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

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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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“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” ...
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7answers
7k views

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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17answers
7k 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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5answers
20k views

What is the origin of “holy smoke”?

What is the origin of holy smoke? To what is holy smoke referring?
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6answers
951 views

Why does left come before right?

For example in the idioms "left and right", "left, right and centre", and in many contexts where both left and right are mentioned, it seems that the left usually comes before the right. Why is this ...
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2answers
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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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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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What is this an example of: “I couldn't fail not to disagree with you less”?

Eisenhower used it constantly to fend off reporters. Is there a term to describe this type of phrase?
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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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5answers
4k 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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6answers
25k views

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
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What's the equivalent phrase in the UK for “I plead the fifth”?

In the United States, a person under examination on the witness stand may "plead the fifth" to avoid self-incrimination. In other words, a person asserts his or her Fifth Amendment right. Citizens of ...
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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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4answers
675 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 Thesaurus—...
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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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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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2answers
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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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3answers
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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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1answer
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Meaning and origin of “Get someone's shirt out”

I was wondering to myself about the word "shirty". It seemed so curious a word. After all, what did its meaning have to do with shirts. "Were the two words even related?", I wondered. So I looked up "...
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5answers
14k 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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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, ...
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3answers
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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 simplicity. ...
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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 ...
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5answers
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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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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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What is the exact meaning of “It’s better to be lucky than good”? How popular is this adage?

Today’s (October 29) New York Times carries the article written by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen under the title “What’s luck go to do with it,” It deals with a nine-year research study of some of the ...
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3answers
412 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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3answers
625 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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1answer
408 views

What does the title “Man Friday” mean? [on hold]

I was reading this book Gujarat files and suddenly I came across this word Narendra Modi’s Man Friday (describing Amit Shah) What does this title mean? And also is the word 'title' I used correct word ...
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4answers
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What does 'two-bit paper pusher' mean?

I often find a joke titled, ‘When a grandma goes to court’ followed by the line, ‘Lawyers should never ask a question if they aren’t prepared for the answer.’ I don’t know if it’s a popular joke or ...
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6answers
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Why does the following phrase sound old fashioned?

"We went swimming later in the afternoon, Jack and I." I am trying to describe what is happening here by breaking the sentence down into it's basic components, but I am having difficulty doing this. ...
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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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8answers
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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 ...
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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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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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3answers
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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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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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2answers
548 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. ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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
15k 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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7answers
11k views

The meaning of “This is it”

Does "this is it," mean "this is the end?" How is this possible?
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10answers
847 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
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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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5answers
569 views

Question Regarding Possessives with ('s) and (of) [duplicate]

Question: Is the first one redundant and proper, or is it redundant and not necessarily correct? (1) He is a friend of Doug's. (2) He is a friend of Doug.
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2answers
334 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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The Origin of “Killing It”

Related to How did kil get its positive conntations. Which goes into the origin of "making a killing" and "killed the audience", but not this specific phrase. Musicians have a particular phrase for ...
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3answers
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Meaning of “herding the cats”

What is the meaning of the phrase herding the cats? I've found one description on Wikipedia but it is not clear enough.
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2answers
925 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?