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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2answers
60 views

Idiom for addressing the most important point

What's an idiom for getting right to the most important point? Someone clever/wise always gets right to the heart of the matter. An educator who understands their audience perfectly and always says ...
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5answers
62 views

Word or idiom for something that can either be helpful or harmful, depending on how it's used [duplicate]

For example, consider the following: Knives are a [blank], because they can either be used as a tool or a weapon. I don't think "double-edged sword" is appropriate in this context because ...
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0answers
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What does “nip in the bud” mean? [closed]

I saw this expression and I didn't understand. Could someone explain?
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1answer
42 views

Why is “No” used here and not “doesn't”? [closed]

In this video, He says "My butt no butt". From what i understand, he's saying that his 'butt' doesn't meddle in other people's problems (Doesn't butt). I have seen "No" followed by ...
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1answer
69 views

Need an alternate idiom for 'no big deal'

I'm currently writing a short story. I've written the following sentence in it: "He hated going to school anyway, so it was no big deal to quit it altogether." I think the phrase/idiom 'no ...
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9answers
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Is there a phrase for expressing something is 'very red'? [closed]

My native language is Dutch, and in my language you can say something like: "Ik kom uit een bloedrode familie" which then literally translates to "I am from a blood red family". ...
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2answers
197 views

can chug be used with food, like chugging down my lunch

Everywhere I've looked, it seems chugging down has to be followed by a drink. But can I use it with food as well? Like "I was doing something (say, walking) while chugging down my lunch". Is ...
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1answer
53 views

Idiom on a person who sleeps late at night and wake up early in the morning [duplicate]

We use the "night owl" idiom for a person who go to sleep late at night, and the "early bird" for those who wake up early in the morning. Is there any idiom for a person who goes ...
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1answer
59 views

What is the subtle difference between “and so on” and “and so forth”?

Kurt Vonnegut uses "and so on" a good deal to end his sentences in Breakfast of Champions. In some places people would actually try to eat mud or such on gravel while babies were being born ...
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1answer
29 views

Can I say 'right up' as a request to have a ship righted? [closed]

According to Merriam Webster, the word 'right' can be used as a verb meaning "to make a ship upright". Could it be combined with the word 'up' to make it more clear? Like: Sailor: The barge ...
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What happened to the missing object or objects in “for us to define as we see fit”? [migrated]

Reading through this paragraph, I wonder why the object to see is missing from as we see fit, even though the interpretation remains natural and smooth without it: In 1783, Goethe wrote, “Nature is ...
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3answers
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Term to define the phenomenon of explaining poorly by assuming your audience is more knowledgeable than it is on a subject [duplicate]

Before I get started, I am not looking for "layman's terms". That involves "dumbing down" concepts to make them simple to understand, but often result in the analogies and ...
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4answers
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Synonyms for “passing the buck”?

What would be a better replacement for the informal phrase “passing the buck” (ie. shift responsibility for something to someone else)? I am in need of a single-word verb that captures the all-too-...
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0answers
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What is the grammar on Your honor/My lord? [duplicate]

Your honor, My lord, Your highness, My lady all refer to another person. What are the rules behind that? The striked-out questions are answered by Why is it "your Majesty", but "my Lord&...
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3answers
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take the bite out of something / someone [closed]

Question about the expression: "You should take the bite out of him by telling him...." meaning you should subdue him. Does anyone know the origin of this expression? I am especially ...
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1answer
42 views

(Not) do subtle

DO1 (v.tr.) 1c. To perform the tasks or behaviors typically associated with (something), especially as part of one's character or normal duties: That talk show host just doesn't do subtle. https://www....
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1answer
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Where did the phrase “jump to conclusions” come from? [closed]

I've been looking for the origin of the phrase "jump to conclusions." I found nothing more than this: The term began to appear in the early 1700s in prints. The Idioms And how different ...
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1answer
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Did the UN make a grammar error here? [closed]

I was reading about some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). While researching their goal to end poverty on this site, https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal1, I came across this odd ...
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1answer
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Reference Request on Preposition Fronting

Currently reading "A Student's Introduction to English Grammar" by Geoffrey K. Pullum and Rodney Huddleston. Consider the following contrast between the phrasal verbs ask for and come across....
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What does to be featured mean [duplicate]

In the "About the author" page of a book published by Wiley (for dummies) there is a sentence about Joelle Jane Marshall, the author of the book, like this: Jo has been featured in "The ...
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1answer
54 views

Why do you say “to step down” in Englisch but the German equivalent translates to “to step back”? [closed]

Why do you say “to step down” (as in resign) in Englisch but in German you “zurücktreten” (i.e. “to step back”)?
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1answer
122 views

Origin of “race to the bottom”

The idiomatic expression “race to the bottom”, generally used in economic and financial contexts, refers to: A situation in which striving to have the lowest possible prices in order to attract the ...
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0answers
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“Are we still on our meeting date” Does this phrase sound natural?

My friend and I have picked a day next week to hang out online on a video call -let's say it's Monday-. Sunday has come and I want to make sure we are having our online meeting as scheduled. What ...
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2answers
114 views

What does it mean “to turn square corners?”

I came across the phrase in this article: And "in this case, the law's terms ensure that, when the federal government seeks a procedural advantage against an individual, it will at least supply ...
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2answers
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“how to deal with the problem” vs “what to do with the problem” [closed]

He knows how to deal with the problem. He knows what to do with the problem. Can we switch between " how" and " what"? Why and why not?
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3answers
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A metaphor for people living up or down to their reputation

I have been asked to improve my question. Can anyone help with the full quote and derivation thereof for a metaphor that begins “give a dog a bad name and hear (or see) him bark”? My understanding is ...
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5answers
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You have the watches, but we have the time

This quote is associated with the Taliban in reference to the US occupation of Afghanistan. I understand the metaphorical meaning of the quote — i.e. the point that it makes. But I am intrigued by the ...
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3answers
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“Burning the candle at both ends” to mean being unfaithful in a relationship

I'm familiar with the idiom "burning the candle at both ends" to mean "to have expended oneself, in particular by staying up very very late". With this idiom I usually think of ...
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2answers
50 views

Is take care proper for this picture? [closed]

I want to know the difference between look out, take care, and watch out. [![enter image description here][1]][1] [1]: https://i.stack.imgur.com/ofhzm.png![enter image description here](https://i....
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4answers
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Question about how to use the word suicide [duplicate]

I got this note from a literary agent and am curious about usage of the word suicide. I had written, "my father was a suicide." Which sounds a little archaic but wanted to avoid saying "...
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1answer
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Is there an Idiom for someone who tried but failed because it was too much for him

I'm wondering if there's an idiom similar to an idiom in Czech. In Czech, it's 'Vylámat si na něčem zuby' ~ 'To break one's teeth on something'. To try and do something but failing nonetheless. It's ...
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3answers
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Is there an idiom for when two things are the same, like tomayto-tomahto, that works well in written form?

"Tomayto-tomahto" /təˈmeɪ.t̬oʊ - təˈmɑː.təʊ/ is a spoken idiom playing on the different US and UK pronuncation of the word "tomato", used to express when two seemingly different ...
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A to the B to the C: some kind of slang [closed]

I've often heard, especially in songs where slang is commonly used (pop, rap, etc.), people use a weird structure: something like "A to the B to the C...", where A, B, C, etc. are usually ...
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2answers
50 views

'Got more sense'. What does it mean? [closed]

Can you elucidate the meaning of the third sentence in the dialogue: A: “I am no more sick than you are,” said the woman in bed. B: “Oh, yes you are!” A: “I just got more sense than you have, that’s ...
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What does 'to be a story' means?

Could you explain to me, please, what the expression "You are a story" means, used in the following dialogue: A: “You mustn’t pay any attention to old Addie,” she now said to the little girl....
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Can “raise a point” and “make a point” mean the same thing generally?

I personally think "to raise a point" means "to mention some point of interest" while "to make a point" means "to state or demonstrate something of particular ...
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How to understand the meaning of this as…as sentence seems to be self-contradictory?

This time I encountered a seemingly self-contradictory sentence from a book: It's easy to see that locate is as simple as find is complicated. Apparently, simple and complicated are two words with ...
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1answer
54 views

Is there an idiom/phrase that describes the act of trying to fix something unfixable? [duplicate]

Most of you probably heard the phrase "gild the lily", which describes the act of trying to improve something that is already perfect. What I'm looking for is the opposite of that, is there ...
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1answer
71 views

define “the dangerous age”

How many years-old is "the dangerous age"? Where does the term come from? (Google doesn't seem to know.) "I've reached the dangerous age, and lady, I'm going to have fun." X ...
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11answers
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Idiom meaning inferring too much from the available evidence

Suppose there is a little bit of evidence available, such as a red stain on the wall, and one starts to deduce "facts" from that, for example, that someone cut their finger by a knife ...
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1answer
116 views

The growing popularity of “on the cusp”

The term cusp is an old one and it was first used in astrology and later in other contexts: 1580s, in astrology, "first entrance of a house in the calculation of a nativity," from Latin ...
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Idiom to express 'being good at something'

I am currently working on a translation project for university (nothing profressional) and I have a question regarding the translation of a French expression which goes "je ne crains personne&...
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4answers
115 views

a person who is proud of being wrong

How do you describe a person who is proud of being wrong /someone who revels in not knowing the correct answer to a simple question? I think it might be 'inverted ....' but all suggestions welcome.
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1answer
60 views

What did James Baldwin mean by “as clean as a bone”?

In his interview with The Paris Review, James Baldwin in answer to the question "As your experience about writing accrues, what would you say increases with knowledge?", says: You learn how ...
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2answers
198 views

Is there an idiom for “looking for something in the wrong place”? [duplicate]

I want to express how someone might have an unfulfilled social need and seek to satisfy it in the wrong place. For example: someone has a romantic social need yet seeks for it to be satisfied from a ...
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2answers
108 views

Origin of phrase 'come on'

Is the origin/first usage of the phrase 'come on' known? I know there is a similar 'kom op' in Dutch (same meaning, as well as a literal translation of the words), but I don't know which took it from ...
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2answers
504 views

What's the origin of the phrase “show true colours?”

I wonder if someone knows the actual origin and oldest printed record of the idiom "show true colours?" Other than this popular theory (seems not real to me): This phrase dates back to the ...
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10answers
5k views

If I cannot win, then I will make it impossible for you to win

We have a joke about a foreigner that went to a wet market in zone 1 and saw a farmer selling live frogs in an open basket. As we all know, frogs jump. Actually, they jump about quite a bit when in a ...
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0answers
36 views

Angel from Montgomery

Regarding the John Prine song entitled Angel from Montgomery, I’ve read online that Angel From Montgomery might be related to a pardon from Governor but was wondering if that’s a standard idiom or ...
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1answer
34 views

What is an idiom for loneliness and unnoticed?

It is for a poem that is about loneliness and how nobody really sees you or notices you, somewhat like if you are an invisible "thing" and I don't know what I can use to describe it.

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