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Questions tagged [idioms]

Idioms are a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. Use [idiom-requests] if you are searching for an idiom with a particular meaning.

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34 views

"For the past a 100 years” or “for the past 100 years”? [on hold]

Which is correct? “For the past a 100 years” or “ For the past 100 years”  
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3answers
527 views

Meaning of “half-crown enclosure”

In the novel "Brighton Rock", Graham Greene refers to a "half-crown enclosure" in the context of horse racing. My guess is that it may refer to a type of horse race where half-crown refers to a ...
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29 views

What does “do a number” mean?

In the song One is the loneliest number there is: One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do I don't understand what "do a number" means!
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1answer
35 views

Special words and idioms [on hold]

Are there any words or word combinations in English to use for men to abuse, like " you never keep your promise, are you a real man!" "Are you a real man!" Is it correct to say like that?
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0answers
37 views

Usage of the word “utter” or “utterly” for something non-cow related— anyone know the etymology? [on hold]

What is the etymology of the word "utter" or "utterly" as a descriptive term for someone or something, as opposed to it's use as a noun referring to a cow's breast?
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2answers
56 views

looking for an English idiom to describe specialist employment

There's a French phrase "Mais il faut recruter à l’extérieur : on ne peut pas faire des pâtissiers avec des maçons" Translates as "However, we have to recruit outside: we cannot make confectionery ...
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1answer
27 views

Is “from all round itself” an idiom?

The original sentence: He mentally visualizes a complex form from all round itself; he knows while he looks at one side what the other side is like, he identifies himself with its centre of gravity, ...
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2answers
84 views

Where did the idiom of 'That's gas' originate?

I often say 'That's gas' to refer to something that I found humorous. I have looked to find how it originated but could not locate. Anybody aware of it's history?
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3answers
51 views

What is an idiom for saying that someone/something is as bad as someone/something else? [closed]

What is an idiom for saying that someone/something is as bad as someone/something else? For example, when someone praises a particular system but condemns the other, we may say that they are both bad ...
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0answers
38 views

What is an idiom stating that a smaller prohibition proves a larger prohibition exists?

I am looking for an idiom which means that if something minor is prohibited, it proves that a larger form of the same type of thing is also prohibited. For example, if there is a sign in a store ...
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1answer
51 views

Is there a more confrontational idiom for 'laying [or not laying]' your cards on the table'?

The context is Enlightenment thinkers wishing to embrace the pagan writer Celsus. Celsus's Platonism was not popular in the Enlightenment, since the Platonists were considered too mystical and ...
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1answer
81 views

Indiana Jones - The explorer

I am looking for a word that describes an explorer who travels the world in search of rare items. I'm thinking Indiana Jones, going to far off places in search of magical things... Any help will be ...
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2answers
32 views

right off the shelf

"From Burgin, where lanes of traffic in each direction are separated by a median, motorists will be able to make a right turn onto the bridge, and a right off the bridge." Having a look in the above ...
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0answers
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Metaphor or idiom about how, if you don’t speak up, negativity and evil will spread?

I need something that explains this evidence. Selected quotes are from I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World: "[Fazlullah] declared war on the government and called ...
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0answers
48 views

There's a “ground zero”, but is there a “ground one”?

"Ground zero" is the name of the place where a bomb detonates, and can also be used for the epicenter of an earthquake and other localized disasters. Is there a "ground one", "ground two", and so on, ...
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1answer
76 views

How do I express 'pen to paper' in relation to a computer?

I wrote an email to someone this morning and said that I had not yet 'put pen to paper' and then I attempted to express that in modern terms. But I stumbled to express 'paper', uncertain what '...
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3answers
113 views

What does “separating spin from facts” mean? [closed]

What does it mean exactly? Now that China has paused to reflect and reset, and despite the problems facing Arjun, India is in fact the world’s fastestgrowing big economy. Its GDP, the nation’s ...
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3answers
4k views

Why is “breaking the mould” positively connoted?

I'm not a native speaker so this may be obvious to some of you. I've come across the figure of speech "to break the mould", basically meaning to do your own thing and not adhere to traditions or rules,...
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3answers
74 views

Need less offensive way to say “he doesn't know the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground.”

I'm writing something in a tone that is just a little too formal for "he doesn't know the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground" or "he doesn't know dipshit." I need something that ...
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1answer
113 views

Why is there a US idiom of using China to mean far away?

I live in the UK, and a lot of US culture reaches us in the form of film and TV. There seems to be a trope of referring to something as being in China to mean it's a long way away. Things like: "I'...
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3answers
43 views

is “Lighting the spark for XYZ” a meaningful phrase in english? [closed]

I am trying to translate or rather come up with an English expression for the German "den Funken überspringen lassen" for a title of an academic paper. My best solution so far is "Lighting the spark ...
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1answer
34 views

Why is the word 'appetite' appropriate in this context?

In his book about Bill Clinton, Christopher Hitchens describes how, in a 1992 speech on an event hosted by Jesse Jackson, Clinton "ambushed" Jackson by picking a fight with certain anti-White rap ...
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1answer
45 views

Meaning of phrase “knock against sth.” [closed]

I have encountered the phrase "... the knock against [sth.]" from this reddit comment. Does this mean that the person has concerns or problem with [sth.]? Is this expression used commonly? The full ...
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12answers
13k views

“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 ...
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2answers
103 views

Is “do one’s diligence and err on the side of caution” an idiom?

Today’s Washington Post (April 24) carries an article titled Trump wants to push Iran to the point of no return, quoting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's warning to other nations. It reads: Now, it’...
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1answer
33 views

The construction of “verb1 or verb2” as in “win or lose”

When 'verb1' and 'verb2' are opposite in meaning, can you freely use the construction "verb1 or verb2" to mean "whether + subject + verb1 or verb2", if the meaning of "whether + subject" is ...
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0answers
55 views

Explanation of idiom “Can't sit on one's hair”

Reading a book by Salman Rushdie ("Shame") and there's such an expression, I guess it should be an idiom, but I can't find its explanation. So, the author describes his younger sister. ...Who is ...
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0answers
27 views

What is the origin of the phrase “(play) out of [their] skin”?

The phrase "play out of their skin" is frequently used in sports commentary, and to a lesser extent in describing exceptional performance in other areas, especially where physical exertion and/or some ...
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1answer
50 views

What is an idiom for a person who likes himself too much? [closed]

I want to ask you about an idiom in Arabic, especially used in Iraq. It is about the groundnut plant which has a different colors before it blooms; however, we use this idiom for a person who likes ...
0
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1answer
19 views

Expression with “starring” [closed]

I'd like to compose a phrase with a movie title, a lead actor and 'starring'. For example the title is "Top Gun", a lead actor Tom Cruise. In this case, which is/are correct and the most popular? ...
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1answer
43 views

What does 'shrink' mean in this sentence: “I don't talk about me like a TV show character would to his shrink” [duplicate]

"I don't talk about me like a TV show character would to his shrink" I've heard this alternate usage very rarely, so I couldn't understand what the person means when he/she says it. I guess this is ...
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1answer
24 views

What does “strident note” mean? [closed]

so I'm translating an RPG book from English to Brazilian Portuguese and stumbled upon (for the first time) with the expression "strident note". I'm not familiar with it, and although I can sort of ...
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1answer
119 views

Etymology of “take to the cleaners.”

I heard the following statement in the success story of Philip Armour, the captain of American meatpacking industry, which was broadcasted on radio by Success Journal on April 15th, and was ...
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2answers
80 views

What’s a catchy phrase that means get the most out of your dollar? [closed]

I’m trying to finish a speech, and I was thinking of a catchy last idiom to wrap it up. It was on the tip of my tongue and it I think it mean get the most out of your dollar or something like that.... ...
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0answers
47 views

What's this idiom or proverb? Please help!

You want to give a criticism to someone, but you cannot because you’re not close to them, but you give that criticism to someone else and hope the other person understands.” I will explain more so ...
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1answer
33 views

Can one say “I am burning with questions about [a topic]”?

I am burning with questions about XYZ topic. To mean: I have a lot of questions about XYZ topic. Possibly: I have a lot of burning questions about XYZ topic. Is this something others will ...
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1answer
55 views

Origin of kangaroo court [closed]

How did the expression kangaroo court arise? Is there an Australian connection?
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3answers
70 views

“His songs fly away in quotations” (Russian expression, looking for an English alternative)

Он является одним из главных исполнителей российской сцены и настоящим народным артистом, песни которого разлетаются на цитаты. He is one of the most well-known Russian entertainers and a true ...
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2answers
36 views

What’s the correct word in “They [pound] on the question.” [on hold]

I often hear my researcher colleagues saying “they [pound] on this question in their paper”, referring to the fact that the authors considered the question but somehow handwaved and dismissed it ...
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0answers
23 views

Is there a phrase like “preaching to the choir” but with the opposite meaning? [duplicate]

"Preaching to the choir" means you're making a point to a group of people who all already agree with you. Is there a similar phrase, meaning you're making a point/argument to a group of people who ...
3
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2answers
110 views

Why do we use “in” in the phrase “in front of”?

I just realized I can't quite make out why we use the word "in." The meaning of front is generally a surface, a side - not a space you can be "in," so how did that happen? Is it an artifact of an ...
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2answers
66 views

Blustery old bird idiom [closed]

There is an idiom/euphemism for a person who angers, puffs up, blustery. I am searching for the name of that bird. Or maybe a term for this behavior?
3
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1answer
100 views

Burning the candle at the other end

I came across this while reading "Along came a spider" by James Patterson. Chapter 48 begins with the sentence: The rest of that day, I burned the candle at the other end. Followed by: It ...
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2answers
71 views

Does groping in the dark have negative (sexual) connotations?

I am writing a blog tentatively titled "Particle Filters: Groping in the Dark for Robots". It struck me that groping has a strong sexual connotation too, so I researched if the idiom groping in the ...
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2answers
77 views

“Bash her up” – offensive or just an idiom?

My girlfriend and I were having an argument over something that her female friend had said about me, which I found rude and displeasing. My girlfriend responded to my complaint by saying "What do you ...
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3answers
75 views

Expression for indirectly asking someone to do something

Could there be an English expression (a verb or an idiom) for indirectly asking someone to do something that you want them to do that you find it awkward to ask them to do? For example, let's say you'...
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1answer
78 views

Meaning of “Real knicker-rotter” [closed]

I've just finished to read the book "Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death" and there is one sentence I don't really understand... What does "Real knicker-rotter" mean? Is there any word going instead ...
0
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1answer
55 views

Idiom “strike me peculiar”?

I've always used the phrasing It strikes me as peculiar that .... But I've come across an example which reads It strikes me peculiar that .... It could be a typo but this comes from a text ...
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2answers
135 views

What does “lobsters crawling out of my ears” mean?

I saw it in an email conversation at work (we work with americans). Someone sent this: I asked if there was more information we could get through [...] and I was rebuffed as though I had lobsters ...
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2answers
41 views

A word, expression or idiom to describe a problem that is not obvious but can potentially be very destructive

I am looking for a word, expression or idiom to describe a problem that is not obvious but can potentially be very destructive. Thank you!