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

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What is the meaning of “Many a mickle makes a muckle”?

I've heard this phrase, and don't know what a "mickle" or a "muckle" is. Hence I have no idea at all what the phrase itself is supposed to mean.
6
votes
4answers
4k views

Is the expression 'half a percent' acceptable in formal English?

When central banks raise or lower interest rates the radio announcer will say for example: an increase of one half of one percent Informally people use half a percent instead, which is less ...
5
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0answers
1k views

Etymology of “to coin a phrase” [closed]

Quite simply — who coined the phrase "to coin a phrase"? I'm sure it wasn't one person, but it's the origin that is of interest.
5
votes
2answers
14k views

“Thanks for having me”

Recently, I finished my phone job interview with the phrase "Thanks for having me". It was a reply to the other person's "Thank you for your time". So, does "thanks for having me" sound alright in ...
5
votes
1answer
5k views

What is the difference between an expression and a phrase?

I'm trying to decide what tags I should be using and realized I did not know the difference between these terms.
4
votes
1answer
200 views

“How did I do this” or “how did I do that”?

Is there a difference between: How did I do this? and How did I do that? If not, is there a preferred one? If they are different, when should I choose one over the other? I am not a ...
4
votes
5answers
2k 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: ...
4
votes
8answers
74k 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?"
4
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3answers
19k views

What is the origin of the phrase “forty winks,” meaning a short nap?

Inspired by the question How long is a 'wink'?, I did some work on the origin of the phrase forty winks. Though the OP at the wink question mentions the phrase, it does not ask about its origin. So I ...
4
votes
2answers
10k views

Classify into 4 categories or in 4 categories?

Which is more correct? I am going to classify these faults into 4 categories. I am going to classify these faults in 4 categories. I am going to classify these faults as 4 categories. ...
3
votes
4answers
591 views

Is “Something in the sand” a popular English phrase?

I’m interested in the line, “Raising tax rates on the wealthy is Obama’s line in the sand” in the following lead-copy of Washington Post’s (December 4) article titled “President Obama’s tough time ...
3
votes
5answers
7k views

What does “my point being” mean?

I have heard someone say in a conversation, "Well, my point being,,,". As an English learner, I was puzzled but assumed that it was roughly the same as saying "My point is that..." or "Here's my ...
3
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1answer
4k views

What does “Thundering typhoons” mean?

What does "Thundering typhoons" mean? Actually it was in the 2011 movie The Adventures of Tintin.
3
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3answers
370 views

“Carrot of profits”

What does the phrase, carrot of profits, mean? The context is And for smaller companies, using the carrot of profits 20 years away isn’t likely to sway VCs who can see no further than three. A ...
3
votes
6answers
6k views

What is the structure in “as best you can”?

I instinctively translate it "as best as you can", however this makes no sense. What is the real structure behind this phrase? I'll include an Ngram to illustrate the historical presence of this ...
3
votes
4answers
10k views

“I am working” or “I have worked almost two months at this project”?

Which one is correct? "I am working almost two months at this project" or "I have worked almost two months at this project" I want to give this meaning: I'm still working on it.
2
votes
4answers
130 views

Does one open a browser “on” a URL?

Can I say: It opens the browser on the URL [X] meaning that something is opening the browser with the URL [X] already typed in and loading?
2
votes
4answers
9k views

Are “preaching to the choir” and “preaching to the converted” synonymous

The following are acceptable expressions that I have heard: "Preaching to the choir" "Preaching to the converted" To me, both mean essentially that you are trying to explain something to ...
2
votes
2answers
10k views

Should I use present or past tense when referring to a (scientific) paper? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What (grammatical) tense to use when doing reference in a paper? In the two examples below, which tense is preferred? "Smith (2001) noted that ..." or "Smith (2001) ...
1
vote
0answers
47 views

How is the phrase “if not for…” used at the end of a sentence? [closed]

Example: His works were brilliant in their understandability -- if not their wordiness.
1
vote
3answers
251 views

The use of question formation in non-question phrases?

I have read the following text some time ago: [...] Only here can you enjoy dazzling entertainment, get the thrill of your life on the exciting rides, and be face-to-face with some of the ...
0
votes
2answers
251 views

taller than any student or taller than any other student

Which of the following sentences is correct? a) 1. John is taller than any student in his class. 2. John is taller than any other student in his class. b) 1. No student is taller than ...
0
votes
2answers
587 views

Which is correct: “What is” or “What are” [closed]

How should I phrase "What is the first 5 digits of your home postal code" or "What are the first 5 digits of your home postal code?"
0
votes
3answers
978 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 ...
-1
votes
2answers
6k views

What does “in spades” mean? [closed]

What does "in spades" mean, for example in the following sentence: demand and love are both there in spades ... I guess "in spades" means "on cards" or "on the table" or exist?
36
votes
7answers
90k views

When your 10-year old boy says “It’s meta,” what does it mean? In what situation and of what sort of object they use this phrase?

I asked about the meaning and usage of meta a few days ago, quoting Maureen Dowd’s review of the movie, “J. Edgar” in New York Times. I received six answers. But I still don’t get a clear idea of ...
25
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2answers
72k views

Why do we say “to boot”?

Here's an example of the phrase "to boot": My wife made a disgusting looking dinner, and it tasted awful to boot! The implication of the "to boot" is that the fact that the dinner tasted awful ...
6
votes
4answers
81k views

Meaning of “on the same page”

Where on the scale from We are talking about the same thing to We are in agreement / We see it the same way is the phrase We are on the same page?
6
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1answer
12k views

“Logged-in”, “log-ined”, “login-ed”, “logined”, “log-in-ed”, “logged in”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “log in to” or “log into” or “login to” This following question, where and how to append "-ed", is not addressed in thу "possible ...
47
votes
4answers
64k views

Origin and exact meaning of the phrase “I have to go see a man about a dog”

I hear my older coworkers use this idiom/phrase occasionally. It seems possibly to be a humorous way to get out of a conversation. Even as a native English speaker, I've never figured out the exact ...
25
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there a name for this type of insult: “I am friends with many manly men. And Gary.”?

Is there a term or word appropriate to describe the trick of using a general term and then explicitly adding a specific term to strongly imply that the specific is not part of the general? The trick I ...
6
votes
1answer
19k views

“personal issue”, “private issue”, “personal affair”, or “personal business”?

I need to send my boss mail explaining that because of a personal issue I need to handle, I can’t attend the conference. Which of these phrases would best express that I have my own business to deal ...
80
votes
15answers
12k 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 ...
21
votes
2answers
1k views

Free as in 'free beer' and in 'free speech' [closed]

This phrase is all over the internet. They will say that something is free as in 'free beer' and free as in 'free speech'. I have never really understood this. Are these the examples of two different ...
18
votes
6answers
3k views

What's the opposite of eye candy?

What's the opposite of eye candy? I heard someone say, "Eye broccoli," but that's not very accurate to those of us who love broccoli. Any other ideas?
13
votes
13answers
3k views

What word or phrase means “a loss of what was on your mind”?

Sometimes, in the middle of a conversation, a "loss of mind" can affect the speaker. What is the word for that situation and that person ? Are there more specific terms or phrases than: the loss ...
12
votes
8answers
762 views

Is there a name/term for phrasing something such that to disagree implicates yourself?

For example: Now available in all good stores. . . where to not agree to stock an item suggests that your store is not good, or: All rational people agree that. . . where to refuse to ...
12
votes
4answers
14k views

Why does “do you read me” mean “do you hear me”?

Why does "Do you read me?" mean "Do you hear me?" This phrase is used (in movies) during radio communication, for example.
11
votes
3answers
63k views

What is the meaning of the phrase ‘in timely fashion’?

It was very disturbing to learn that Google will not open source Android 3.0 in timely fashion. What is the meaning of in timely fashion?
11
votes
1answer
994 views

Through a Glass, Clearly / A Scanner Darkly / In a Mirror, Darkly / etc

I've seen a pattern in a couple of titles. Asimov has a book called "Through a Glass, Clearly". Philip Dick wrote "A Scanner Darkly". Star Trek has the episode "In a Mirror, Darkly" Agatha Christy ...
9
votes
3answers
3k views

Who will say “Age before beauty” more often? Man or woman, young or old?

We Japanese don't have the humourous and witty phrase like "Age before beauty," as you have. We only have simple and dry expressions, "Please" or "Please go first." However, I recently noticed ...
7
votes
3answers
7k views

Why do we say “right-hand side”?

This question is in reference to the use of the word "hand" in "right-hand side" (and applies equally to the left). My question is what does "right-hand side" say/imply that "right side" doesn't?
28
votes
8answers
58k views

Distinction: “What can I do you for?” vs. “What can I do for you?”

Usually, when being served the phrase "What can I do for you?" is used but sometimes I also hear "What can I do you for?" in quite the same context. So is there a difference or is it just a slip of ...
20
votes
5answers
5k views

The origin of the term “Baker's Dozen”?

There's a "hot question" at the moment about the use of the apostrophe in the phrase Baker's Dozen, and it got me to wondering: where did this phrase originate? Did bakers really offer 13 in a dozen? ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

A word like “hundreds” but for multiples of 10 [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How to use “tens of” and “hundreds of”? Take this example: Hundreds of pieces were used to create it. What if the amount were something ...
13
votes
7answers
24k views

Alternative to “Merry Christmas” [closed]

The common greeting for the new year is I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Since Christmas has religious roots, it may not be suitable for people who are not religious. ...
12
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10answers
10k 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 ...
11
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8answers
2k 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
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5answers
17k views

“If” vs “Only if” vs “If and only if”

If I said: Yell only if I fall. Would the person have to yell once I fell? Sources of confusion Wikipedia This guy
10
votes
2answers
9k views

How to use “I love you”?

In Italy, you have two options to say "I love you", I'll try to translate them the best I can: I love you (Ti amo.) I want you to be ok (Ti voglio bene.) The fact is that in English, both ti amo ...