A phrase is a group of words that make a unit of syntax with a single grammatical function.

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8answers
23k views

“Does it make sense?” or “Do you understand me?”? [closed]

Suppose I tell something to my companion and I want to make sure he understands me. I thought I may simply ask "Do you understand me?". But recently I heard that in such cases I should ask "Does that ...
24
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is “head over heels” used as if it were exceptional rather than commonplace?

Most people spend part of each day standing, and if they have normal anatomy their heads are over their heels in this position. Even sitting or lying down, the head is higher than the heels (if not ...
14
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9answers
33k views

What is the origin of the phrase “cut the mustard”?

What is the origin of the phrase "cut the mustard"?
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votes
4answers
7k views

“You could do worse than [x]”

I can't really tell what someone means when he says "you could do worse than [x]." Live example: If you are just interested in a simple command line processor which uses MSXML 6 then you could do ...
5
votes
4answers
793 views

What do you call the exploitation of ambiguous statements to form a logical argument?

If I were construct an argument containing the postulation Men commit more crimes than women. I would be guilty of a logical fallacy because this statement implies All men commit crimes. The ...
3
votes
5answers
561 views

Question Regarding Possessives with ('s) and (of) [duplicate]

Question: Is the first one redundant and proper, or is it redundant and not necessarily correct? (1) He is a friend of Doug's. (2) He is a friend of Doug.
8
votes
3answers
10k views

Where does the phrase “balls to the wall” come from?

I know the phrase means "going all out" but I can't figure out what it literally means or where it originates from.
8
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is “Good Night!” dismissive

To start off let us construct a situation were I am walking along and I pass another person. Depending on the time of day and to be polite I say one of the following: "Good Morning!" "Good Evening!" ...
8
votes
4answers
778 views

“Back up data” or “back data up”?

Which is correct? To back up data. To back data up. The context is the following: He was careful enough to perform tests and [back up data | back data up] to avoid any problems.
8
votes
6answers
2k views

Is there an aphorism for doing a self-defeating act?

Is there a witty turn of phrase that indicates one's performing an act that, in its doing, undermines, contravenes, or obviates itself? This question relates to a similar idea, but I have it in my ...
6
votes
8answers
2k views

What would you call a person who is not a student, but takes interest in exploring academic topics?

A person who is not formally enrolled as a student, researcher or faculty in some university or college but who takes interest in exploring academic topics/stuff. For e.g. Such a person could be ...
6
votes
3answers
33k views

“to a degree” vs. “to an extent”

Is there a measurable difference in meaning between the phrases "to a degree" and "to an extent" (or "to some degree" and "to some extent")? Examples: To [some degree / some extent] that is a ...
5
votes
3answers
3k views

What does “pull sb. out of the hat” mean?

I found the phrase, “pull her out of the hat” in the following sentence of the quote from Frank Bailey, the most relied-upon former aide of Ms.Sarah Palin, whose memoir, “Blind Allegiance to Sarah ...
5
votes
3answers
10k views

What is the origin of the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”?

I thought it'd be frightfully easy to find the etymology of this cliche on the Internet, but so far I haven't had any luck! It wont even tell me if its a maxim or not!
5
votes
3answers
27k views

“Tit for tat”—Where does this come from?

I always ask myself where this saying originates. I only know the individual words, tit and tat, but why is this a saying?
4
votes
3answers
742 views

Take this question with a grain of salt

Where did this ubiquitous phrase come from? Usually it is used in conjunction with either disputable of downright dubious information but I can't think of how salt helps the situation. The only thing ...
1
vote
2answers
699 views

Winter is gone and spring is come [duplicate]

I understand "He is gone" or "Winter is gone" is the common usage. But is "She is come" or "Spring is come" as common?
1
vote
3answers
2k views

How to describe the feeling you get when something exceedingly irritating, irritates you? [closed]

Got extremely annoyed today. But that's not the word I was looking for. I had to deliver a case of bottled water to some friends living in another dorm in our college. I have to tell you, the sound ...
57
votes
4answers
79k 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?
22
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14answers
217k views

Different ways to say “you're welcome” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How do native English speakers respond to “Thank you”? Can “Sure” be used to respond to “Thanks”? Is “not at all” still alive and doing well? I'm getting ...
21
votes
4answers
61k views

What is the difference between “here we go” and “there we go”?

As a non-native speaker, I cannot grasp any difference between the expressions "here we go" and "there we go": both expressions seem to underline an event that is going to happen immediately. Is ...
21
votes
6answers
15k views

“anymore” vs. “any more”

any more requests anymore requests Are these two the same? It seems that "any more requests" is grammatically correct while "anymore requests" is not. Am I right? Why are they different?
23
votes
5answers
155k views

What does “to come undone” actually mean?

I've heard this phrase several times but was given several contradictory interpretations. Please provide an exact meaning of the phase.
27
votes
6answers
25k views

Why do we say “I win” instead of “I won”?

For a long time I was wondering why there is I win instead of I won. I met such usage in a lot of games and movies. For me, it's logical to say I won, because this winning action is done already. I ...
80
votes
16answers
14k views

“Soccer mom”: why soccer?

...why not football mom, baseball mom, or basketball mom? Soccer mom, as far as I can tell, is an American term made popular during the 1996 presidential elections, used to describe a key demographic ...
25
votes
7answers
109k views

What is the meaning of “don't mention it” (in response to “thank you”)?

I read at several places that "don't mention it" is equal to "you're welcome". But for me, the word means something like "don't go around talking about this to anyone". So what is the real meaning of ...
15
votes
10answers
14k views

“Out of pocket”?

I'm increasingly hearing the phrase "out of pocket" used in America as a colloquialism to mean "away from the office", "unavailable", or "incommunicado". I apologize for not replying sooner; I ...
12
votes
6answers
34k views

Can “Sure thing” mean “You're welcome”?

I'm looking for different ways to say "you're welcome." Is "sure thing" one of those ways? If it is, then how? I looked up its meaning and it doesn't seem to make sense as a replacement for "you're ...
7
votes
7answers
1k views

What are some of the most influential or obscure phrases and literary constructions drawn from the Bible?

I was reading through some English L & U SE questions, and happened across one asking about the origin of the phrase "Through a Glass, Clearly / A Scanner Darkly / In a Mirror, Darkly / ...
7
votes
6answers
25k views

What is the difference between “Class of 2004” and “Batch of 2004”?

What is the difference between "Class of 2004" and "Batch of 2004"? I have a feeling that one means the students who joined the university in 2004 and the other means those who graduated in 2004. Is ...
22
votes
9answers
6k views

Is the phrase “I just sucked it out of my thumb” used in American English?

I was born and raised in South Africa. We frequently used the term "to suck out of one's thumb", implying that an answer was just a wild guess or the notion had no evidence but was rather just ...
22
votes
8answers
31k views

Origin of “Too Clever by Half”

The phrase "Too Clever by Half" is used to criticize someone for being overconfident in their thinking. What is the origin of this phrase? I read somewhere that it started as a backhanded compliment ...
17
votes
3answers
23k views

It's all downhill from here

The phrase "it was all downhill from there" seems to have two, contradictory meanings. The first indicates that things have since gotten a lot worse. For example (from ...
17
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5answers
20k views

What does ‘Put one's big boy (girl) pants on’ mean?

I saw the phrase “put somebody's pants on’ in today’s ‘Quote of the Day” of Washington Post (July 17). It quotes the following remark of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Mitt Romney's record at ...
8
votes
5answers
11k views

What is the origin of idiom “Keep your hair on”?

I had a conversation with a coworker and he told me to keep my hair on. My first understanding of the idiom was that he will do something so fast that, if I was wearing a wig or something it will fly ...
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vote
5answers
13k views

“The fact” vs. “The fact that” [closed]

Can you use the phrase ”the fact” without “that”? Consider the two sentences: The fact that it’s Sunday means that I can sleep all day. The fact it’s Sunday means that I can sleep all day. ...
25
votes
27answers
5k views

Common phrase for something that changes while you are working on it

What is a common phrase to describe something that changes while you are working on it without your being aware of it. For example: you are adding comments to a document, and when you submit them you ...
21
votes
12answers
5k views

Are there English equivalents to the Japanese saying, “There’s a god who puts you down as well as a god who picks you up”?

There is an old Japanese saying, “捨てる神あれば、拾う神あり-Suterukami areba hirou kami ari,” meaning “There’s a god who puts you down as well as a god who picks up you.” In other words, “In this world, some ...
21
votes
5answers
11k views

Is “what on earth” still commonly used in real life? Is there any alternative that is not cursing or obscene?

I'm a non-native speaker. When I was at school, we were taught that "on earth" is used for emphasis in questions such as: What on earth are you talking about? However, from my experience ...
18
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5answers
19k views

What is the origin of “holy smoke”?

What is the origin of holy smoke? To what is holy smoke referring?
16
votes
5answers
26k views

What is the origin of the phrase “egg in your beer”?

The phrase "egg in your beer" refers to wanting a bonus or something for nothing. Its common usage is: "What do you want? An egg in your beer?" However, this does not seem to make much sense, as an ...
15
votes
6answers
5k views

What's the most accurate term for phrases such as “storm in a teacup” and “making mountains out of molehills”?

Are phrases such as "storm in a teacup" and "making mountains out of molehills" best described by one of these terms: anecdote proverb saying expression metaphor If not, which term is the right ...
14
votes
7answers
112k views

What does “Suit yourself” mean?

I found this on SO and googled the idiom "suit yourself", but I couldn't find a matching translation. The context was that the questioner was nitpicking and the answerer lost his patience.
13
votes
11answers
32k views

“Environmentally-friendly” vs. “Environment-friendly”

"Environmentally-friendly" sounds completely normal to me. So does "Environment-friendly". But I'm pretty sure I favour the former (despite the fact that I normally prefer the shorter of any two ...
12
votes
1answer
1k views

What is this an example of: “I couldn't fail not to disagree with you less”?

Eisenhower used it constantly to fend off reporters. Is there a term to describe this type of phrase?
8
votes
5answers
13k views

Where does the phrase “in good nick” come from?

The term "in good nick" meaning "in a good condition" came up in conversation and I realised I had no idea where it came from. Searching online seems surprisingly fruitless- there are several roots ...
8
votes
6answers
6k views

Why does “go spare” mean “get angry”?

I don't know whether the phrase "go spare" is used in the US, but it is very common in the UK. e.g. You're an hour late. Mum's going spare upstairs! I would like to know where the phrase comes ...
8
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5answers
6k views

A saying indicating how some professionals don't apply their skills for themselves

Some made-up examples: Architect's house is always crooked. Mechanic's car is leaking Chef's breakfast is as plain as boiled eggs Is there an established saying for these situations?
8
votes
2answers
21k views

“During summer” vs. “during the summer”

What is the difference between saying "during summer" and "during the summer"? As in: I work during the summer. I work during summer. Are both common? Is my feeling correct that the ...
7
votes
3answers
13k views

Talking out of the side of your mouth

Talking out of the side of your mouth This means one is lying, right? Or something else?