I'm looking for an idiom which can express how awkward a phrase/sentence sounds if one makes a collocation mistake.

For example, "I like tough tea. - Tough tea? Do you mean strong tea? - Oh, yes. Is "tough" that wrong? You understood me, didn't you? - I did but "tough tea" ... (sounds really odd).

Is there anything more idiomatic than "sounds really odd"?

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    It can be termed as Broken English (Broken English refers to a poorly spoken or ill-written version of the English language,.... Under the strictest definition of the term, broken English consists of English vocabulary grafted onto the syntax of a non-English speaker's native language. (en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_English) – mahmud koya May 16 '18 at 12:05
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    Not an idiom, but I use 'sounds outlandish' for cases I'd group with 'tough tea'. – Edwin Ashworth May 16 '18 at 13:05
  • Is your intent to have someone understand what you are explaining? I think you're best off explaining it rather than using a pejorative word or expressing surprise in a way that showed more lack of approval than of explanation. "Well yes, I was imaginative enough to get your drift but avoiding convention will make you appear as either eccentric or non-native speaker... not that there is anything wrong with either". – Tom22 May 16 '18 at 13:31
  • Also, in this particular case, why it is odd could be explained: 'tough' isn't the conventional word we use for that, and as we generally use 'tough' for meat or something hard to mar it is already one abstraction away when used to mean "strong", and 'strong' itself is an abstraction away for less diluted" – Tom22 May 16 '18 at 13:32
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    You have used the word yourself: awkward. Consider this extract from the article on collocation in Wikiipedia: "An example of a phraseological collocation... is the expression strong tea. While the same meaning could be conveyed by the roughly equivalent powerful tea, this expression is considered excessive and awkward by English speakers. " en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collocation – Shoe May 16 '18 at 15:53

"tough tea" may be considered a barbarism.

  • "You understood me, didn't you?"
  • "I did, but "tough tea" sounds like a barbarism".

barbarism - "the use of words, forms, or expressions considered incorrect or unacceptable"; a substandard or erroneously constructed or derived word or expression. TFD

Although barbarism has no precise technical definition, the term is still used in non-technical discussions of language use to describe a word or usage as incorrect or nonstandard.Wikipedia

Examples of barbarism:

  • We will be airborne momentarily.
  • The announcement was made to whomever would listen.
  • Could you loan me a dollar?.
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    'Momentarily' = 'in a moment, very soon' must surely now be accepted to be non-barbaric. AHDEL explains the increased acceptance in a usage note, Collins specifies a US / Canadian prevalence, while RHK Webster's doesn't even add a caveat. // The ditransitive usage of 'loan' has never been considered unacceptable in the US. – Edwin Ashworth May 16 '18 at 13:10

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