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

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15answers
12k views

“Soccer mom”: why soccer?

...why not football mom, baseball mom, or basketball mom? Soccer mom, as far as I can tell, is an American term made popular during the 1996 presidential elections, used to describe a key demographic ...
76
votes
4answers
124k views

When “etc.” is at the end of a phrase, do you place a period after it?

Example: It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc. VS. It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc..
70
votes
18answers
32k views

A formal way to say “I don't want to sound too cocky…”

Allow me to clear the situation. I was talking with my professor about a piece of software that I had developed. While we were discussing, I wanted to say something like I don't want to sound too ...
51
votes
12answers
5k views

A way of describing the lesbian parent that is not pregnant?

A friend of mine is in a long term relationship with her female partner. After deciding they wanted a family, my friend's girlfriend got pregnant. Normally when talking about a couple expecting a ...
48
votes
4answers
53k views

What does “something 101” mean? [closed]

Many times I saw the phrase something 101, such as Microsoft Excel 101. What exactly does it mean?
46
votes
4answers
61k views

Origin and exact meaning of the phrase “I have to go see a man about a dog”

I hear my older coworkers use this idiom/phrase occasionally. It seems possibly to be a humorous way to get out of a conversation. Even as a native English speaker, I've never figured out the exact ...
36
votes
7answers
87k views

When your 10-year old boy says “It’s meta,” what does it mean? In what situation and of what sort of object they use this phrase?

I asked about the meaning and usage of meta a few days ago, quoting Maureen Dowd’s review of the movie, “J. Edgar” in New York Times. I received six answers. But I still don’t get a clear idea of ...
35
votes
4answers
4k views

Term for something that is supposed to increase safety, but really just increases fear?

Some examples: A news station giving daily "terrorist reports". It doesn't actually say how to protect yourself, just gives information on how horrible they are & why you should be afraid. A ...
34
votes
14answers
7k views

Appropriate word for internet name of a person

What is the appropriate word or phrase which means the internet name of a person. I mean the nickname that a person uses in almost all places on the internet like blog, IRC, forums, mailing lists etc. ...
34
votes
13answers
6k views

Is there a word or an idiom for people who only spend their families' money and fool around?

Is there a word or an idiom for rich people who spend only their families' money and do not bother to work, just fool around?
34
votes
4answers
3k views

Complete the job, as directed. There is a comma. why?

The following sentences both say that you have been directed to do a job: Complete the job, as directed. vs Complete the job as directed. But which of the two sentences above will assert ...
31
votes
6answers
6k 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 ...
31
votes
5answers
5k views

During the “Cold War”, did Americans/Westerners call it such?

I am old enough to remember the fall of the Soviet Union, but not old enough to have had any interest in world affairs in the times before. Did Americans/Westerners refer to the "Cold War" by that ...
31
votes
5answers
18k views

Replacement for “God forbid”

I wanted to use the phrase "God forbid" the other day, but really wanted to avoid the religious connotations that may come along with it. I was stumped while thinking of a replacement or variation. I ...
30
votes
11answers
7k views

Is there a word/term for a question where the asker knows he'll criticise any answer?

What do you call it when a person asks somebody a question when they know they'll criticise any answer regardless? For instance, a man asks you something like "If you were recruiting staff would you ...
30
votes
3answers
121k views

What is the purpose of using the word “why” in “why, thank you”?

I sometimes have heard somebody replying with Why, thank you. instead of Thank you. What is the meaning of the first phrase? What is the difference between the two phrases?
29
votes
7answers
4k views

Is “Needless to say” ever worth saying? [closed]

I get a weird twinge in my stomach when ever I have the urge to write "Needless to say." If it's needless to say, it would seem stupid to say it. Am I right? Am I wrong?
28
votes
8answers
56k views

Distinction: “What can I do you for?” vs. “What can I do for you?”

Usually, when being served the phrase "What can I do for you?" is used but sometimes I also hear "What can I do you for?" in quite the same context. So is there a difference or is it just a slip of ...
28
votes
5answers
26k views

“jury-rigged”, or “jerry-rigged”

As far back as I can remember, the usage went something like "Their jury was rigged, and that's how he got away." Or, "They Jerry-rigged the controller at the last moment and it worked!" I used to ...
27
votes
8answers
81k views

Is it correct to say Person A is the “spitting image” or the “splitting image” of Person B?

I understand that when trying to describe a person who has a resemblance to another, the common term is spitting image. As in: Person A is a spitting image of Person B. Here's my issue, I've ...
27
votes
14answers
3k views

Phrase for observing a rule in a malicious way

I know this phrase, but for some reason it is blocked in my mind. What is the term for observing a rule, but doing so in a way that subverts it? I'm almost certain that malicious is one of the words ...
26
votes
13answers
8k views

Secular phrase for “Heaven only knows” or “God only knows”?

As the title states, I am seeking a secular phrase synonymous to "Heaven only knows" or "God only knows." Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.
26
votes
16answers
5k views

Is there an idiom for “I'm not an expert when it comes to kinds of feces”

There is an idiom in my language, which literally sounds like "I'm not an expert when it comes to kinds of feces". Which means that one considers all the instances of some group as equally bad, not to ...
26
votes
6answers
16k views

Why do we say “I win” instead of “I won”?

For a long time I was wondering why there is I win instead of I won. I met such usage in a lot of games and movies. For me, it's logical to say I won, because this winning action is done already. I ...
25
votes
5answers
4k views

Meaning of “give a pony”

I came across this phrase while reading an article by Paul Krugman on the New York Times website. Here's the quotation (emphasis added): … non-GIPSI [the group of Eurozone nations – Greece, Italy, ...
25
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4answers
2k views

Is there a name for this type of insult: “I am friends with many manly men. And Gary.”?

Is there a term or word appropriate to describe the trick of using a general term and then explicitly adding a specific term to strongly imply that the specific is not part of the general? The trick I ...
24
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32answers
12k views

Alternative ways to say “I cannot answer that question”? [closed]

I'm getting bored of repeating the same "I can't answer that" phrase over and over. I'm trying other phrases, like "I'll leave that to your imagination," but that one sounds too weird. Specifically, ...
24
votes
7answers
77k views

What is the meaning of “don't mention it” (in response to “thank you”)?

I read at several places that "don't mention it" is equal to "you're welcome". But for me, the word means something like "don't go around talking about this to anyone". So what is the real meaning of ...
24
votes
2answers
70k views

Why do we say “to boot”?

Here's an example of the phrase "to boot": My wife made a disgusting looking dinner, and it tasted awful to boot! The implication of the "to boot" is that the fact that the dinner tasted awful ...
23
votes
5answers
17k views

Correct, clear, concise way to use “potato-potato” in writing

"You say tomato, I say tomato" and the song from the beginning. As an informal turn of speech, it can be used to show that two or more parties are talking about basically the same thing but not in ...
22
votes
14answers
163k views

Different ways to say “you're welcome” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How do native English speakers respond to “Thank you”? Can “Sure” be used to respond to “Thanks”? Is “not at all” still alive and doing well? I'm getting ...
22
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9answers
4k views

Is the phrase “I just sucked it out of my thumb” used in American English?

I was born and raised in South Africa. We frequently used the term "to suck out of one's thumb", implying that an answer was just a wild guess or the notion had no evidence but was rather just ...
22
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3answers
1k views

Why is “head over heels” used as if it were exceptional rather than commonplace?

Most people spend part of each day standing, and if they have normal anatomy their heads are over their heels in this position. Even sitting or lying down, the head is higher than the heels (if not ...
22
votes
6answers
3k views

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 ...
21
votes
12answers
4k 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 ...
21
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5answers
7k views

Is “what on earth” still commonly used in real life? Is there any alternative that is not cursing or obscene?

I'm a non-native speaker. When I was at school, we were taught that "on earth" is used for emphasis in questions such as: What on earth are you talking about? However, from my experience ...
21
votes
8answers
4k views

Do you hang up a cellphone?

When you disconnect your phone, you hang up. Does this phrase apply to your cellphone?
21
votes
2answers
1k views

Free as in 'free beer' and in 'free speech' [closed]

This phrase is all over the internet. They will say that something is free as in 'free beer' and free as in 'free speech'. I have never really understood this. Are these the examples of two different ...
21
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5answers
86k views

Origin of the phrase, “There's more than one way to skin a cat.”

The meaning is clear, but where did this phrase originate? Was it always such a gruesome reference?
20
votes
10answers
6k views

I don't like potatoes or ice-cream [closed]

I am struggling to find the correct grammar for a fairly simple sentence. "I don't like potatoes or ice-cream". This appears to be incorrect because it is a contraction of the two clauses "I ...
20
votes
5answers
119k views

What does “to come undone” actually mean?

I've heard this phrase several times but was given several contradictory interpretations. Please provide an exact meaning of the phase.
20
votes
5answers
4k views

The origin of the term “Baker's Dozen”?

There's a "hot question" at the moment about the use of the apostrophe in the phrase Baker's Dozen, and it got me to wondering: where did this phrase originate? Did bakers really offer 13 in a dozen? ...
20
votes
5answers
47k views

What is the origin of the phrase “I'll take a raincheck”?

What is the origin of the phrase I'll take a raincheck?
20
votes
8answers
21k views

Origin of “Too Clever by Half”

The phrase "Too Clever by Half" is used to criticize someone for being overconfident in their thinking. What is the origin of this phrase? I read somewhere that it started as a backhanded compliment ...
20
votes
3answers
3k views

What does the suffix “‑fu” mean?

Can anyone tell me what the suffix “‑fu” stands for in the following sentence? If you want to take advantage of some other Spring-fu, like some of its aspect-oriented features, then you’ll need to ...
20
votes
6answers
40k views

Why does “tell me about it” not mean “tell me about it”?

A commonly used American phrase, but one that still baffles me if I stop and think about it. Why does "tell me about" actually mean, "I understand what you're talking about as I have experienced it ...
20
votes
3answers
18k views

Origin of “ballpark estimate” to mean a very rough estimate?

I'm wondering where the term "ballpark estimate" comes from? Sometimes "ballpark" is said stand-alone to mean a rough estimate, as in "these numbers are a ballpark". I understand it must come from ...
20
votes
4answers
33k views

What is the difference between “here we go” and “there we go”?

As a non-native speaker, I cannot grasp any difference between the expressions "here we go" and "there we go": both expressions seem to underline an event that is going to happen immediately. Is ...
19
votes
10answers
4k views

What's the word for 'busting the myth'?

Suppose, I want to say that you need to bust the myth that girls are not good at sports or any other stereotype for that matter..What's the word to prove wrong an old, established stereotype? Is it ...
19
votes
11answers
3k views

[S]he has the ears of a …?

Often, when overheard from far away, I find myself saying/thinking: [S]he has the ears of a hawk! Which doesn't really make sense as hawks aren't particularly well known for their sense of ...