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

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6
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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
807 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 ...
25
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5answers
149k views

Origin of the phrase, “There's more than one way to skin a cat.”

The meaning is clear, but where did this phrase originate? Was it always such a gruesome reference?
8
votes
4answers
792 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
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
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 ...
7
votes
3answers
35k 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 ...
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 ...
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
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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!
4
votes
3answers
755 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
733 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?
58
votes
4answers
82k 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?
34
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16answers
6k views

Phrase for a situation where a problem disappears when you are about to fix it, but reappears later

For example, the car mechanic can't replicate the problem you are having every day, but when you drive it off the service dept, there it is again. Or, when seeing the dentist, the tooth ache goes away,...
29
votes
8answers
121k views

Is it correct to say Person A is the “spitting image” or the “splitting image” of Person B?

I understand that when trying to describe a person who has a resemblance to another, the common term is spitting image. As in: Person A is a spitting image of Person B. Here's my issue, I've ...
21
votes
4answers
65k 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 ...
20
votes
6answers
16k 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?
27
votes
6answers
27k 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
113k 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 ...
24
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9answers
7k 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 ...
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
36k 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 / etc" —...
7
votes
6answers
27k 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 ...
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8answers
33k 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
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5answers
21k 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 ...
17
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3answers
26k 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 http://bleacherreport.com/...
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votes
8answers
25k 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
51k views

Usage of “shall we?”

What does it mean and where would I use it?
7
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2answers
21k views

What does “somebody plays things close to the vest” mean?

I heard this phrase in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" and also found it online by googling it. What does the phrase mean?
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
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5answers
12k 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 (...
15
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6answers
6k 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
115k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
23k 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 ...
8
votes
6answers
7k 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
votes
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?
7
votes
3answers
21k views

Is it appropriate to use “Hey yourself”?

I've heard this phrase in a couple of movies, it was being used like this: -Hey, John! -Well, hey yourself, Mike! Sounds pretty simple, but my question is about how appropriate is it to say ...
7
votes
3answers
14k 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?
7
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1answer
26k views

Etymology of “quick” of a fingernail, as in “cut to the quick”

Part of a fingernail known as the hyponychium is informally known as the "quick". It is referenced in the saying "cut to the quick". What is the etymology of the word quick as in reference to the ...
6
votes
4answers
164k views

What is the origin and meaning of the phrase “bane of my existence”?

A friend recently used the phrase bane of my existence, and while I’m familiar with the phrase, I would like to know its origin and meaning.
6
votes
10answers
33k 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). ...
6
votes
8answers
117k views

Other ways to say “I'm rooting for you?”

What are other ways one can say that have the same meaning as, "I'm rooting for you?"
5
votes
2answers
2k views

“A wrong answer” vs “the wrong answer”

In English, when presented with a list (real or imagined) or answers that could be given to a question, and the correct one is not given, we will say that somebody has given "the wrong answer". ...
5
votes
3answers
4k views

Phrasing “An hour's rest”

I was just posting a question to the Homebrewing StackExchange, and I found myself pondering the proper way to express my sentiment. I first wrote "an hour's rest", but upon review, I deemed the ...
5
votes
5answers
14k views

What is the origin of the phrase “to go apeshit”?

What is the origin of the phrase "to go apeshit"? An example usage would be: And then he went apeshit over the prize he just won. Obviously there is a strong visual associated with an angry ...
5
votes
4answers
881 views

Is it common to use the borrowed noun-adjective form for borrowed French phrases?

Lately, something has struck me. I've been hearing several expressions in English, some clearly borrowed from French and preserving their noun-adjective form. Some examples are: Attorney General ...
3
votes
5answers
21k views

“Out of the box” — when should I use this phrase?

I send a lot of unsolicited emails. In many of them, I ask to buy traditional advertising spots or to help conceive a non-traditional campaign. Oftentimes, I find myself describing these non-...