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

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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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2answers
9k 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 ...
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1answer
95 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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0answers
533 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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“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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5answers
809 views

What is someone who leaks a surprise called?

What is someone whose tendency/act is to leak the surprise called?
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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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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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2k views

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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2answers
618 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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9answers
958 views

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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3answers
20k views

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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6answers
10k views

What is the difference between “Class of 2004” and “Batch of 2004”?

What is the difference between "Class of 2004" and "Batch of 2004"? I have a feeling that one means the students who joined the university in 2004 and the other means those who graduated in 2004. Is ...
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2answers
640 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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2answers
3k views

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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6answers
40k views

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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1answer
728 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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2answers
389 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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“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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2answers
4k views

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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2answers
165 views

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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1answer
216 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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3answers
993 views

“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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3answers
402 views

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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2answers
275 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
2k views

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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4answers
68 views

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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2answers
187 views

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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1answer
213 views

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 ...
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2answers
2k views

Is the usage of “in your humble opinion” correct?

We use "in my humble opinion" to express humility. But I even see usage of "in your humble opinion" to ask for others' opinions. What does it mean? I see the usage in the original message here, ...
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1answer
858 views

Why does 'dead on' mean 'very accurate'? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Where does the phrase “dead simple” originate? According to Wiktionary, the phrase 'dead on' means 'very accurate' or 'exactly at'. This is also how I have used the ...
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3answers
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Are “preaching to the choir” and “preaching to the converted” synonymous

The following are acceptable expressions that I have heard: "Preaching to the choir" "Preaching to the converted" To me, both mean essentially that you are trying to explain something to ...
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Word for thing with positive and negative consequences

What word can I use for a thing with positive and negative consequences? For example, taking a cab rather than driving has its advantages and disadvantages.
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Replacement for ‘at the example of ’

I’m currently searching for the title of my research thesis and I can’t find a good phrase. I did a “Systematic Analysis of fruit growth” in a generic way and additionally applied the analysis to ...
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2answers
734 views

What does “call past” mean?

What does the expression "call past" mean? See some usages below: I called past the supermarket on the way home from the office. He just called past and asked to gather the team in the ...
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3answers
530 views

Equivalent of homonym for terms and phrases

A homonym is a word with two distinct meanings, for instance: chase (from dict.org) To pursue for the purpose of killing or taking, as an enemy, or game; to hunt. [1913 Webster] ...
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Meaning of “ask of”

What is the meaning of the phrase ask of in the following sentence? Trust and security are important for any application; before we move on to the meat of accessing data, let’s make sure the ...
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2answers
932 views

“Sleep in” versus “Sleep out”

Over the years, I have often debated whether the phrase is "In the morning, I'm going to sleep in." or "In the morning, I'm going to sleep out." My best guess is that it is a regional difference of ...
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2answers
871 views

What's the meaning of “as it did” in this sentence?

Islamic law is the result of an examination, from a religious angle, of legal subject matter that was far from uniform, comprising as it did the various components of the laws of pre-Islamic Arabia ...
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1answer
299 views

What is the difference between “set phrase” and “catch phrase”?

What is the difference between set phrase and catch phrase? Do the expressions describe something without relation with each other?
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1answer
6k views

Not only… but also

Consider the following: Not only you should be able to speak but also able to write. You should be able to not only speak but also write. You should not only be able to speak but also be ...
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I like dog or I like dogs which is correct and why?

Why do we say 'I like dogs'? Why can't we say 'I like dog' if we are referring to a particular dog? Most people use 'I like dogs'. Which is correct and why?
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0answers
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Word Combination question [duplicate]

Certain words are often used in a fixed combination. As an example consider the phrase - 'hardly......when' as used in the sentence - "Hardly had I entered the room when the light went out." For ...
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1answer
670 views

A number off or a number of?

I am reading some technical documents and there is a list of items that make up the product. Throughout the document where there are multiple items, they are listed as 2 off, 3 off and so on. For ...
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1answer
152 views

Differences in the Semantics of Three Tri-Part Phrasal Verbs

What are the subtle semantic differences in the following three tri-part phrasal verbs: (1) be up against (2) come up against (3) run up against
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3answers
212 views

The use of question formation in non-question phrases?

I have read the following text some time ago: [...] Only here can you enjoy dazzling entertainment, get the thrill of your life on the exciting rides, and be face-to-face with some of the ...
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4answers
245 views

A prediction made in the past that affects something we will do in the future

Please ignore the factual accuracy of this sentence and focus on the tenses used. If the Mayans were wrong to end the calendar on Dec. 20, 2012, we'll use your donation to fund 2013 programming. ...
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877 views

Horse of a different color

I recently heard someone use the expression "Now that's a whole different bag of dog food". While highly unusualy, the meaning was well understood by the audience. I know there is an actual ...