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

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Phrase for asking the obvious

In my language when a question is asking something really obvious we are using a phrase that if translated means: What is making a "meow meow" sound on the roof/rooftop? Is there an equivalent ...
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2answers
3k views

“Spit and baling wire”

I just heard the phrase: "spit and baling wire". I cannot find it anywhere—can you help give me a reference, the origin...and the meaning?
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3answers
4k views

“Feel it in my bones”

Does "Feel it in my bones" sound natural? I have never seen or heard any native speakers use something like that, except in a subtitle of a movie I watched long ago. What are other phrases, or common ...
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2answers
10k views

What's the meaning of the expression “Grab a hold”?

What does it mean to "grab a hold"? There is a song by Cyndi Lauper that says If you wanna grab a hold, let it go...
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4answers
2k 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
52k views

Origin of burning ears

Ive often heard people say: "Your ears are burning." Specifically after someone hearing people talking about him or her. I'm curious what the origin of this is. There's got to be an interesting ...
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3answers
33k views

The difference between a clause and a phrase?

This question What is the difference between a phrase and a clause? has an answer, with no embedded examples. The link it provides is not longer active, giving a 404 page not found error. Please don't ...
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1answer
15k views

Correct usage of “of which”

I have two books, of which one is borrowed. Is this correct? Is there such a phrase?
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4answers
1k 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” ...
2
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1answer
395 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 ...
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3answers
2k views

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
516 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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7answers
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What is the American word for 'tea-towel'?

On a tour from Australia to the states my wife asked me to stop at the gift store and buy memorable fridge-magnets and tea-towels. Everywhere I went, none of the store attendants seemed to know what ...
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6answers
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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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12answers
5k views

Are there English equivalents to the Japanese saying, “There’s a god who puts you down as well as a god who picks you up”?

There is an old Japanese saying, “捨てる神あれば、拾う神あり-Suterukami areba hirou kami ari,” meaning “There’s a god who puts you down as well as a god who picks up you.” In other words, “In this world, some ...
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17answers
6k views

What's an idiom for something that you've heard many times?

I'm trying to write something for my blog, and I need an idiom that will replace me saying, "I've heard people say that all the time, it's the same old story."
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2answers
1k views

What does “velvet-rope-poor” mean?

There was the following sentence in the New York Times (February 8) article titled, “Azerbaijan is rich. It wants to be famous.”: “Oil-rich, velvet-rope-poor Azerbaijan, a country about the size ...
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7answers
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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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3answers
18k views

Where does the phrase “the bee's knees” originate from?

So the phrase "the bee's knees" approximately means "it's fantastic" (my definition at least!). But how did this phrase come about?
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5answers
551 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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7answers
2k views

Other ways to say “I have a bad hunch”

I'm looking for ways to say "I'm having a bad hunch", or more like a bad feeling about something upcoming. The gut-wrenching feeling that something bad will happen.
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6answers
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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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5answers
3k views

What does “What price [noun]?” mean?

I've come across phrases like "What price freedom?" a lot. I speak British English and it doesn't read nicely to me. It seems some words are missing. Does it mean "What is the price of X?"? Where did ...
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4answers
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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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3answers
1k 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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4answers
643 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 ...
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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
2k views

Who coined the term “Cloud Cuckoo Land”?

Cloud Cuckoo Land in English is a term often used to describe an unrealistically utopian idea of how things are. You're living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. However how did the term get started to be ...
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5answers
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“Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” meaning and etymology

In my experience, referring to someone in an organization as "chief cook and bottle washer" has multiple possible meanings: person has a wide variety of duties in the organization person is very, ...
8
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5answers
11k 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
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5answers
2k views

Intonation in the phrase “How are you?”

From native English speakers I often hear the phrase "How are you?" intonated differently. Sometimes the word "are" is stressed, and sometimes the word "you" is. What is the difference between these ...
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3answers
5k views

Meaning of “one order of magnitude improvement”

There is no single development, in either technology or management technique, which by itself promises even one order of magnitude improvement in productivity, in reliability, in ...
8
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3answers
12k views

What does ‘Camel gets his nose under the tent’ mean?

In the article of New York Times co-ed columnist, Maureen Dowd dealing with Republicans’ objection of the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ under the title, “Mad Men and Mad Women”, I came across an ...
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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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1answer
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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 ...
8
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3answers
4k views

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 ...
7
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3answers
594 views

Is there a term for a self-fulfilling sentence?

I am wondering if there is a term for sentences that describe what the sentence accomplishes. For example, the phrase "I'm warning you." The sentence simultaneously does the warning and says it is ...
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5answers
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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
398 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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6answers
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A phrase for “extremely bad luck”

Is there a (short) phrase or idiom meaning that someone had extremely bad luck? In the context of a sports match: as you would have a "perfect game" or the even more specific "perfect hand" (when ...
6
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3answers
3k views

Is “Less than perfect” always used in a sarcastic and negative way?

I always use the phrase less than perfect in a sarcastic way, meaning that something is not good at all. For example: My date was obviously less than perfect. She was late and in a hurry, and she ...
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5answers
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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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8answers
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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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6answers
3k views

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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Has the term ‘weapons of mass distraction’ gotten currency as a metonym for web sites and lowbrow mass media contents?

I found the term ‘weapons of mass distraction’ in the article titled “Social Networking in the 1600s” in the Sunday Review section of June 22 New York Times, which begins with; “Social networks ...
5
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4answers
61k views

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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1answer
125 views

Is there a more concise way to describe this hairstyle? [closed]

Is there a more concise way to describe this character's hairstyle, other than 'a bun, with parted bangs and tassels framing her face'?
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10answers
804 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
3k 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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4answers
14k 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 ...