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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5
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2answers
231 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
6k views

Dead as a doorknob: idiom changes due to misuse

Most (if not all) of us have likely heard the phrase "dead as a door-nail." However, I have noticed that a large portion (ok, all) of my American university students of the last 5 years ...
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5answers
402 views

Polite form of “red herring” or a word or phrase meaning unintentional distraction

In another life I posted a comment calling someone's answer a "red herring" because I felt that it was distracting from the true problem: D3 is a red herring here. Your solution works because you ...
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6answers
33k views

Meaning of “harsh mistress”

What does harsh mistress mean in this sentence? Nostalgia can be a harsh mistress.
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2answers
8k views

The exact sense and origin of “to stick it to someone”

From a blogpost at BBC, Did internet kill the radio star? David Lowery, lead singer for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, tells the BBC that illegal sharing of music files is sticking ...
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1answer
162k views

“By the end of today” or “By the end of the day” [closed]

Which is the correct (or more correct) expression: By the end of today By the end of the day My context is a promise to send an email today (i.e., before tomorrow).
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0answers
210 views

Word, Idiom, or other Fixed Expression for “Stopping someone from doing something”

In my office I had stopped one of my colleagues from working on a project. And I had to inform someone about it. And using sentence I had stopped him from working on it. shows some disrespect for ...
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4answers
15k views

In the phrase “the scales have fallen from my eyes” why did they use the word “scales”?

It's an odd word there. I've never thought that I had "scales" on my eyes when I couldn't see. Why didn't they use something like "darkness" or "clouds"? When I think of scales I think of Lady ...
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2answers
168 views

delutherer, deluderer

My dad (who is Irish) has been using the word "delutherer" since I was tiny. It derives from "to delude" and is used to affectionately/teasingly denote someone who is trying to trick you or cajole you ...
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4answers
3k views

What does the phrase “taking a bath with the crowd” mean?

I recently heard the phrase "taking a bath with the crowd" and that apparently it's a common idiom in many European languages. I found several results for the phrase on Google, but none that explain ...
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3answers
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The meaning of “takes two to know”

I know lyrics meaning is not a kind of a thing English SE is supposed to specialize in, but before looking for possible figurative meanings of the song excerpt that I put below I just want to reassure ...
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4answers
38k views

The whys and the hows

Are apostrophes needed in this phrase? The whys and the hows I searched for duplicate questions, but the closest I found was in regard to words inside quotes.
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1answer
55 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
61 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
34 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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3answers
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Origin of “Butter wouldn't melt in his/her mouth.”

This phrase means that someone is being prim and proper with a cool kind of demeanour. But from what event or phenomenon or occurrence was this idiom derived from, and when?
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1answer
2k views

Have someone/ something do something (not the usual meaning)

Have someone do something usually means asking a subordinate or a qualified worker etc to do something. But I keep coming across this construction, only with what seems to be a different meaning. I'd ...
0
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2answers
251 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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5answers
4k views

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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4answers
132 views

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-...
2
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3answers
105 views

Give or Take - Which is Give and Which is Take

I was recently asked for a rough estimate on how long a small project will take. I figured it would be a couple weeks, most likely a bit less, but could also be a bit more depending on a few unknowns, ...
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3answers
72 views

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 ...
2
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2answers
255 views

Phrase, idiom, expression suited for putting one's own requirement saying that it is instruction coming from someone else

Context My boss one day called me in his office and said that now i have to include tasks 3,5,6 to complete the entire assignment. Traditionally, the usual sequence of task was from 1 through 10, but ...
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5answers
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What is the origin of the phrase “'til the cows come home”?

What is the origin of the term 'til the cows come home? While discussing this with friends tonight, the group had two possible explanations: Cows return to their barn for milking at a given time late ...
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3answers
750 views

Have…going for one/oneself

There's this expression shown in Oxford: have — going for one Used to indicate how much someone has in their favour or to their advantage. Why did she do it? She had so much going for her In this ...
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6answers
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What does “pave the path for” mean? [closed]

what does "pave the path for sth/sb" actually means? and if possible, please provide some alternatives with the same meaning as well.
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0answers
39 views

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&...
2
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1answer
104 views

The “few would argue” idiomatic phrase

Taken literally from a modern US English viewpoint, the phrase "few would argue that" would mean that the statement the phrase appears before is widely held to be false. The specific wording ...
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3answers
53 views

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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3answers
131 views

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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1answer
67 views

Does the idiom/phrase “place is your swamp” exist or is it worded differently?

So I was talking a bit with a person and a joke came up about collecting treasure in the desert and how there's only sand, and so I stated "I mean, if your into collecting sand then the desert is ...
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5answers
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How does “A hit dog will holler” work as a metaphor?

Background: I, an Australian, once had a co-worker in North Carolina who would often use Southern-US idioms that confused me. I spent an evening panicked about how to handle "This dog will hunt" as ...
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5answers
696k views

“Thank you very much” vs. “Thank you so much”

Some people used to say: Thank you very much. Where others say: Thank you so much. Could anybody please explain what differences there may be between those, whether of correctness or ...
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1answer
128 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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3answers
1k views

Another phrase for “unsung hero”?

I'm sure there must be another phrase but I just can't seem to find it. I'm not looking for a word to replace "unsung", I prefer a completely new phrase/idiom that expresses the same meaning. Thank ...
0
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1answer
55 views

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
51 views

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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3answers
2k views

The expression,“You lie like a dog in straw”

My father was originally a country boy, born in Australia at the beginning of the 20th century. He had a number of typically Australian expressions (e.g. "stone the crows"), but the one I ...
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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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2answers
2k views

Idiom that means 'to present one thing in many different ways'

I am translating something from Spanish and there is an expression that literally says (about a teacher driving home a single idea by repeating it, but presenting it in many different ways each time) "...
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1answer
110 views

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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0answers
16 views

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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2answers
695 views

Past tense of “make up for” ambiguity

I am in a literary conundrum, I need to use the "make up for" idiom in past tense, however "make" translates to "made", which forms the "made up" idiom, which is fundamentally different from the "make ...
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4answers
3k views

Does “I am thirsty to die” make sense?

"I am hungry to die" doesn't mean that I am dying because of hunger, rather, "I want to die a lot." How about "I am thirsty to die?" Does this mean "I am dying because of thirst?" I want to know ...
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1answer
56 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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2answers
68 views

“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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2answers
157 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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3answers
2k views

“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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0answers
36 views

“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
4k views

The meaning of the expression “Never laugh at live dragons”

I'm a big Tolkien fan and have read LOTR and The Hobbit many times. However, there's one quote from The Hobbit that I've never fully understood, and that is the phrase, "Never laugh at live dragons". ...

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