A simple truth that expresses an idea or fact.

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27
votes
12answers
43k views

Proverb or expression for a situation with two choices, both leading to a different kind of trouble

I'm searching for a proverb or expression that describes a situation which has two choices or two ways out (that is, somewhat of a forced choice) where both lead to some kind of trouble (but not the ...
6
votes
4answers
9k views

Why is “xxxx doth not a yyyy make” considered valid English?

Reading doth not a writer make. This sounds all wrong so why it is acceptable to use? The word order looks to be all out sequence (Object-Subject-Verb). It should be "reading does not make you a ...
53
votes
17answers
8k views

What is the English equivalent to the Chinese/Japanese saying, “塞翁失馬— Life is like Old Sai’s horse”?

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine, the initiator of all-around (iPS) cells told a recently-held public symposium, quote: “I’m often asked by many people: ‘You ...
19
votes
6answers
10k views

Time and tide wait for no man

In the old proverb: Time and tide wait for no man. Our first record of the proverb is from St Marher in 1225: And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet. When it was ...
19
votes
7answers
183k views

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth

Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth. What is a gift-horse? Why shouldn't you look in its mouth? What does this idiom actually mean and how is it used?
45
votes
21answers
8k views

Is there a saying or proverb for a situation where the weakest party will always lose?

Context - One might use it in the following situations: "An employee has an argument with her boss and a dispute follows." (she gets fired a few weeks later) "A student having an argument with his ...
55
votes
25answers
8k views

Are there counterpart English expressions to Japanese proverb, "the nail that pops up is always hammered down?

I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is always hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received. I wondered ...
5
votes
3answers
22k views

What's the difference between a proverb and an idiom?

I think I have a notion what is what but maybe you know a good definition what is what? For example "Hindsight is always 20:20" — is that a proverb or an idiom?
6
votes
7answers
38k views

What is the meaning of “Many a mickle makes a muckle”?

I've heard this phrase, and don't know what a "mickle" or a "muckle" is. Hence I have no idea at all what the phrase itself is supposed to mean.
9
votes
2answers
117k views

Origin of “do not argue with idiots” [closed]

What is the origin of the phrase “do not argue with idiots”? Please cite some credible references. From googling around, I found these three variations. One came from the Bible but I couldn’t find ...
4
votes
3answers
18k views

What does “Way out of a paper bag” mean?

What do they mean when they say "He can't find himself way out of paper bag?" Or "Couldn't manage himself out of paper bag?" Also what is the history of this statement? What is the origin?
4
votes
3answers
159 views

An expression that is the opposite of Mortons's fork [duplicate]

Morton's fork is a situation where all outcomes are unpleasant. Is there an expression or term that describes a similar situation, but instead all outcomes are pleasurable/beneficial except only one ...
10
votes
8answers
9k views

Proverb or expression for someone taking on too much

What is an appropriate proverb or expression that means one has: Taken on too many tasks Set out to do something that one isn't qualified to do and hence probably will fail Set out to do something ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

A recent question on Skeptics SE, brought up an interesting debate on the origin of this proverb. Particularly, in the comments to this answer we were wondering whether apple really refers to the ...
6
votes
4answers
3k views

Idiom for opportunistically exploiting a situation to one's advantage

I was wondering what various figures of speech could be used to describe a situation where somebody exploits a situation in order to push their own agenda. For example in Persian we have 'Catching a ...
6
votes
6answers
30k 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?
4
votes
4answers
8k views

Can “the chickens have come home to roost” have positive as well as negative connotations?

In answering a recent EL&U question (Idiom for the phrase "someone who gets what he deserved"), I cited the phrase "The chickens have come home to roost," and said that it "applies ...
2
votes
8answers
410 views

Maxims that have to do with persistence? [closed]

I am looking for idiomatic expressions that convey the value of persistence, such as a long, drawn-out battle where the victor is necessarily the person who simply outlasted the other. I know there is ...
2
votes
1answer
358 views

English equivalent for a Portuguese saying on “bad company”

In Brazilian Portuguese, we have: "The bird who goes around with a bat wakes up hanging upside down" Original: "Passarinho que anda com morcego amanhece de cabeça pra baixo" The literal meaning ...
1
vote
4answers
11k views

Good Things Come In Threes - has a definite positive connotation.

From fairytales to hollywood blockbusters, “the rule of three” (Latin-"omne trium perfectum") principle suggests things that come in threes are inherently more humorous, satisfying and effective than ...