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

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The meaning of “Even if I should”

Consider the following: Even if I... Even should I... These all mean the same thing, right? What about Even if I should... Does that have the same meaning? "If you should ever," is ...
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2answers
720 views

“Sick and tied” and “sick and tired”

What is the difference between phrases "sick and tied" and "sick and tired"? Is the first phrase correct? Possibilities (summary from comments): The standard phrase is definitely “sick and tired” ...
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8answers
35k 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 ...
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5answers
2k views

Phrase: “Colder than a witch’s kiss!”

The following was used in a radio broadcast (The Adventures of Harry Lime, 14th December 1951, episode 20 “An Old Moorish Custom”) as Harry was hit on the back of his head with a rifle butt by a giant ...
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5answers
3k 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 ...
20
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3answers
781 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 ...
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7answers
36k 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
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5answers
8k 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 ...
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7answers
4k views

What does “It’s sorta meta,” mean?

Maureen Dowd wrote a review on the recently released movie, “J.Edgar” directed by Clint Eastwood in New York Times November 12 issue under the title, “Dirty Harry meets dirtier Edgar.” Apart from the ...
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4answers
454 views

What exactly is “noonday night”?

In answering the question Is there a term for “midnight” that is like “noon”, I came across the phrase noonday night listed as a synonym for midnight in my copy of Roget's International ...
10
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3answers
8k 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.
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3answers
631 views

What does “Sleep through the Second Coming” mean?

There is the following statement in Jeffery Archer’s fiction “Kane & Abel,” in which William Kane, one of the two heroes looks at his wife sleeping soundly on bed unaware of his big problem: ...
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10answers
25k views

“The point is moot”

I was recently called out for using the phrase "the point is moot" incorrectly. My intent was to indicate that I felt that the point wasn't really worth debating or discussing. I was then shown that ...
9
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3answers
2k views

Is ‘Take something cum grano salis’ a popular phrase? Can I use it in casual conversation?

I came across the phrase, ‘cum grano salis’ in the article written by Chris Cillizza, a political pundit in the August 8th Washington Post’s article under the title ‘GOP smells blood in Presidential ...
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1answer
3k views

What does “Faustian bargain” mean?

In an article I see this phrase "Faustian bargain". Both I and my teacher were unable to translate or understand it. Can you help me and explain this phrase? Context: The reason for linking all ...
7
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4answers
8k views

“In regard to” or “in regards to”

Is it incorrect to say either of the following? In regards to your previous email In regards to your previous emails I was asked this by a non-native speaker, and after thinking about it I ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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3answers
5k views

What is the origin of the phrase “stand on your head and spit wooden nickels?”

Where does this phrase come from? Was there a time in which it was in popular use? Is it an American English phrase?
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6answers
17k 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 ...
6
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2answers
9k 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?
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5answers
725 views

What do I have to say when I enter into a house?

In Italy when you want to enter inside the house of a stranger or also of a friend you knock at the door and say, "Permesso?" meaning, "Can I enter?" or "Do I have the permission to enter in your ...
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3answers
59k 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.
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1answer
7k 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 ...
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3answers
7k views

How did the phrase “are you nuts” come about?

What is the connection between "nut" and the character? How was the phrase "are you nuts?" used at first?
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10answers
628 views

Phrase meaning “North, but not directly North, from here”

I have 40 characters to give hints to users about the location of a "prize" (Broken up into two lines of 20 characters.) There is some ambiguity when I send the following hint: The prize is somewhere ...
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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?
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7answers
4k views

The meaning of “This is it”

Does "this is it," mean "this is the end?" How is this possible?
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5answers
6k 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 ...
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4answers
1k views

Is there any online phrase dictionary available?

I use WordWeb which is available online for vocabulary. But, is there any equivalent for getting the meaning and origin of phrases ?
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2answers
524 views

Is “put together” an adjectival phrase?

When someone says "He is smarter than I and she put together," what is the function of the phrase "put together"? Is it considered an adjective?
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5answers
3k views

What does “fly by the seat of one's pants” mean?

Reading a book, I came across an expression I really can't parse. For some developers, the invocation of the word plan is cause for alarm. Endless meetings with pointy-haired bosses creating ...
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6answers
2k views

Alternative to “double entendre”?

Does anyone know another word or way to say double entendre — in the non-bawdy sense of the word — as this phrase was only invented in the latter 1600's and so not around when Shakespeare wrote his ...
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2answers
207 views

What does one's status being “less a blank check than an equation with multiple variables” mean?

There is the following line in a December 8 New York Times article titled “Clinton’s countless choices hinge on one: 2016”: “But being Hillary Clinton is never a simple matter, and her next few ...
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1answer
150 views

About two mutually related, future actions [closed]

Is it correct to say: "I will do that thing when I will talk to him."?
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4answers
427 views

“The whole nine yards”

What is the origin of the phrase "the whole nine yards"? Is it a reference to some game of sports I am not familiar with (as a continental European)?
11
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5answers
1k 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 ...
11
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6answers
4k views

Meaning of the phrase “the wrong side of history”

I've just realized I don't understand what this phrase means. What does "Gaddafi is on the wrong side of history" mean? Does it mean he's about to die, or something else? Here's the relevant ...
11
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6answers
13k views

What is the origin of the phrase “hunky dory”?

What is the origin of the phrase “hunky dory”?
10
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3answers
6k views

Why does someone “pull my leg”?

Someone was pulling my leg the other day (meaning, attempting some mild or humourous deception), and I wondered about the etymology of this phrase. Does anyone know when it originated, and why it ...
10
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4answers
805 views

Where does the term “cold calling” originate from?

Did it exist before The Telephone - has it always been associated with 'sales'? Here is an example.
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3answers
25k views

What does ‘Brace yourself’ really mean?

I saw an article titled ‘The Rise of Chinese Cheneys’, written by Nicholas Kristof, with a lead copy China today resembles the Bush era in America: Hard-liners are ascendant. Brace yourself in ...
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5answers
2k 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
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.
8
votes
7answers
30k views

What does the phrase “ungodly hour” really mean?

When I hear people speak of "this ungodly hour" they are usually complaining about being awake (or especially working) earlier than they are accustomed. But why is this called ungodly? It would seem ...
8
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6answers
570 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 ...
8
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2answers
3k views

Where does “beat around the bush” come from?

Where does the expression "beat around the bush" come from?
7
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7answers
374 views

What do you call a circular paved protuberance added to a paved street?

I used to own a house located in a modern suburban street with a circular protuberance, a circular paved (tarred) surface appended to the paved street it was part of. Four houses with their gardens ...
7
votes
6answers
3k views

Where does “Going out on a limb” come from?

I know that the phrase, "I'm going out on a limb here" means either to take a risk or hazard a guess, but where does it come from? As in, what did it originally refer to before it became an idiom?
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2answers
4k views

Where does “pull it off” come from?

"to pull it off" was at one time used meaning "to win." And in sentences such as, I don't think you can pull it off. , it often implies the idea of "success." But how did this expression ...