A saying is something that is said, notable in one respect or another, to be "a pithy expression of wisdom or truth."

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2answers
7k views

Why does this “Ladies First” saying exist?

I've been wondering. Where did the saying "Ladies first" originate? Did it originally appeared in English countries, or? And is this always expressed in a positive/polite tune of meaning? I mean, I ...
2
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1answer
54 views

English folk saying or proverb involving the number four (of people)?

We have: "it takes two to tango", "two is company; three is a crowd", etc... Are there any similar sayings that refer to four people?
2
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1answer
89 views

Is “the best thing since sliced bread” supposed to be taken sarcastically?

On one day my boss said that a tool I had created to speed up my work was “probably the best thing since sliced bread”. Neither one of us is a native english speaker and we don’t also have any similar ...
1
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1answer
29 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 ...
3
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2answers
214 views

No sex please, we are British!

This well-renowned saying was celebrated in the 70's and 80's in London West End. But what is its origin? What roots in popular culture has this phrase?
0
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1answer
41 views

“you seem pretty cool yourself”

What is the meaning of "you seem pretty cool yourself"? I don't understand the "yourself" in this context. Is this ironic and means that I find myself being cool? Regards Klaus
13
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4answers
1k views

What is a saying for someone who does good in the street, but is bad at home?

In Spanish there is this saying "Candil de la calle, oscuridad de tu casa". Which is basically said to people who do good outside, e.g. at work or school, but does nothing good at home for his or her ...
0
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0answers
24 views

Biting butter and crumbs

In a song by The Last Shadow Puppets there is this line: "Can't you see I'm the ghost in the wrong coat Biting butter and crumbs" Is the "Biting butter and crumbs" an actual saying, or just a ...
7
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4answers
365 views

Meaning and origin of “put a wrinkle on one's horn”

While investigating a recent EL&U question (What does "throw a wrinkle" mean?), I came across the unusual expression “put a wrinkle on [or in] one’s horn [or horns].” I have three ...
5
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7answers
18k views

What is the origin of the phrase “two nations divided by a common language”?

What is the origin of the phrase "two nations divided by a common language"? I have seen it attributed to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and even Winston Churchill. The most likely looking source ...
5
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3answers
15k views

“Tit for tat”—Where does this come from?

I always ask myself where this saying originates. I only know the individual words, tit and tat, but why is this a saying?
0
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3answers
58 views

Saying about good and bad [duplicate]

Is there a saying or a quote, when something good happen thanks to something bad ? Like you meet someone because you've lost someone else ?
9
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2answers
276 views

“… gets my goat”. What's my goat and why does it get it?

To get someone's goat is make them annoyed or irritated. But what is the goat and why does getting it annoy them? When and where does the phrase come from? What's the first known use?
2
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3answers
457 views

English proverb or saying on “you can't have too many friends”

I'm curious if there's an English proverb or saying that has the meaning "you can't have too many friends". The matter is, we have such a saying in Russian ("Друзей много не бывает"). In other words, ...
3
votes
1answer
137 views

Meaning of: “The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right”

This is a Mark Twain aphorism: The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. This is apparently intended to be easily understood, but the ...
0
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0answers
28 views

Is there a saying/aphorism/proverb for the following

Is there a saying or proverb for when a person or group of people act politely and with respect towards a certain member of a group in front of a person of respect or elder, and then acts with ...
16
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11answers
4k views

Is it correct to say “You are a path shower” [closed]

First of all, I am not a native English speaker and not very good in English too. I had a technical problem in my software project and thus took help of somebody. She helped me to find the right way ...
2
votes
1answer
121 views

“Rule the Roast” and “Rule the Roost”

John Ayto, Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms (2009) has this entry for "rule the roost": rule the roost be in complete control The original expression was rule the roast, which was common ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

How do I explain “The man on the Clapham omnibus” to the man on the Clapham omnibus?

I have found that I had to explain what "the man on the Clapham omnibus" means to someone. I had taken it for granted that the phase was in standard usage, as my parents used it when I was a child. ...
10
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5answers
28k views

How do you like them apples?

What exactly does this phrase mean and in which situations is it used?
2
votes
4answers
293 views

Which of “chafing at the bit” or “chomping at the bit” is more accepted/proper?

I've used "chafing at the bit" for quite some time, but have also heard "chomping at the bit" as a way to indicate impatience, etc. Which of these two is the more "proper" or accepted variant?
13
votes
5answers
15k views

Is it “a tough row to hoe?”, or “a tough road to hold?”

Is it an old farming metaphor, or a military saying? Where did this(these) saying(s) originate?
4
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6answers
894 views

Saying that refers to not going overboard in solving a problem when a simple solution exists

So I know I've heard this saying in American English before but I just can't quite find the original. I have come up with several made up variations like: I don't send the Navy (or whole army, or a ...
5
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9answers
647 views

What's the English idiom/saying to describe that the chosen word is not correct?

I mean that the word used is too light or too subtle to describe the gravity of the situation? For example (an artificial example): the tsunami starts, the incredibly big waves are coming to the ...
1
vote
2answers
53 views

Looking for a folk saying or proverb that reflects “the closer, higher the competition”

I am looking for an American or UK folk saying or proverb that reflects the following idea: the closer are the players, the higher is the competition or the more level the playing field, the more ...
3
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4answers
15k views

What is the origin of “wake up and smell the roses”

Where did this saying come from, and what is its true meaning?
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3answers
2k views

Is there an idiom beginning “when a dog is cornered”?

Is there any saying in a complete sentence including “a dog which is cornered”? I have tried to find a complete one, but there seems to be no one. Actually, what I want to know is how to explain the ...
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0answers
36 views
2
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2answers
206 views

What is a proper response to a joke about visiting dentist at 2:30/tooth hurty?

I advised my client that I would be unavailable on a particular day because I have an appointment with the dentist to remove a tooth. The client responded What time is the appointment? 2:30? The ...
7
votes
4answers
6k views

What's the origin of the saying “know your onions”?

In French, there's the expression occupez-vous de vos oignons which means "mind your own business" in English but can be literally translated as "take care of your onions". Know your onions however ...
7
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9answers
30k views

Is it 'Close to the chest' or 'Close to the vest'?

Apologies if this is a duplicate, I am just curious. Are they both valid? Which originated first?
15
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12answers
4k views

An expression or saying meaning “don't celebrate too early”

I am looking for a saying or common expression to say that it is not advisable to anticipate or celebrate something before you know the actual outcome. I am thinking about political elections or ...
1
vote
5answers
449 views

What is the English equivalent for the Spanish saying “God gives bread to those who have no teeth”?

There is an interesting popular saying in southern European countries, that in Spanish, for instance, says: "Dios da pan a quien no tiene dientes". Literally, "God gives bread to those who have no ...
47
votes
4answers
3k views

Why “Speak of the devil”?

Why is the expression "Speak of the devil" and not "Speaking of the devil"? For me, the -ing would make more sense because you're currently talking about someone, when he/she appears. For example, if ...
3
votes
3answers
87 views

Saying for having an argument in public that should be private

Isn't their a saying when a couple fights where everyone can hear and they say things like nobody can hear? Something like, "Arguing behind a screen door" or "fighting with the screen door open."
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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 ...
22
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6answers
2k 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 ...
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3answers
51k views

Why is karma a bitch?

I came across this saying "karma is a bitch" a few times while reading some comments online recently. I understand karma as a religious concept to mean "what goes around, comes around". I also ...
16
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11answers
3k views

It never rains but it pours

This popular saying meaning: When troubles come they come together, (especially if you are unfortunate). has a clear negative connotation. I am looking for a saying or expression that convey just ...
19
votes
33answers
5k views

What's the English equivalent of “Drilling one's head”?

In Arabic (Specifically, north-western Levantine), there's a saying that goes like He drilled my head about/with that lunch meeting (بخشلي راسي باجتماع الغدا) Which means something along the ...
2
votes
5answers
3k views

A word that represents a group of people working to achieve a common goal or dream

I am working on a project that involves bringing people together who share common goals or dreams. Is there a word or phrase to describe groups of people who are working together to accomplish these ...
18
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7answers
109k views
19
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11answers
2k 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
879 views

Is there a similar proverb in English as of malayalam

In Malayalam, there is a proverb "Either the leaf falls on a thorn or a thorn on a leaf, it harms the leaf." Can you suggest an English saying similar to this?
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3answers
6k views

Origin of “spill the beans”

I believe this phrase means "to betray information". Could someone please explain its origin?
1
vote
1answer
209 views

What does “to be the lowest common denominator” mean? [duplicate]

I'm not English and I never encountered this saying: In almost all cases, it is possible and within reason to write completely portable code. In practice, this means that you shouldn’t ...
2
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5answers
4k views

“They know not of what they speak.”

Is this phrase wrong? Shouldn't it be, they know naught of what they speak?
13
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14answers
6k views

Phrase for focusing on unimportant details

I'm looking for an idiom or saying that I could use when people are focusing too much on small details and not seeing the big picture. A couple that come to mind are "being penny-wise and pound ...
0
votes
2answers
154 views

Saying for not doing something because it is futile [duplicate]

Is there such a saying? Futile may be either because it will fail or because it is unnecessary / already taken care of. I considered: too many chefs spoil the broth and It's like carrying coals to ...
1
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0answers
221 views

Meaning of the saying “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” [closed]

Please, I would like the explation of the saying: Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence. I translated it to my native language, but ...