to describe something that has little to no effect?

I'm looking for an idiom to describe something that has a negligible effect. The only similar question I found here was: An idiom meaning someone's doing something useless and has no result at ...
1
vote
2answers
3k views

Words for “a bit sad” and “a bit happy”?

Are there words or other phrases for "a bit sad" and "a bit happy"? Thank you! Edit: I'm sorry for the confusion. I wanted at least two words: one for "a bit sad" and one for "a bit happy". Thanks ...
0
votes
3answers
103 views

another way to express readiness for something

I am trying to express the idea that I am ready to begin in a way that is personal and not excessively formal or stilted. I have overused ready to begin something form. Other ways to do so can ...
-1
votes
1answer
103 views

Word for 'Lacking a subject'

The poet Medbh McGuckian often lacks subjects in her sentences, for example: "From behind the moon boys' graves \ bleed endlessly" ~ From Love Affair with Firearms She doesn't ever define the ...
206
votes
37answers
81k views

Is there a non-sexual phrase for sleeping with someone?

The phrase "sleeping with someone" often means "having sex." What is the origin of this sexual connotation? Is there a non-sexual equivalent of this phrase to express sleeping with someone without ...
88
votes
15answers
16k views

Is there an English idiom for trying to do two things at the same time and failing at both of them due to splitting your effort?

I'm basically searching for the opposite of putting all your eggs in one basket, where the risk is total failure because you did not hedge your efforts. I'm searching for a phrase that encompasses ...
33
votes
6answers
111k views

Polite alternatives to “as soon as possible”

I’ve found myself writing the phrase “as soon as possible” just too often. Sometimes I wonder if it sounds a little rude. How can I convey the same meaning in a more polite way but without losing ...
22
votes
10answers
17k views

A word for the heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can't have

There is a phrase in French that exactly means this: "la douleur exquise" It literally means "the exquisite pain" and expresses the pain of wanting the affection of someone unattainable. I think it ...
16
votes
11answers
2k views

Is there an equivalent of “reverie” where one is lost in unpleasant thoughts?

To say "the noise outside shook her from her reverie" implies she was lost in pleasant daydreams. What if she was lost in worry or unpleasant thoughts? Is there an equivalent term (single word or ...
29
votes
14answers
5k views

Is there a verb for remaining silent?

Dutch has the verb zwijgen, which means remaining silent. Ik zwijg means I remain silent or I say nothing. It is also often used as an imperative, similar to shut up. I have been discussing this ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

What do you call a Q&A user who posts a question but never checks back?

I have searched for a term that describes users who post questions and then disappear without trace. These users will post and write their questions in a great flurry, sometimes ignoring the basic ...
10
votes
4answers
756 views

People who sell their virginity for money

I'm Vietnamese and I'm writing an essay about prostitution. I want to ask the word to express properly the people who sell their virginity for money. In Vietnamese, we use a phrase literally means ...
48
votes
24answers
6k views

Are there counterpart English expressions to Japanese proverb, "the nail that pops up is always hammered down?

I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is always hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received. I wondered ...
21
votes
8answers
1k views

What is a better way to name “The Wrong Question”?

On StackOverflow.com I often find that people ask questions about problems that arise due to poor design choices (typically due to a lack of knowledge about the particular programming language). For ...
18
votes
13answers
8k views

What do you call a sick person who is lying in bed?

Some conditions require that a person lie in bed all the time until recovered. Is there a name for such conditions or people experiencing them at the moment? For example, I am currently <bed ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

Is there a name for how the Irish use so, so?

There is an Irish English structural usage of the word so, that is I think unique to Ireland. Are we going to the cinema, so? Where is the dog, so? The word so is unneeded and seems to mean ...
15
votes
9answers
5k views

Is there a term for simultaneous snow and rain?

I'm from Australia where we don't have so many kinds of precipitation. I'm familiar with these: rain hail snow sleet As I understand it, sleet refers to frozen rain but I'm not totally familiar ...
11
votes
8answers
1k views

Is there an idiom that corresponds to the Hungarian expression “fall off the other side of the horse”?

There's a Hungarian phrase that can be literally translated as something like "fall off the other side of the horse". (The literal implication is either that instead of falling off this side of the ...
10
votes
8answers
643 views

English term for pre-thinker?

I was searching for an English translation for the German Vordenker. Basically a person, often a scientist, who began or further significantly developed a new concept or theory by contributing ...
6
votes
10answers
1k views

How to describe useless conversation?

Is there a word or concise English expression for the kind of discussion that is heated, perhaps a bit contentious or pretentious, but ultimately off-topic, vague, or too abstract to be useful? A ...
6
votes
3answers
448 views

What is the name of the moment when the detective solves the mystery or realizes who the murderer is?

In many Whodunit mystery stories, there's a scene when the detective (e.g., Hercule Poirot) discovers (or overhears) the final clue (or a phrase another characters says) that makes this detective ...
5
votes
1answer
415 views

An event that occurs only once

What do you call an event that occurs only once in its environment? For instance, birth and death are two events that occur only once in the lifetime of a living thing. I am looking for a word or ...
4
votes
11answers
11k views

Phrase for something that is always out or reach/you almost have but never can get

I believe there is a two-word phrase for something that is always just out of reach for you and which you cannot ever seem to get. (It is not Tantalus or anything having to do with Tantalus, please). ...
1
vote
6answers
18k views

What do you call a person who always has a pleasant smile on his face?

What do you call a person who always has a pleasant smile on his face. Is there anything better than calling him a "Pleasing personality"?
47
votes
18answers
6k views

The act of baiting someone into (incorrectly) calling bullshit

Is there a single word, or commonly-used term, to describe the act of baiting another person into calling bullshit, when in fact you're not bullshitting? Conceptually, this either a sub-type, or the ...
33
votes
9answers
4k views

Person who pretends to not understand unless one speaks in exactly the words they expect [duplicate]

I just realized there are some people around my workplace who always try to correct me when using a certain word, saying that that's not how I should speak, and I should use other words (the ones ...
29
votes
17answers
7k views

Opposite of 'Midas touch'?

I'm wondering what word or phrase could be used for the counter examples of 'Midas touch' effect. The Midas touch, or the gift of profiting from whatever one undertakes, is named for a legendary ...
15
votes
12answers
33k views

What is the English word closest to Japanese “Ganbatte,” the word for encouraging people who are in disaster, or challenging a severe ordeal?

In Japan, after experiencing the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, “Ganbatte” which contains all sense of “Cheer up, Bear up, Keep your chin up, Be courageous, Do your best” became the password of ...
13
votes
8answers
2k views

What do you call a frustrating and inexplicable ending?

I used to be a fan of the TV show Dexter, I say “used to be”, because until the last season it was a thoroughly enjoyable (and) guilty pleasure of mine. However, season 8 ruined it for me. The twists ...
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Word for “food only partially eaten”

Is there a single word to refer to a food item which has been partially eaten or tasted by someone? To elaborate, let's say there is a bowl of noodles on the table, and someone took a spoon of ...
11
votes
10answers
17k views

Idiom/phrase which means “to pretend not to understand or know”

Sometimes (well, often) people pretend not to understand what's going on (or pretend not to understand what the other person means, etc.) when in fact they do perfectly well. For example, Person A ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

What do you call a slip of the tongue in writing?

Is there any phrase or word that can be used to describe a slip of the tongue that happens in writing? Calling it a slip of tongue directly feels awkward, especially when the written text is never ...
10
votes
24answers
4k views

More emphatic term for “Expert”?

I've hit a wording problem in the controls for a game that I'm writing. I need two nouns with increasing emphasis for someone highly skilled in a given area. "Expert" is an obvious choice, so I need ...
9
votes
5answers
873 views

Words describing the pat acceptance of a thought or practice simply because “that's how it's done.”

I believe that several words or phrases exist to describe the practice of thinking in a certain way or performing a certain action simply because "that's how it's always been done." Another way of ...
8
votes
5answers
986 views

Expression for “Respect them and suspect them”

There is a Hebrew expression explained here: A common Hebrew expression is "Respect them and suspect them". We should always act in a respectful way towards others, but that doesn't obligate us to ...
6
votes
8answers
830 views

Non-pejorative term for behaviour that discriminates against people based on their birth place [duplicate]

A big theme of the UK May 2014 MEP elections is immigration - there is a great deal of political rhetoric about it that I would describe as racist or xenophobic, but I don't think either term is ...
6
votes
4answers
553 views

Analogue of “most recent” for events in the future

In the context of a listing of events that are time-based, it is common to use "Most Recent" to describe a listing of events ordered by date, in descending order, with the upper limit being today's ...
6
votes
4answers
433 views

What's the term when you ask a question which implies a lie?

I remember there was a thread here on English.SE this month where someone explained this, but I can't remember how it was called. An example: Where have you stolen this product? This question ...
6
votes
5answers
10k views

Phrase for asking the obvious

In my language when a question is asking something really obvious we are using a phrase that if translated means: What is making a "meow meow" sound on the roof/rooftop? Is there an equivalent ...
5
votes
5answers
911 views

What would be an English equivalent for the Mexican Spanish word tocayo? [duplicate]

In Mexican Spanish (not sure if other Spanish speaking countries use the word too) we call "tocayo" to those people that share the same name as us (but not necessarily the same last name i.e., Juan ...
5
votes
6answers
4k views

A phrase for “extremely bad luck”

Is there a (short) phrase or idiom meaning that someone had extremely bad luck? In the context of a sports match: as you would have a "perfect game" or the even more specific "perfect hand" (when ...
4
votes
5answers
515 views

What do you call it when a name/word is better known by a pejorative?

A while back, the US Congress passed a bill called the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. The bill quickly became known as “Obamacare”. During the time prior to when cannabis was made ...
4
votes
4answers
3k views

Phrase for a problem that seems impossible, but actually has a simple and obvious solution?

Daniel M. Russell poses what he claims is a deceptively simple brain teaser in his blog: What short 4-word idiomatic phrase (in English) captures [the] idea of a problem that seems impossible, ...
4
votes
3answers
22k views

What is a more formal way to say “Don't get me wrong”?

I think the phrase "Don't get me wrong" in conversation means, "I'm about to say something that you might misunderstand, so don't." I'm looking for a similar phrase that sounds better when speaking ...
3
votes
10answers
746 views

Term for choosing to believe a falsehood

I was wondering if there is a term when you choose to believe something even when you know it is likely untrue? The concept I'm thinking of would differ from cognitive dissonance in that you're ...
3
votes
6answers
3k views

Is there a word or short phrase to indicate the opposite extreme of “racism”?

For example, a person fights (or claims to fight) against racism in the manner of believing a group/ethnicity/etc. (in a culture where this group is often disliked) to be morally superior, and if a ...
3
votes
5answers
1k views

Word or phrase for clumsy, inaccurate expression

I'm seeking a word or phrase useful for referring to a bad sentence which clumsily, inaccurately and ambiguously attempts to express an idea or concept. Bad-sentence example: "We do a ...
2
votes
5answers
222 views

Term for a choice that you like and you dislike?

First Q here. If this has been asked before sorry (Did search) Term for a choice that you like and you dislike? And you can/would probably only take the choice you like. For example: A justice ...