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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

0
votes
1answer
179 views

About two mutually related, future actions [closed]

Is it correct to say: "I will do that thing when I will talk to him."?
0
votes
2answers
8k views

'Depend upon' or 'depend on' [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Which phrase is correct: “dependent on” or “dependent upon” Is there a difference between the usage of 'depend upon' and 'depend on' or is one ...
15
votes
5answers
510 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
votes
2answers
4k views

What is the origin of phrase “for fun and profit”?

Sounds like something a snake oil salesman on the wild west could come up with. Can the origins be traced? Edit: In a transcript of a state trial from 1798: What did you give it him for? Did he ...
11
votes
7answers
6k 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
votes
6answers
32k views

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

What is the origin of the phrase “hunky dory”?
10
votes
4answers
9k 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
votes
4answers
1k 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.
10
votes
3answers
46k 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
7k views

Where does “beat around the bush” come from?

Where does the expression "beat around the bush" come from?
8
votes
7answers
43k 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
votes
6answers
1k 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 ...
7
votes
7answers
741 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
1answer
227 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
383 views

“The proverbial wedding ring”?

In old books, I keep coming accross the saying, ...is so transparent it could pass through the proverbial wedding ring. What does this mean?
7
votes
2answers
6k views

The meaning and origin of “hedge your bets”

What exactly does it mean? And what is the origin of the phrase "hedge your bets"?
7
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
7
votes
4answers
20k views

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 ...
7
votes
7answers
6k 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?
7
votes
6answers
51k views

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.
7
votes
2answers
7k 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 ...
7
votes
5answers
12k 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.
7
votes
3answers
3k views

“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 ...
7
votes
3answers
354 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 ...
6
votes
11answers
6k views

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?
6
votes
4answers
655 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.
6
votes
3answers
3k views

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?
6
votes
4answers
4k views

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?
6
votes
2answers
2k views

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 ...
6
votes
2answers
387 views

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 ...
6
votes
3answers
16k 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? ...
6
votes
6answers
22k views

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?
6
votes
6answers
6k views

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 ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

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 ...
6
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
6
votes
5answers
16k views

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?
6
votes
6answers
7k views

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 ...
6
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
1k 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?
6
votes
6answers
2k 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.
5
votes
2answers
325 views

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. ...
5
votes
4answers
425 views

“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 ...
5
votes
3answers
488 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

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 ...
5
votes
5answers
1k 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?
5
votes
1answer
484 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
891 views

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 ...
5
votes
6answers
2k views

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?
5
votes
4answers
12k views

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 ...
5
votes
3answers
926 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 ...