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What does the phrase lemon on mean in this context? Is it an idiom? What is its correct usage?

Excerpt from where I read this phrase:

... Hold on, for this deal, one that does not exist anywhere outside a very fertile imagination, could actually be a lemon on at least five counts. These are the lures that should alert you and beg a recheck before you book the deal.

Source: How to Avoid Common Travel Traps

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  • If it can be explained with reason for down voting, it would be helpful. One reason I could guess is that it is not really an idiom/phrase. I understood only after reading from answers here that it doesn't really constitute a phrase. Is this the only reason for down voting here? As said before, if it is explained with reason, that would help me in future postings.
    – Gnanam
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 6:01
  • I feel my question is asked well within the scope on what kind of questions be asked here. In this case, question is also about usage of the word lemon.
    – Gnanam
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 6:18
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    I didn't downvote, but I imagine it was because the question is "general reference" (too basic). When I Google define lemon, all the top five results include the "slang" meaning defective, especially, of a car. Your parsing error (thinking the problematic expression was "lemon on") may have added to your difficulty understanding what to look for, but I hope you will understand that there is at least some justification for the downvote. Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 12:35
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    lemon Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 8:52

3 Answers 3

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The words lemon on don't really constitute a phrase. Here, the word lemon means something that is bad or defective. The prepositional phrase "on at least five counts" means that there are at least five reasons. This usage is from legalese where each individual charge against a person in called a count.

So the original statement

for this deal ... could actually be a lemon on at least five counts.

Can be restated as

for this deal ... could actually be defective for at least five reasons.

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  • I'm reading a new word legalese from your comment. What does it mean?
    – Gnanam
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 5:28
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    legalese is found in any online dictionary…
    – F'x
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 5:54
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One of the possible meaning of lemon (noun) is:

(informal) a person or thing, esp. an automobile, regarded as unsatisfactory, disappointing, or feeble.

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I don't think 'lemon on' is a phrase here. The sentence should read as:

could actually be a lemon / on at least five counts

and the meaning of 'lemon' here is as F'x has said.

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