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

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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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4answers
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Does the phrase “who's in?” or “I'm in!” exist in (informal) English?

I really think I've heard it in some American sitcom/sitcoms, meaning something like participating in. "I want to play football. Who's in?" — "Great idea, I'm in!" Does it really exist, or am I wrong? ...
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The meaning of “This is it”

Does "this is it," mean "this is the end?" How is this possible?
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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
612 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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4k 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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2answers
221 views

“Credulous” - Formal Use

What is the basic meaning of Credulous , in which context it will be the best to use instead of "willing to believe" ? How formally we can use "Credulous" ?
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1answer
160 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
450 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)?
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6answers
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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 ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “hunky dory”?

What is the origin of the phrase “hunky dory”?
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4answers
8k 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 ...
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4answers
866 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
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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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2answers
4k views

Where does “beat around the bush” come from?

Where does the expression "beat around the bush" come from?
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5answers
3k 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 ...
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35k 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 ...
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6answers
680 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 ...
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3answers
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Does the casual use of “a la ___” in English preserve the French meaning?

In English, we use a la carte and a la mode, but it is also common for people to add their own word to the basic construction. For example, one might comment on someone's dancing: He showed us ...
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7answers
469 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 ...
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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?
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6answers
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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
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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 ...
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5answers
9k views

What does “hit me like a two-by-four” mean?

What does this sentence mean? This observation hit me like a two-by-four Source.
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3answers
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What's the story with the British use of “miss not having” vs. “miss having?”

This one has bugged me for years. When an American English speaker wishes to express regret that Joe doesn't come around any more, they would typically say, "I really miss having him around." It ...
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“Cheese and rice”?

A new girl started at the office, and she's quite a peculiar character. She moved here from Alabama and is definitely the excitable type. Every office has one I guess. One thing she says every now ...
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1answer
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What is the origin of the phrase “and nothing of value was lost”?

What is the origin of the phrase "and nothing of value was lost"? Is this from a movie, book, or show, or did it get its start on Slashdot or some other online forum?
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3answers
321 views

Doubt about the subject in this phrase: I, me, or myself?

At the end of the evening, the bar was almost empty, with only [I/?] and a very cheerful and pleasant lady I met in the last minutes of the meeting. What is the correct form in this case? My ...
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Idiom for the phrase “someone who gets what he deserved”

Is there an idiom for someone who gets what he deserved? Like someone receiving punishment for his evil deeds or someone getting awarded for his good deeds?
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1answer
171 views

Is it okay to say “that which”?

I know that there are certain times to use "that" (for restricting the noun) and certain times to use "which" (for adding information). How about "that which"?: Truth is that which conforms to ...
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4answers
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What's the correct term for potato chips?

In school I learned to say crisps but I don't want to mix it with french fries. So what's the correct term to use, and what synonyms are there?
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2answers
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Why is “stuck in a rut” different from “stuck in a groove” in meaning even though “rut” and “groove” are akin as a line of track?

I found the expression “the economy remains stuck in a rut,” in the article titled ”What would Maynard Keynes tell us to do now – and should we listen?” which appeared in October 10 issue of New ...
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2answers
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Where does the phrase “to get on like a house on fire” come from?

Where does the phrase "to get on like a house on fire" come from? (Meaning "to immediately get on very well with someone", particularly a new acquaintance.) It's quite common here in the UK, but even ...
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3answers
12k views

Why do we use the phrase 'Across the pond'?

Why do we use the phrase Across the pond to refer to the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean? Considering the size of the Atlantic Ocean is vast, is it suggesting the ocean is only a small hindrance? ...
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Does the phrase “pull the chain” have some sort of significance in jails and prisons?

My question comes apropos a comment on an old question's of RegDwight's, "jail" vs. "prison". After many answers established that there was indeed a difference in usage between the two terms, JohnFx ...
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7answers
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What does “to take someone at face value” mean?

What does this mean? I hear it often, but not sure what its meaning is. I think it means to believe what they are saying without proof.
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What exactly does “President Obama will ‘fold faster than a lawn chair’” mean?

In today’s Washington Post’s “Today’s Quote,” picked up from the comment of Former Reagan Budget director David Stockman in an interview with The Daily Beast (hat tip to Political Wire), I came across ...
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3answers
915 views

Are there synonyms for “love marriage”?

I was fascinated by an answer to a comment question I asked under Is the term “would-be” just an Indian usage or universal? about a term for a non-arranged marriage in India. Love marriage was the ...
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5answers
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Is it “just as soon” or “just assume”?

If someone says a phrase that sounds like "I'd just as soon you don't get in an accident, so I'll call you later", are they actually saying "just as soon" or "just assume" or something else?
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6answers
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What does “change one's stripes” exactly mean?

I found a phrase in the headline of today’s Washington Post article (Feb. 14) that reads "Mubarak loyalists change stripes to fit into the new Egypt." Though I interpreted the meaning of change one’s ...
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3answers
873 views

If ______ gets outlawed, only outlaws will ______

What is the common origin of these and similar phrases, and how are they used? I've seen them in both silly and serious contexts. If guns get outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. If ...
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3answers
897 views

What is the origin of the phrase “blue moon”? Any alternate phrase for it?

Was just wondering how this phrase came into being? Was it inspired from some natural or astronomical observation? or is it the result of poetic imagination?
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6answers
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end-to-end alternatives

I just received an email that included the phrase soup-to-nuts meaning "end-to-end." Are there any other alternatives to this? eg cradle-to-grave? I want to include some in the reply email.
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4answers
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“Battled-hardened,” Is this one of New Yorker's renowned idiosyncrasies?

There was a really entertaining short story describing customary exchanges of fierce words between a restaurant patron and waitress in New Yorker magazine (June 14.) under the title, “Lunch at ...
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3answers
303 views

Can you buy things “for cheap”?

The first line of this news story says: Call it space grave robbery for a cause: imagine scavenging defunct communication satellites for their valuable parts and recycling them to build brand new ...
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1answer
415 views

OED Appeals: Antedatings of “blue-arsed fly”

The OED has made a public appeal for help in tracing the history of some English words, including: blue-arsed fly noun earlier than 1970 The first evidence for the metaphorical ...
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2answers
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On the brink/verge/edge of

With on the brink/verge/edge of, is there a distinct difference between these, or do they have more or less the same meaning? Which one is the most informal? Is it all about context?
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6answers
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Why do people use “bone” in the phrase “bone stock” to emphasize that a car is unmodified?

"Bone stock" or "stock" means that a car is unmodified. Where did "bone" come from? Why does it emphasize the condition of being stock?
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3answers
635 views

Can I say “What you are saying is ‘pants on fire,’” when I don’t trust what my elderly friend says?

There was the following sentence in the article titled, “Romney says inaccurate attack ad is fair” on IowaPolitics.com (November 23), which was studded with several expressions I’ve not gotten used ...
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“Sour cream” versus “soured cream”

Does anyone besides my husband insist on adding an -ed to sour cream? Etymonline dates "sour cream" to 1855, but has no mention of "soured", so I don't think this is analogous to "iced tea" or "ice ...