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

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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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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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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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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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323 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 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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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 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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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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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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735 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 ...
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402 views

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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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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96 views

“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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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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Origin of the phrase “third time's the charm” / “third time lucky”?

What would the origin of the saying "Third time's the charm" ? I've also heard it used as "third time lucky" ....Does anyone know if they are related ?
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What is someone who leaks a surprise called?

What is someone whose tendency/act is to leak the surprise called?
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What are the implications of “at my disposal”

I found myself using the phrase "[something] is at my disposal" as a way of indicating that a particular resource is available for my use. My question arises from the word disposal. It seems to ...
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Which is correct: “So far as I know” or “As far as I know”?

Which is more appropriate: "So" or "As"?
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More idioms like “needle in a haystack” relevant to hidden/hard to find items? [closed]

Are there more idioms, sayings or phrases similar to "needle in a haystack" that are relevant to hidden objects, or difficult to find items? Also interested in similar nouns relevant to the somewhat ...
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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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648 views

“Really six people present”: origin of phrase commonly attributed to William James [closed]

The following is popular on lists of "quotable quotes": Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees ...
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Continuing to do something just because it was done before, without knowing why

How would you describe someone that continues to perform and action solely because they have observed someone else performing that same action, but do not know the reason. Or, they perform an action ...
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What does “what's the catch” mean?

It sounds like a marketing term. Does it mean "However there are some points to take note"?
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771 views

Meaning of the phrase “In the wash”

One of our senior technical architects uses this phrase: it will come out in the wash We generally take that to mean "let's do the detailed/mundane stuff later — and concentrate on the key stuff ...
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origin of phrase 'stone the crows'

Just as the title says — where, and how, did the phrase 'stone the crows' originate?
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92 views

What is the origin of “have a gander”? (When meaning “look”.)

The phrase "have a gander" meaning "have a look" is common in the UK. (Also can be "have a goosey gander" or just "have a goosey".) What is the origin/meaning of this phrase? I always assumed that it ...
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178 views

Word for a friend you have never met?

Can anyone provide "emotional" word/phrase for a "friend" a you have never met, but feels like you really know him? I won't mind even if it is in a language other than English. :) Update: Would love ...
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Origin of the greeting “Sweet dreams”.

Does anybody know the etymology of the phrase "sweet dreams"? I tried googling but did not find anything satisfying. Is this a relatively new phrase of the modern world or has this been in use for ...
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1answer
836 views

Is “and then some” an offensive expression?

I started an internal email discussion with the title "Editorial: link issues, some spelling issues and then some". However, upon rereading my own mail, it occurred to me that this might express ...
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401 views

What does “a pretzel palace” mean?

Today’s New York Times picked up a line of the comment of Governor of California, Jerry Brown on California's tight budget, which calls for severe spending cuts to deal with a $15.7 billion shortfall ...
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Origins of the phrase “How killing!”

My mother says this phrase all of the time, to mean "That is hilarious". Supposedly "killing" is short for "killingly-funny"(!) but I must admit I have never ever heard anyone else say it. Is it a ...
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231 views

“Unpleasant smile” vs. “unhappy smile”

Is an unpleasant smile the same as an unhappy smile? What does an unhappy smile look like? If they're not the same then what does an unpleasant smile look like?
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“just married” or “just wed”?

I saw this for the first time in something recent: "just wed". I wonder how and when it is used (BrE only, under certain conditions). Does it mean exactly the same as "married"?
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Take this question with a grain of salt

Where did this ubiquitous phrase come from? Usually it is used in conjunction with either disputable of downright dubious information but I can't think of how salt helps the situation. The only thing ...
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286 views

What does “Without padding one’s end zone” mean?

In the following sentence of Eat, Drink and Be Healthy in New York Times (Feb.1) contributed by columnist Jennifer LaRue Huget, I found the following sentence: You can work up Super Bowl Sunday ...
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1answer
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Why “tickety-boo”?

I heard myself saying something was "tickety-boo", meaning good, successful, or satisfactory. Does anyone know where this strange-sounding phrase originated?
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1answer
137 views

What is the origin of the phrase “wind your neck in!”?

I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the origin of the phrase in title.
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607 views

Somebody is gonna kiss the donkey

I heard this phrase when I was watching Battleship. An old man said, "Somebody is gonna kiss the donkey." I do not know what it means, I only heard it in a movie. What is this phrase mean? In ...
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4answers
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What does “make the last word on word” mean?

I found the article of New Yorker magazine dealing with U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia’s scrupulousness of the usage of words under the title’ “Salia’s word game” very interesting as an ...
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1answer
70 views

I expect John to x vs I expect John will x

I expect John to reply to your email. I expect John will reply to your email. I expect him to reply to your email I expect him will reply to your email (ungrammatical) I expect he to reply to your ...
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Reflexive pronouns and understood “to be”

So, I've got a fairly straightforward sentence: Poe did not think himself a writer of inferior material. It is my understanding that "a writer of inferior material" is the object of the ...
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Should I say “I make a living by teaching” or “I make a living teaching”? Which one is correct? Is the preposition 'by' necessary?

I am confused about the correct usage of the phrasal verb, 'make a living'. I don't know whether I should add the preposition 'by' at the end of it. I looked up several dictionaries, most of which ...