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

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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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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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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
337 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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11answers
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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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597 views

What is the grammar behind “Thanks be to God”?

What is the grammatical interpretation of the phrase? I don't understand what verb tense or voice is used.
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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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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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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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4answers
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Difference between “On your mark, get set, go” and “Ready, steady, go”

Watching Kipper with my son tonight, I was struck by the phrase "Ready, steady, go!" I don't often hear this sequence. In my upbringing, it has been mostly "On your mark, get set, go!" I had ...
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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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4answers
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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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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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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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982 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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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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What does the phrase “good for you” mean?

What does this phrase mean? And in what cases is it appropriate to use it?
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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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19th century American English “slang”?

As I was doing a bit of research online I stumbled on this Children's Corner page 311 from the American Farmers' Magazine 1858. And, frankly, there are a lot of words that look totally foreign to me. ...
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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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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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What is the origin or earliest known use of the phrase “everything but the kitchen sink”?

What is the origin or earliest known use of the idiomatic phrase "everything but the kitchen sink"? I have searched the internet, but I cannot find an origin or etymology. The earliest known use I ...
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891 views

Phrase which describes falsely improving something

Is there an aphorism or proverb in English which describes attempting to improve something fundamentally flawed by dressing it with a lot of ornament?
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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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What does “put a floor under the crash” mean?

There were the following lines in former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention held on September 5th; “In Tampa the Republican argument against the President’s ...
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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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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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What does ‘play a blinder’ mean? Is it a popular phrase?

I came across the phrase ‘played a blinder’ in the following paragraph of the New York Times’ December 12 article, titled “British Euro Farce,” dealing with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s veto ...
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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 ...
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What does “We don’t do anything that’s not completely up and up” mean?

I found an amusing story titled “Lobster salad, but a key ingredient was missing” in today’s (August 11)New York Times NY/Region section. The article reports that Zabar’s, the famous grocery in Upper ...
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Meaning of “hail to the king”

I can't translate that sentence, “hail to the king”. I've found something like “greetings to the king” but is this correct?
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Origin of the phrases “third time’s the charm” and “third time lucky”?

What would the origin of the saying “Third time’s the charm”? I’ve also heard “third time lucky” used as well. Are these two expressions related to each other?
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What does the phrase “it is up to us to flesh it out” mean?

What does the phrase "it is up to us to flesh it out" mean? Can you suggest any synonyms?
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973 views

Up or down a notch?

(I apologize for the silly question ahead) I've lost some weight recently, and I was able, for the first time today, to close my belt buckle using a notch higher than usual... For the life of me I ...
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What does “thanks for sharing” mean?

Many people say "thanks for sharing" and seem to mean something positive and meaningful by it. However, it seems to also have a cold and even sarcastic connotation to it, e.g.: "I got married ...
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Is ‘on (in) a tear’ a popular idiom?

I was drawn to the phrase, ‘on a tear’ that I heard in audio in this week’s Barron’s magazine (June 6) reporting the good sales and profit performance of U.S. sneaker chain, Foot Locker: It says: ...
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2answers
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Is “No offense meant (taken)” well-accepted English expression?

I’ve seen the phrase “No offense taken” in the answers to the comments in EL&U site. None of online Cambridge, Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionary registers this usage, nor does Google Ngram. ...
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What does “the details are ‘need to know’” mean here?

Part of Covert Affair Season 2, Episode 9: Auggie: “When were you gonna tell me about Dr. Scott?” Annie tilted her head slightly and Auggie heard the smile in her voice as she replied, ...
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“Strike gold” but without the implication of searching?

Whenever I hear the phrase I struck gold the fact the person had to have done a certain search is implied to me. Is this correct? For example, if I say: Janet loves sex so much! I've struck gold ...
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“Despite the fact” implies knowledge of said facts

I had an argument about the phrase "despite the fact". The argument was around the headline: US Immigration officials deport 14 year old runaway to Colombia, despite the fact that she's American ...
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1answer
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“As a(n) X”, followed by a statement not from the perspective of X

Am I correct that the following is an error, and, if so, of what type? (I'm almost positive I once knew the term to describe this increasingly common construction and that it was considered ...
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0answers
535 views

What is the origin of “bite me”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Meaning and usage of “bite me” Here’s the dilemma: What body part does the oft-used expression, “Bite me!” refer to? All the males (man on the street) I’ve ...
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What does “be at it” mean? Is it an idiom?

In the talk show titled “How Dogs Evolved Into 'Our Best Friends'” on NPR’s “Fresh Air” aired on November 8, naturalist Mark Derr offered an intriguing story about how humans and wolves developed a ...
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“Take long/longer/less long”

Which of these are correct English and which ones aren’t? This took long. If we do X, it will take longer. If we do Y, it will take less long.
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What is someone who leaks a surprise called?

What is someone whose tendency/act is to leak the surprise called?