Questions tagged [expressions]

This tag is for questions about expressions. Expressions are words or phrases used to convey an idea, or else a particular term used conventionally to express something. Consider phrase-requests and expression-requests if you are looking for an expression, phrase-meaning if you are unsure about the usage of a given phrase.

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134 votes
13 answers

When should "no problem" replace "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you"?

I have observed a growing trend in which people substitute "no problem" for "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you". In particular, it seems to be an increasingly common response from servers ...
JoshDM's user avatar
  • 1,729
125 votes
6 answers

How to say "It's not rocket science" before rockets existed

Prior to the invention of rockets, was there a phrase equivalent to: "it's not rocket science"? If so, what was it? Here I am looking for a phrase that makes a comparison with a difficult job/task, ...
spacetyper's user avatar
  • 2,709
99 votes
9 answers

History of "X is dead. Long live X"

What is the history of "X is dead. Long live X"? For example, Location is dead. Long live Location. JavaScript is dead. Long live JavaScript. I feel like I'm missing out on a joke.
tyndall's user avatar
  • 1,115
96 votes
3 answers

Why does "Mickey Mouse Operation" refer to a poorly run company?

A phrase I commonly hear (and use myself) when a company (or individual, in some cases) does something that seems foolish or not planned is to ask What kind of Mickey Mouse operation are you ...
Skooba's user avatar
  • 3,880
95 votes
13 answers

Which is correct: "could care less" or "couldn't care less"?

What's the deal with the phrase "could care less"? Whilst growing up, I've always known people (parents etc) to use the phrase "couldn't care less", but I've also come across people who use the ...
Mark Embling's user avatar
  • 1,541
79 votes
24 answers

A fun, catchy way to say the opposite of a 'no-brainer'?

A no-brainer is "something that requires a minimum of thought" (Merriam-Webster). I could use some help with a catchy way of saying the opposite. Sample sentence: "I have to make a decision and it ...
thomj1332's user avatar
  • 4,356
69 votes
6 answers

"Josephine, Schmosephine"

I recently watched A Series Of Unfortunate Events, and I was puzzled by the expression "Josephine, Schmosephine". The narrator explains that when you don't care about something or someone, you repeat ...
RichouHunter's user avatar
  • 1,384
64 votes
25 answers

Are there counterpart English expressions to Japanese proverb, "the nail that pops up is always hammered down?

I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is always hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received. I wondered ...
Yoichi Oishi's user avatar
  • 70.1k
63 votes
25 answers

Is there a secular, non vulgar alternative to "for heaven's sake"?

I know for heaven's sake, for Pete's sake, for God's sake and for Christ's sake. All of those, however are religious references. The only non-religious equivalent phrases I know are for fuck's sake ...
terdon's user avatar
  • 21.4k
62 votes
12 answers

"Whatever a Russian does, they end up making the Kalashnikov gun"? Are there any similar proverbs in English?

I'm translating a Russian blog post into English and got stuck with the proverb, "Whatever a Russian does, they end up making the Kalashnikov gun." (Humorously meaning it's hard or even impossible to ...
Tatiana Zhukova's user avatar
61 votes
14 answers

Is there an English equivalent for the expression "Playing the flute to a buffalo"?

There is a saying in India, "Playing the flute to a buffalo" (is wasteful), generally used in the context of knowledge imparting to a stupid person. At the end of the day, stupidity still remains. Is ...
Jarvis's user avatar
  • 682
60 votes
10 answers

Polite alternatives to "as soon as possible"

I’ve found myself writing the phrase “as soon as possible” just too often. Sometimes I wonder if it sounds a little rude. How can I convey the same meaning in a more polite way but without losing ...
Albertus's user avatar
  • 1,535
60 votes
2 answers

Is "throw in an ape" an expression?

In her book Toward Zero, author Agatha Christie has the following dialogue: Kay said: ‘I don’t like my colour scheme in the livingroom. Can I have it done over, Nevile?’ ‘Anything you like, beautiful....
thedude's user avatar
  • 601
59 votes
3 answers

What word denotes a belief that apparently inanimate objects actually express a malicious, autonomous will?

I came across this word a few years ago, but can't find it now. I do not mean deodand, animism, pathetic fallacy, scapegoating, anthropomorphism, or personification (Word for attaching blame to ...
Dutch Jeff's user avatar
55 votes
3 answers

What is the purpose of using the word "why" in "why, thank you"?

I sometimes have heard somebody replying with Why, thank you. instead of Thank you. What is the meaning of the first phrase? What is the difference between the two phrases?
apaderno's user avatar
  • 58.9k
55 votes
3 answers

"The other way around" or "the other way round"

I see both phrases the other way around and the other way round very often. Which is correct? Please provide usage examples.
ZZcat's user avatar
  • 1,717
54 votes
4 answers

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 ...
juliomalegria's user avatar
53 votes
7 answers

What is the origin of the phrase "Top of the morning to you"?

Each morning, a colleague of mine greets me with the phrase: Top of the morning to you! I've tried to figure out what the meaning of this really is and how to properly respond, however there seems ...
hafichuk's user avatar
  • 811
52 votes
12 answers

A way of describing the lesbian parent that is not pregnant?

A friend of mine is in a long term relationship with her female partner. After deciding they wanted a family, my friend's girlfriend got pregnant. Normally when talking about a couple expecting a ...
Ilythya's user avatar
  • 2,276
51 votes
11 answers

Idiom: People caring about minor stuff while something terrible is happening

Imagine a situation in which the whole place is on fire, a bomb is about to explode, everyone is running for their lives and someone is checking his looks on the mirror... pretty inappropriate for the ...
Pantelis Sopasakis's user avatar
51 votes
12 answers

Term for being unable to see glaring errors after working for some time on a task?

Back in the day, I used to do a lot of CAD drafting. There is a well known phenomena whereby your ability to see mistakes, errors, omissions or plain nonsense in your drawing diminishes sharply ...
hlecuanda's user avatar
  • 790
50 votes
4 answers

Is "yay or nay" an acceptable alternative to "yea or nay"?

Is "yay or nay" an acceptable alternative to "yea or nay"? I have seen it several times in recent weeks, enough to make me wonder whether it is an emerging usage or just a common typo.
mmyers's user avatar
  • 6,181
49 votes
7 answers

Why the phrase "thunder and lightning", and not "lightning and thunder"?

So there was just a thunderstorm, and my sister came with a question I couldn't answer: Why is it "thunder and lightning", because the lightning comes before the thunder? Shouldn't it be "lightning ...
Klyzx's user avatar
  • 808
49 votes
9 answers

What is the opposite of the Devil's Advocate?

If I am arguing against a proposal that I may actually agree with, then I am playing Devil's Advocate. However, what if I do not necessarily agree with the proposal but am arguing for it, with the ...
David Boike's user avatar
48 votes
5 answers

What is wrong with saying "pleased to meet you"?

I read an article1 in The Telegraph, where it mentions that the phrase "pleased to meet you" was used inappropriately. When I was little, my mother collected me from a school friend’s party....
user avatar
47 votes
6 answers

Why does Polly want a cracker?

Where does the expression "Polly wants a cracker" come from? Why is the parrot named Polly, and why doesn't she want seeds?
Jonas's user avatar
  • 788
46 votes
5 answers

Around how old is "a woman of a certain age"?

"A woman of a certain age" is a common saying. It means more than "a woman of a given age", "a woman who could be any age" or "female, without respect to age". It's usage instead seems to suggest a ...
alan2here's user avatar
  • 768
46 votes
3 answers

Where does "emphasis mine" go in a quotation?

I have often seen the term emphasis mine used whenever an author wishes to denote that emphasis in a given quotation originates from said author rather than from the original source. What is the ...
Michael Sorens's user avatar
45 votes
6 answers

Is x plotted against y or is y plotted against x?

Given a diagram where the x axis is the horizontal one and the y axis is the vertical one. Which of these alternatives are the right and or best way of writing it: plotting x against y plotting y ...
jonalv's user avatar
  • 581
44 votes
21 answers

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 their boss and a dispute follows." (they get fired a few weeks later) "A student having an ...
Centaurus's user avatar
  • 49.8k
44 votes
7 answers

"For all it's worth" or "for all its worth"?

Should I put an apostrophe in "for all its worth"? The meaning comes to about the same thing either way, as far as I can make out, and it seems like "it's" is more popular. But is there an accepted ...
Daniel's user avatar
  • 57.4k
43 votes
6 answers

What is meant by "don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining"?

I have heard a couple of times recently the phrase "don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining", usually in the context of a heated argument so I've hesitated to ask speaker what exactly he meant ...
Brian Hooper's user avatar
  • 36.7k
43 votes
6 answers

What's the meaning of the word "brand" in the expression "brand new"?

What meanings might be conveyed by something being called brand new, as opposed to it simply being called new? What's behind the word brand here?
Ollie Glass's user avatar
41 votes
20 answers

Phrase to describe a moving goal that is forever just out of reach

Ironically, the phrase I am trying to recall is just out of reach, so perhaps someone can help me with a phrase that describes a moving goal that is forever just out of reach. I will try to provide ...
dangerousdave's user avatar
41 votes
14 answers

Friendly way of saying "I love you"

In Spanish, Te amo (I love you) has more romantic feeling than saying Te quiero. The last one is used as a friendly way of saying I love you, but without romantic purposes. However, if translated to ...
Matias Cicero's user avatar
40 votes
18 answers

What do you call a person who keeps talking about art; studies art, criticizes art, and thinks he'd be amazing with it. But he doesn't practice it

I've come across this word before. It's not "hypocrite". But the definition of the word was very specific. Basically it's an adjective, it's something you call a person who's really into art; like for ...
Carl's user avatar
  • 465
40 votes
4 answers

Should I write "that being said" (vs. "that's been said" or "Having said that")?

I often write what "sounds" right (being not a native English speaker/writer), and I believe the expression "that being said" to be fairly common, as opposed to a more complete form like "that's been ...
VonC's user avatar
  • 14.6k
39 votes
4 answers

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 ...
miltonaut's user avatar
  • 2,097
39 votes
6 answers

The intensifier 'pure D': where and when did it originate, and what does the D stand for?

A posting in my Facebook timeline today began "I've been sorting boxes of Pure D-Crap." The poster was writing from Alameda, California (near San Francisco). It struck me that I hadn't heard ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
  • 161k
39 votes
3 answers

The phrase "do the lions"

I was recently reading an account of Zola's exile in England after the Dreyfus affair and I came across a phrase I couldn't quite parse: That gentleman, as I had surmised, was a trifle astonished at ...
ConfusedInParis's user avatar
38 votes
12 answers

Proverb or expression for a situation with two choices, both leading to a different kind of trouble

I'm searching for a proverb or expression that describes a situation which has two choices or two ways out (that is, somewhat of a forced choice) where both lead to some kind of trouble (but not the ...
Speldosa's user avatar
  • 943
37 votes
13 answers

Is there an English equivalent for "Les carottes sont cuites", while keeping the vegetable reference?

In French, we have this saying "Les carottes sont cuites", meaning "It's too late we can't do anything anymore" or "It's over for him" (He's dead) depending on the context. The literal translation ...
Qrom's user avatar
  • 479
36 votes
9 answers

Person who pretends to not understand unless one speaks in exactly the words they expect [duplicate]

I just realized there are some people around my workplace who always try to correct me when using a certain word, saying that that's not how I should speak, and I should use other words (the ones ...
vlad-ardelean's user avatar
36 votes
7 answers

What does "darkest Africa" refer to?

Many times in my life, I have heard phrases such as "in darkest Africa...", seemingly to refer to somewhere in Africa. It is never explained, and appears to be considered so obvious as to ...
R. Aue's user avatar
  • 369
35 votes
29 answers

Derogatory term for a corporate employee

I’m looking for a derogatory term for a person who works in a big, international business. In Polish we have a few informal words for that, like korpoludek (“corpo little guy”) and korpoczłowiek (“...
Chanandler Bong's user avatar
35 votes
8 answers

What is the idiom, expression or proverb for 'If you let them use you once they will use you for life'?

What is the idiom, expression or proverb for If you bend once, they will bend you for life. In Indian culture in marathi language, we have a saying "Jithe oli/mau mathi, tithe atti" which ...
AMN's user avatar
  • 3,084
35 votes
14 answers

What's a parallel for 'mitigate', for worsening a good situation?

I recently read an article claiming that employing some tactic was OK but could mitigate many of the good effects of the main action. What word should the author have used, as mitigate means to ...
Jim Mack's user avatar
  • 11.9k
35 votes
12 answers

What is an "alternative fact"?

Sunday morning following the 2008 Trump inauguration, NBC´s Chuck Todd questioned statements made by Whitehouse spokesman Sean Spicer concerning proof of the actual size of the turnout for the event. ...
Cascabel_StandWithUkraine_'s user avatar
34 votes
16 answers

One word - someone so scared that he can't move

I am not able to find an appropriate word to fill in for "scared". He was so scared, he couldn't move. He turned to stone. He was too shocked. He almost turned to stone and could not move. ...
weakphoneme's user avatar
  • 1,603
34 votes
18 answers

Is there a word for being so polite as to appear insincere?

I'm looking for a term in English to describe being so polite that one appears to be insincere.
user43898's user avatar
  • 810

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