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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

3
votes
2answers
393 views

What is the standard English for “a receipt written in ‘catering short hand’”?

Ruth Marcus wrote in her article in Washington Post (September 29), titled “Fiscal Trivial Pursuit” describing the waste of the U.S. government’s disclosed by the Justice Department inspector general ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

“It's a-me !” — just an imitation of an Italian accent or something more?

I've seen and heard this at various times: It's a-me! [first name]! (Most of the time, seemingly as a reference to Mario.) I was wondering what the intent was behind the construction "a-me". Is ...
-3
votes
1answer
629 views

What does “was born in black and white” mean?

I've heard a song with the words "She was born in black and white". Could anyone say what this phrase means?
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Can “No thanks” be used in place of “No need to say thanks”?

A colleague did some work for me (which was his job anyway) and when I said thanks, he said "no thanks". I was puzzled, and asked why he said that. He told me that an American once told him that ...
0
votes
3answers
205 views

Is the phrase “large number core machine” correct?

I would like to use the following phrase for a machine with large number cores. Is this correct? Please let me know. large number core machine
13
votes
14answers
4k views

Phrase for focusing on unimportant details

I'm looking for an idiom or saying that I could use when people are focusing too much on small details and not seeing the big picture. A couple that come to mind are "being penny-wise and pound ...
9
votes
1answer
266 views

How come “John is friends with Jane”?

The usage in the question title seems common enough to me, though it may be more common in Britain. But I can't exactly see what "part of speech" the word friends is here, and I can't come up with ...
2
votes
1answer
303 views

“List of tasks” or “tasks' list”

Which of these forms is better: list of tasks or tasks' list? Another question is whether I should use an apostrophe or not (tasks's list vs tasks list). Other phrases which are similar to this, but ...
7
votes
5answers
14k views

Correct usage of “to coin a phrase”

I've always thought "to coin a phrase" means to invent a phrase or be the first person to use it. Today I came across this usage by a reporter for the Lancashire Telegraph The Burnley board are ...
10
votes
2answers
7k views

Origin of “spick and span”

I recently described my room as being spick and span and I realized I had no idea what that really meant. It occurred to me that it might stem from a derogatory term (spick), so I thought I'd ask ...
1
vote
1answer
433 views

Does “end up with something” always mean possession? (Harry Potter spoilers)

Does "end up with an object" always mean possession? Can it possibly mean destruction? Here is the context. Source: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K.Rowling. Characters: Harry ...
5
votes
2answers
616 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". ...
1
vote
5answers
21k views

Where does the phrase “on the lam” come from?

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, lam means: "flight," as in on the lam, 1897, from a U.S. slang verb meaning "to run off" (1886), of uncertain origin, perhaps somehow from the ...
19
votes
14answers
83k 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
2k views

Meaning and origin of “belt and braces” [closed]

What does the phrase belt and braces mean and where did it come from? I have a rough idea but would like to see if anyone has a proper definition for this phrase.
11
votes
3answers
223 views

Why is it “a defeated Napoleon, not “the defeated Napoleon” who rode off the battlefield and into exile?

I noticed an infinite article; ‘a’ was used before ‘defeated Napoleon’ in the following sentence of Jeffery Archer’s novel, "Fales Impression" : “General Sir Harry Wentworth sat at the right hand of ...
5
votes
1answer
4k views

Is “I feel like a piece of meat” popular phrase? Isn’t it embarrassing for women to use this phrase?

I found the phrase ‘I felt like a piece of meat’ (at a meeting),’ in the article of Washington Post (September 20) titled ‘In early Obama White House, female staffers felt frozen out.’ The article ...
8
votes
2answers
828 views

“Exact a price” versus “extract a price”

I recently heard someone use the phrase "extract a price". He was referring to a scenario in which an action had an associated cost. To me, it seems the correct phrase should have been "exact a ...
2
votes
1answer
396 views

“Tamper evident opening”

I am not native English speaker, and I just saw this sentence written in a sealed box: "Tamper evident opening" Is that sentence correct? I mean, I think it means "If you tamper with this seal, it ...
4
votes
3answers
222 views

Is “treat somebody pretty ugly” a common and colloquial English phrase?

There was the following line in a New York Times article (September 17), titled “Rick Perry, Uber Texan”: “Then he was off to talk some more about economic growth in Texas. And lambastes the ...
0
votes
2answers
928 views

What does “morally important” mean?

I didn't understand the usage. What does it mean and when can we use it?
4
votes
2answers
956 views

Shotgun and front seats in the car

What does "calling shotgun" have to do with reservation of a seat near the car driver?
3
votes
3answers
3k views

Is ‘Not a peep’ an idiom, or just plain statement?

I found a phrase ‘not a peep,’ in the Washington Post’s article (September 16) written by Eugene Robinson, which was captioned “Where are the compassionate conservatives?” In the article, Robinson ...
2
votes
5answers
629 views

“A classmate and I was” vs “A classmate and I were”

I'm writing a resume right now targeted towards a specific company. My girlfriend (a classmate) and I were (see, I don't know if that's the right word, hence this question!) the first from our school ...
0
votes
1answer
508 views

What does 'for such actions as …' mean?

Anyone can help to explain the meaning of for such actions as ... please? It's from the following context. Even when automatic archiving is enabled, you can use manual archiving for such actions ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

The meaning and origin of “hedge your bets”

What exactly does it mean? And what is the origin of the phrase "hedge your bets"?
1
vote
1answer
250 views

Is it incorrect to say “…it's not, is it? Or is it?”

The sentence I was thinking of is: Someone's blocked you in. It's not me, is it? Or is it? It certainly reads oddly, but I've heard it used in general speech quite often. As I understand it, ...
3
votes
1answer
411 views

Meaning of “Circle around with”

All too often my boss will say to me "I'll circle around with you later" I assume it means "I'll catch up with you later" or something of the sort, but I feel the "circle" implies some sort of ...
4
votes
5answers
2k views

What does “a sock full of pennies” mean?

I watched Seinfeld S09E12 The Reverse Pipehole, there are lines like this: KRAMER: Newman and I are reversing the peepholes on our door. So you can see in. ELAINE: Why? NEWMAN: To ...
2
votes
1answer
157 views

Fashionable photographers

I saw somewhere this quote from Wodehouse's Meet Mr. Mulliner (1927): "Statistics show that the two classes of the community which least often marry are milkmen and fashionable photographers – ...
2
votes
2answers
885 views

How is “lay bare” sexual?

In the latest Futurama episode, there was a scene with the dialogue: Professor: Now, for the first time, we may be able to see the infinitesimal fabric of matter itself, laying bare the most ...
7
votes
4answers
3k views

Is ‘Set one’s hair on fire’ a popular English idiom?

Yesterday’s (September8) New York Times carried an article titled ‘Setting Their Hair on Fire’ which was written by economist, Paul Krugman. It is followed by the following sentence: “First things ...
4
votes
5answers
1k views

The size of my confusion is “second to none”

Why "second to none" is being considered as "the best" instead of "the worst" (almost non existent)? To my understanding - "none" is "nonexistent", while "second to none" should be... well... almost ...
12
votes
5answers
23k views

What does the gesture to touch the side of your nose with a forefinger mean? [closed]

I came across the phrase, ‘touching the side of his nose with a forefinger’ in Jeffery Archer’s short story titled ‘Politically Correct’. The hero of the story warns the porter of his apartment about ...
8
votes
4answers
588 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.
3
votes
5answers
3k views

What is the meaning of the phrase “chance would be a fine thing”?

I've heard this phrase used many times. e.g. -Got a completion date back on your new conservatory? -Ha! Chance'd be a fine thing. I think I have a general idea of what it must mean from ...
0
votes
2answers
2k views

Meaning of “What gave it away”

I came across a phrase in Seinfeld, it wrotes: (Claire passes the table; George stops her and writes something on his notepad.) GEORGE: Claire, Claire, you’re a woman, right? CLAIRE: ...
1
vote
1answer
163 views

Is it okay to use Present Perfect Tense right after “to see how”?

Is it okay to use Present Perfect Tense right after "to see how"? For example, It is both sad and funny to see how these guys have never really got to the core of the matter.
1
vote
1answer
253 views

What does ‘be worse off under Bam’ mean?

I saw the phrase ‘be worse off under Bam’ in the Reuter’s news titled ‘Gippered’ in Time magazine (September 6), which says: “More than 1/3 of USAers say they are worse off under Bam. ...
0
votes
1answer
370 views

To live in ignorance of just happiness [closed]

Is it a valid phrase? Please, accept or reject it. Maybe there is other exact expression.
3
votes
2answers
7k views

“The question then arises . . . ”

I'd like to say something like "Then, we have the question: why did this happen?" What is a proper way to say this using the phrase "The question then arises..."? Is it "The question then arises as to ...
4
votes
2answers
395 views

What type of cat do you swing?

I've heard that the cat which there may not be enough room to swing actually refers to a type of whip. Is that true? What is the actual origin of the phrase not/barely enough room to swing a cat?
4
votes
4answers
676 views

Is “since I'm” now an acceptable alternative to “since I was”?

In a recent episode of the television show Entourage, Ari Gold (a 40 year old man) says: I've known her since I'm 19. In an episode of Sex and the City, a character, who is 15, tells Carrie: ...
7
votes
5answers
5k views

What does “left for dead” mean?

I'm not a native speaker. Also, I play video games. :P When the video game Left 4 Dead came out I thought the phrase was just a cool but largely meaningless title that hinted at the game being about ...
7
votes
5answers
4k views

What does “Stick it up one’s jumper” mean? Why is it funny?

I saw the phrase “Stick something up one’s jumper” in Jeffery Archer’s short story titled “Member’s Only,” in which Robin Chapman, the hero was kept waiting for 5 years and has to wait for another ...
3
votes
4answers
1k views

Does “whether or not I should…” sound awkward?

Does "whether or not I should..." sound awkward? How would you say it then? For example: "He stood me up three times in a row," said Alice angrily. "Now I wonder whether or not I should go out with ...
0
votes
3answers
1k views

“release a burden”?

I was wondering if it is correct to say "I finally release a burden?" Or should I say "I finally get released from a burden, as like "release somebody from something"? What are some other usual ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “separated at birth” mean?

Sometimes, you come across someone saying something (usually tongue-in-cheek), which might go like this: Tom: I really love eating noodles while watching Star Trek. Linda: Wow, I do exactly the ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

What does “hardline phone” mean?

What is meant by hardline? A commenter named Ed asked, "I am very concerned as that was definitely our garage that slid into the Batavia. My mom has a hardline phone in the house but probally ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

“Forbidden to” vs “Forbidden from”?

Which sounds better (and where do you live?) I am American, and I think "forbidden from" sounds better, although both "forbidden to" and "forbidden from" are considered standard usage. "The banks ...