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86

Something is meta (and self referential) if it is about itself. If you substitute the word "about" where you see meta in a sentence longer than "it's meta", you will get close to the meaning, even though the sentence you make won't necessarily be grammatically correct. Some examples of meta things: in a meeting, time spent discussing the meeting itself - ...


84

To say the same thing, you can say I hope it won't be considered presumptuous to say this, but... or I don't want to sound presumptuous, but... Synonyms that you can substitute here for presumptuous are impertinent, overconfident, arrogant, bold, insolent, impudent, and of course the less formal sounding "cocky". To sound deferential, but not ...


66

If etc. occurs at the end of a sentence, then you do not add another period. It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc. However, if etc. occurs at the end of a clause, you can add a comma or other punctuation mark after it. I bought the apples, oranges, etc., but they were all rotten. This grammar reference gives the following rule: When ...


63

While we often think that our idea/viewpoint/product is far superior to others we encounter, the needs of the creator or other users may be divergent from our own, or what we think theirs are. We may view precision as the primary criterion, while they think ease of use is paramount. And they may be the deciders. One approach to acknowledge that another ...


56

"I want a pony" is a slang phrase, usually used in reply to someone's request for something impossible. From the Urban Dictionary: "We want a copy protection solution that's 100% unbreakable." "Yes, and I want a pony." In this context, it reads to me that while the author would very much like a solution to the Eurozone crisis, he doesn't believe ...


49

I upvoted David's loaded question because it's a very common usage, but on reflection I realised that's not quite right for OP's context. A loaded question is nearly always one that's asked in such a way as to force or encourage a particular answer (that the answerer might not give if the question were presented "fairly"). But a trick question is one where ...


47

To expand a little on Claudiu’s excellent answer, there seems to be an interesting progression/evolution here: metaphor: “it’s like he was spat out of his father’s mouth” (1689). metonymy: “he’s the very spit of his father” (1825) — when the metaphor is commonplace enough, it no longer gets spelled out in full. idiom/cliché: “the spit and image of his ...


47

It's what the test pilots of the time called the original American Mercury astronauts, because the astronauts were not really "flying" the craft due to lack of control surfaces or (in the beginning) even windows. "Spam in a can" is heard in the movie version of Tom Wolfe's non-fiction book, The Right Stuff. Although test pilots at Edwards AFB mock the ...


46

It doesn't at all mean "don't go around talking about this to anyone." It is in fact much closer to "you're welcome." When you are telling someone "don't mention it", what you are telling them not to mention is the 'thank you' itself -- you are saying "Your thanks isn't necessary. I was glad to do it, so you didn't need to mention your thanks." (Note: This ...


43

As this ngram shows, the term began to be used in the 1940's and it peaked in usage (at least in the materials Google samples) around 1960. The coining of the term to describe US and Soviet relations is generally attributed to Bernard Baruch in a speech given in 1947. He stated that it was suggested to him by H.B. Swope, the editor of the New York World. ...


42

Wikipedia actually has an article dedicated to this phrase. It says: The earliest confirmed publication is the 1866 Dion Boucicault play Flying Scud in which a character knowingly breezes past a difficult situation saying, "Excuse me Mr. Quail, I can't stop; I've got to see a man about a dog." In a listing for a 1939 revival on the NBC Radio program ...


41

It means she was young and immature. The phrase "going on" means nearing in age. My daughter is six going on seven. This means she is almost seven. If the gap is wide, it suggests either that she is precocious (18 going on 30) or immature (22 going on 16). Joe Blow has covered a lot of this already, but I feel it is important to emphasize that this ...


41

Don't just assert; support the assertion. "Testing with the Arcane Blivit dataset indicates that this implementation improves performance of the Deeble function by 20%, which improves our overall performance on that dataset by 3%. I'd be glad to repeat the experiment with other datasets to make sure this isn't an atypical result." Or explain why the new ...


40

I would call that a "loaded question." A loaded question is one where the person asking it has an agenda behind it. While there are other cases where a loaded question is the appropriate term, I believe this to be one type. Of course, one can say that traditionally a loaded question has some information that forces the other person to agree to unsavory ...


36

Yes, one can. Of course, it is applying a term that no longer has the direct meaning that it once did, but then teamsters no longer control a team of horses, core-dumps no longer have anything to do with ferrite cores, salaries are no longer paid in salt, and most people don't look at the stars when they consider something. As such, it is one of a great ...


35

Wikipedia on Gratis versus Libre: Gratis versus libre is the distinction between two meanings of the English adjective "free"; namely, "for zero price" (gratis) and "with few or no restrictions" (libre). The ambiguity of "free" can cause issues where the distinction is important, as it often is in dealing with laws concerning the use of information, such ...


35

The current colloquial use of meta is a bit hard to pin down with a definition — it doesn’t entirely fit the concept of self-reference. It’s probably better illustrated by a couple of examples. There are lots of old jokes that begin: An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar… and go on to tell some story where the three people each do ...


35

It is common in the US to use "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" as a more secular sentiment for this time of year (Wikipedia has a pretty good description of these). Also, "Happy New Year" by itself is quite common and not considered lame at all. Finally, I am not Christian, but I don't find it offensive when well-wishers offer me a "Merry ...


34

The sign says "wet floor" because the floor is wet. The sign is giving you full and complete information about a condition of the floor that is not its normal state. Wet floors are not always slippery; slippery floors are not always wet. Some people might be more concerned about getting their pants wet when splashing through the water; should the sign ...


34

Aside from the phrases "God forbid" and "Heaven (or heaven) forbid" which could be construed to have religious connotations, this site suggests perish the thought. On the entry for this phrase, the site writes: Don't even think of it. This expression is used as a wish that what was just mentioned will never happen. For example, "He's going to give ...


34

In the United States, toilet-training a child typically starts with diapers. An intermediate step is "trainers" or "pull-ups", which are basically diapers with elastic: the kid gets used to the idea that s/he shouldn't just "let go" at any moment, but the absorption is there so that it's not a total disaster if it happens. Finally, when the kid has ...


33

For me, the phrase "Give each of us a pony" means literally "give each of us a gift of a horse." Ponies, as far as I know, are regarded as a status symbol among certain circles. (Imagine a young girl in a well-to-do family requesting her father this for a birthday present). So, for me, saying "give each of us a pony" is equivalent to "give each of us a ...


32

X is "the only child" of his parents, and "an only child" along with Y and Z. Similarly, I am "the" elder child of my parents and "an" elder (and eldest) child along with bunches of other people. One refers to the specific situation; the other refers to the classification. Edited to add: Consider the following examples: "The": Census interviewer: Do ...


32

The original telephone switchboards were literally patch boards: the caller and callee were physically connected with a wire (patch cable) to form a circuit. Photo from here.


31

I found an earlier appearance in the 1904 novel Beverly of Graustark by George Barr McCutcheon. This is on page 39: Even the hills have eyes and ears. The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs has similar phrases going back a long way, but not "the hills have eyes" specifically. "The fields have eyes and the woods have ears" is used by Chaucer in The ...


30

It stands for "(advanced) skill". There are lots of similar constructions, such as "Script-Fu", "Google-Fu", and so on. Wiktionary has an article on the suffix -fu: Etymology From kung-fu Suffix 1. (slang) Expertise; mastery. My google-fu is weak! Aragorn uses Ranger-fu to figure out that Sam and Frodo have taken a boat.


30

Yes, "my bad" is a proper English phrase. It is an apology; when you say "my bad", you're basically saying, "I admit a mistake" or "my fault, sorry for that". Wiktionary says: (colloquial) (idiomatic) My fault; mea culpa. Yes, I realize the humvee isn't supposed to be parked in the heirloom flowerbed. My bad. It also links to this Language ...


30

This is like "it's better to buy insurance and not need it (than it is to not have insurance and need it)." In this phrase, being safe requires effort to be in that condition, but the effort is small compared to what loss might occur if that effort weren't made. Examples are: It's better to check behind your car every time you back out of your driveway, ...


29

TV Tropes call it "My Friends And Zoidberg" trope: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MyFriendsAndZoidberg A standard comedy trope which, at its core, takes the form: "Group A ... and Bob." It is often expanded to mention two or more groups: "Ladies, Gentlemen ... and Bob." In either version, Bob is already expected ...


29

Bats are known for their impressive hearing, so that could be an option, while owls also have excellent hearing ability. However, the animal with the best hearing is the Greater Wax Moth, which can hear sound frequencies of up to 300,000 Hz. In comparison, most humans can only hear up to 20,000 Hz. However, I don't think She has the ears of a greater ...



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