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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56
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11answers
4k views

Phrase for overusing just-learned skills?

Is there a saying or word for indicating the overuse of something you just newly learned? Say you were happy with a hammer and a nail and then somebody taught you the virtues of a screw and ...
50
votes
4answers
6k 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 ...
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 ...
37
votes
10answers
11k views

“To shoot out of cannon into sparrows”

In Russian we have idiom/saying "To shoot out of cannon into sparrows" (literal translation) which is used to convey an idea of applying too drastic measures to small problems. I believe there should ...
31
votes
5answers
10k views

I don't have a ___ in this ___ (saying)

Earlier this evening, I was trying to tell someone, "I don't care who wins the Superbowl this year. I don't have a-" I could't remember how to complete this saying (to mean I don't have a personal ...
26
votes
8answers
3k views

Are there similar expressions to the Japanese saying “I want to die on a tatami mat”?

Today most people die in a hospital bed, though many would prefer to die in their own home being watched over by their loving family. We have an old saying, “to die on a tatami mat”, meaning to die ...
25
votes
7answers
199k views

What is the meaning and origin of the common phrase “the world is your oyster”?

What does the world is your oyster mean, and where does it come from?
22
votes
8answers
1k views

What is a better way to name “The Wrong Question”?

On StackOverflow.com I often find that people ask questions about problems that arise due to poor design choices (typically due to a lack of knowledge about the particular programming language). For ...
22
votes
6answers
5k 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
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12answers
5k 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 ...
20
votes
33answers
6k 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 ...
19
votes
12answers
15k 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 ...
19
votes
11answers
7k 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 ...
19
votes
6answers
16k views

He's good people. Just him. The one guy

I think this is a Midwestern thing, but where does the phrase "good people" come from? I'm referring specifically to the usage: "I like Bob. He's good people."
18
votes
11answers
6k 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 conveys ...
18
votes
4answers
37k views

Which is the correct idiom: “First thing's first” or “First things first”?

I've gotten into a debate over which usage of an apostrophe in the phrase "first thing(')s first" is correct. My thinking is that one would take the first thing and give it priority, hence the first ...
17
votes
2answers
1k views

“Some champagne for my real friends, some real pain for my sham friends.”

Some champagne for my real friend, some real pain for my sham friends." Is there a name for this kind of sentence? Note: I'm not sure the origin of this, but it is a line in Spike Lee's movie, 25th ...
17
votes
5answers
6k 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?
16
votes
11answers
6k 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 ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

Where did the adage, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” come from?

In connection with my questions about the meaning of Pope Francis’s, remarks - 'Who am I to judge?' / 'You can add more water to the beans'. I found the following statement in a New York Times (July ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

A term describing the replacement of a specific word in a saying with one that ryhmes

I understand this is quite a complicated title, however I have failed to discover a word (or a few words) to adequately describe the creative language used when changing a saying (or well-known phrase)...
15
votes
13answers
3k views

What is an expression for something you particularly like?

I'm not a native English speaker. I want to find the English equivalent of ho un debole per le ragazze svedesi that, in Italian, basically means "I particularly like Swedish girls." (It's just ...
15
votes
14answers
13k 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 ...
15
votes
5answers
3k 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 ...
15
votes
5answers
28k 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?
15
votes
5answers
568 views

“The whole nine yards”

What is the origin of the phrase "the whole nine yards"? Is it a reference to some game of sports I am not familiar with (as a continental European)?
14
votes
14answers
1k views

An expression for trying to futilely apply old methods that once worked

We are looking for an expression that captures this idea: When someone tries to adapt an old way of doing something, holding on to the original core of their process, in a futile way, instead of ...
14
votes
3answers
57k views

Origin of the phrase “Now we're cooking with _”

I have heard this phrase as: Now we're cooking with gas. Now we're cooking with grease. Now we're cooking with heat. Now we're cooking with fire. Which of these is the original version, and where/...
13
votes
5answers
57k views

How do you like them apples?

What exactly does this phrase mean and in which situations is it used?
12
votes
6answers
1k views

More eloquent idiom/expression for the phrase “cut it at the roots/source to prevent the problem from growing/escalating ”

There's nothing particularly wrong with the phrase that's in the title except I figure there may be some better sounding alternative or something more pleasing to the ears. Example usage: We have to ...
11
votes
1answer
480 views

Meaning of “match Greek with Greek”

From Christmas Storms and Sunshine by Elizabeth Gaskell (4th paragraph): Jenkins had his wife too. Wives were wanting to finish the completeness of the quarrel, which existed one memorable ...
10
votes
9answers
16k views

To “have someone's number”

Where does the saying I've got your number come from?
10
votes
9answers
56k 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?
9
votes
5answers
13k views

Is there a saying like 'those who find faults with other people tend to be blind to their own faults'?

Is there a saying that could be explained as 'those who find faults with other people tend to be blind to their own faults?' As with people who are picky; their criticism of others often applies to ...
9
votes
6answers
2k views

Is there a saying in English corresponding to “Another loach under the willow tree”?

In Japanese there's a saying "another loach" in the short form, "look for another loach under the same willow tree" in the long form. This saying is for ridiculing a person who blindly repeats what ...
9
votes
2answers
14k views

What's the origin of the saying, “There's no accounting for taste”?

I hear it all the time in arguments over subjective judgements: There's no accounting for taste. Where does this saying come from? Is it a quote or old proverb?
9
votes
4answers
492 views

Source and meaning of the proverb “Milk says to wine, Welcome friend”

While investigating an unrelated expression, I came across the following proverb in George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum ; or Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, Etc., second edition (1651): Milk says to ...
9
votes
2answers
438 views

Is there English version of French army cliché, “A friend when you’re lieutenant, companion when captain, … the enemy when you’re general"?

I found a French army cliché; “A friend when you’ re a first lieutenant, a companion when you’re captain, a colleague when you’re major, a rival when you’re colonel, the enemy when you’re general” ...
8
votes
2answers
33k 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
6k views

A saying indicating how some professionals don't apply their skills for themselves

Some made-up examples: Architect's house is always crooked. Mechanic's car is leaking Chef's breakfast is as plain as boiled eggs Is there an established saying for these situations?
8
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
8
votes
5answers
16k 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 ...
8
votes
7answers
702 views

“Soldier sleeps - the service continues” (Russian idiom/saying)

What are English equivalents for following Russian idiom: "soldier sleeps - the service continues"? In Russian it means that "you have a rest, but your work is still being done". UPD from comments: ...
7
votes
10answers
5k views

Is there any saying or idiom to describe the opposite of “blessing in disguise”?

Something that looks like a good thing at first, but has unforeseen bad consequences. For instance, while irrigation schemes provide people with water for agriculture, they can increase waterborne ...
7
votes
6answers
2k views

Do you have English counterpart to “To ask a question is a shame of a moment. Not to ask the question is a shame for whole life”?

I doubt whether my question is worth asking or being answered every time I’m posting a question, and ask myself, “Doesn’t it look too naive or primitive a question?” However, I keep posting questions ...
7
votes
3answers
15k views

Talking out of the side of your mouth

Talking out of the side of your mouth This means one is lying, right? Or something else?
7
votes
3answers
13k views

Origin of “spill the beans”

I believe this phrase means "to betray information". Could someone please explain its origin?
7
votes
1answer
817 views

What is the Origin of “wouldn't say boo to a goose”?

According to http://www.theanswerbank.co.uk/Phrases-and-Sayings/Question284368.html this is the origin of the phrase "wouldn't say boo to a goose": Because of the supposed stupidity of the bird of ...
7
votes
1answer
712 views

A frog in the throat

While the French refer to the temporary hoarseness caused by phlegm in the back of the throat as having a cat in the throat, the English version of the expression is to have a frog in the throat. I ...
7
votes
7answers
44k 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 ...