Questions tagged [phrase-meaning]

This tag is for questions related to the meanings of phrases, particularly their definitions and nuances.

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Does 'Service with exception' look native to English speakers? [migrated]

I saw this error message on my university's website, which seems weird to me. After googling, I found no other people using this error message in their apps or websites. But some of my schoolmate ...
AprilGrimoire's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
208 views

Put oneself together vs. pull oneself together

I'm reading a book about makeup, aesthetics, the concept of beauty, etc. One of the author's interviewees said, That notion of beauty as a strength and putting yourself together well as a self- ...
Olivia Lo's user avatar
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Does "breathe in the light" have any colloquial meaning?

I have noticed that the phrase "breathe in the light" is used in several seemingly unrelated pieces of music, for instance, it is the name of a "Stellardrone" track, and in the ...
Daigaku no Baku's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
56 views

What does "in a quiet pool" mean?

While I was watching a a True Crime documentary, the narrator said: The young pastor, his wife, and their three daughters looked happy and had everything they needed to live a comfortable life ...
basilinnia's user avatar
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1 answer
99 views

What's the difference between "I believe in God" and "I believe in a God"?

I've recently heard these two examples where I don't understand what "a" is supposed to emphasize: Somebody asks: "Do you believe in God?" Then gets this reply: "I believe in ...
Damocle Damoclev's user avatar
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70 views

Origin of the expression “turn the card” meaning to pass on an opportunity

I recently dropped the phrase “turn the card” meaning to pass on an opportunity in an answer of a sister site. While not a common expression, I would have expected most people that I converse with in ...
Dale M's user avatar
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2 answers
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I know it was a liberty—I made it out you were no business man, only a stone-broke painter; that half the time you didn't know anything anyway

(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XVIII, published 1892) Passage 287 “Jim,” I said, “you must speak right out. I've got all that I can carry.” “Well,” he said—“I ...
philphil's user avatar
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What is the meaning of "as per history's mandate" [closed]

What is the meaning of the phrase "as per history's mandate"?
Sam's user avatar
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with a conscience

(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XVI, published 1892) Passage 252 Then I remembered that I had a friend on board, and stepped to the companion. “Gentlemen,” ...
philphil's user avatar
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2 answers
135 views

What is the difference between "Chinese-Canadian" and "Canadian-Chinese"?

What is the difference between a "Chinese-Canadian" and a "Canadian-Chinese"? Do I understand correctly that the first part of such phrases will show the origin of a person, and ...
Bxser's user avatar
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'. . . there's always a fathom or two of slack hanging out of the other end'

(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XIV, published 1892) Passage 227 “All very well,” said I. “That's your Hoyt, and a fine, tall copy. But what I want to know is, ...
philphil's user avatar
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Meaning of "be just a little too smart by ninety-nine and three-quarters"

(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XIV, published 1892) Passage 224 “Guess so,” he said. “You needn't fool with it. There's nothing else but a lead-pencil and a ...
philphil's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
846 views

Meaning of . . . "fill up on a clean break"

(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XIII, published 1892) Passage 210 Thence we turned our attention to the table, which stood spread, as if for a meal, with stout ...
philphil's user avatar
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6 votes
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1920s postcard joke meaning? Cut some ice

Can anyone explain the meaning of this 1920’s postcard? The text reads: “I should worry like the iceman and cut some ice.” Next to this is a cartoon of a little boy with an axe chopping a large block ...
J. Dixon's user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
134 views

Meaning of . . . “you just meet me on the ballast, and we'll make it a barquentine.”

(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XI, published 1892) Passage 177 “I don't see it,” returned the captain drily. “One captain's enough for any ship that ever I ...
philphil's user avatar
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1 answer
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Meaning of "get out" in "He gets out when he can" [closed]

In his famous hit Working Class Man, Jimmy Barnes sings: He believes in God and Elvis He gets out when he can He did his time in Vietnam Still mad at Uncle Sam I can't make sense of the second line. ...
Mitsuko's user avatar
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5 votes
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What does "on the trot" mean in tennis?

Watching the pre-game broadcast for the Djokovic/Medvedev 2023 US Open men's singles championship match, I heard analyst Brad Gilbert say that Coco Gauff had won 12 in a row "on the trot" ...
pacoverflow's user avatar
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1 vote
2 answers
171 views

“holding a mirror up to the inequalities across the nation”

The excerpt below is taken from an article in The Guardian, published in October 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still in its peak. The author is Richard Horton, a doctor and editor-in-chief of ...
Mari-Lou A's user avatar
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15 votes
2 answers
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Meaning of "retiring" in "free admission with retiring donations"

We recently attended a concert in a protestant church in England that was advertised as "free admission with retiring donations". The concert was indeed free with a voluntary (optional) ...
Kyle's user avatar
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What meaning of "gay" is intended in "He was very gay and had already washed and was now on his feet"?

Yet when he opened the door of the guest room in the morning there was the young man. He was very gay and had already washed and was now on his feet. He had asked for a razor yesterday and had shaved ...
Leon Raj's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
133 views

What is the real-time elimination of improbable meanings called in the linguistic literature?

He brought some food to eat on the road. He found some beer to drink in the fridge. Is it only reality and sanity that keep us from taking the beer example to mean he would be squashed in the fridge ...
TimR's user avatar
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1 vote
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93 views

What does "chamber sculpture" mean?

What does the term "chamber sculpture" mean? I haven't found it in Oxford or Cambridge dictionaries, but Google provides plenty of hits (~45k) for this expression. I am not sure whether it ...
Juandev's user avatar
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-1 votes
3 answers
187 views

Is objectual a word?

Is objectual a word? I could not find it in Merriam Webster. I am trying to use it in a sentence like this: A phrase signifies the objectual nature of thing in question. Would I be stretching the ...
Frank Booth's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
95 views

What does this mean: "Summer unofficially begins once the calendar is on point"

The phrase on point has several well-documented meanings (some of which have already been discussed on EL&U, here). But none of them seem to fit the usage in a headline of a recent article in the '...
linguisticturn's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
33 views

What's the meaning of "tidy limbs" as a descriptor? [closed]

I am currently reading The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women. Near the start of chapter six it describes an individual as tidy limbed, what is the meaning of this phase? ...
A.Steer's user avatar
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0 votes
1 answer
64 views

"The boil must be lanced if it is to heal"? [closed]

In Final Fantasy 16 (FFXVI), which has a medieval-ish setting, C says that "The boil must be lanced if it is to heal". I'm...not sure I understand the phrase. For context, C is in a ...
chausies's user avatar
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1 answer
94 views

Meaning of "shall cause" in an association bylaws

A HOA Bylaw states that The Treasurers shall cause an annual review of HOA books to be made at completion of each fiscal year. It doesn't say by whom the review should be made, or does it assume the ...
Valeria Myromzeva's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
47 views

Where does the term ‘Messers’ come from in reference to a group of people? [closed]

I’ve heard this term used in films and by British politicians
Jord's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
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Usage of "as much ... as"

Consumers spend three times as much paying rent as buying books. How can I understand this sentence? I believe "three times as much + noun + as" and "spend + noun + doing" are ...
dmjy's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
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What does 'treasure is tickle' mean in Philotimus?

In Philotimus (1583), the following passage appears on page 38: Among all forts of conceyted fellowes, I reuerence the Esseni∣ans, as most cōtinent in pleasures, & contented wt nifles, for they ...
Heartspring's user avatar
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0 votes
2 answers
57 views

Is this an ambiguous use of "prior to" to convey logical precedence? [closed]

Consider the following sentence: Volcanic eruptions could not account for the high rate of the global collapse of ecosystems prior to the K-T extinction event. The usage of "prior to" is ...
Zongshu Wu's user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
55 views

Meaning of " in the wings " [closed]

The following passage is from the book The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren: Yet, when you have a case involving fire; the teleportation of anvils, doors, and radiator ...
majid mashmool's user avatar
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1 answer
113 views

How to Translate the "Killing" in this Context?

This is a clipping from a director's memoir(source: A Life: An Autobiography by Elia Kazan) which I once cited in another question, recording an actor's affair. When we got back to Munich for the ...
RomanGhost's user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
1k views

What does "work away" mean? [closed]

What does "work away" in the fourth paragraph mean? At first I thought it meant "be away from home for work", but it also seems to mean "to put forth a persistent, diligent, ...
Alex W's user avatar
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4 votes
4 answers
2k views

Is the phrase 'screw up' or 'screwed up' considered profanity/too harsh for young children? [duplicate]

I heard a character in a children's cartoon use it and was a bit shocked given that it was like a PG/Y7 rated show and I have thought of the word as a vulgar phrase, albeit a mild one. That being said,...
Conan Highwoods's user avatar
-1 votes
1 answer
149 views

Meaning of 'intellectual vertigo'

I'd never come across the phrase 'intellectual vertigo' until reading an article in The Economist about AI. The sentence goes, By working in the most human of mediums, conversation, ChatGPT is now ...
Stannis John's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
81 views

Could “doesn't mess around” mean “being serious about” sometimes? [closed]

She doesn't mess around when it comes to playing cards. In this sentence, “doesn't mess around” means “she's taking this seriously”?
Rio's user avatar
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0 votes
1 answer
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What is "and therefore profits"?

I have read an article called "Stocks have shrugged off the banking turmoil. Haven’t they?" in The Economist newspaper, but I find it hard to understand the meaning of a sentence. The ...
Kate's user avatar
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5 votes
5 answers
876 views

Put someone on the same pedestal as another

I have recently got into a heated argument where I was told that I put them onto the same pedestal as another who had more experience in the field. It was clear from the context that they meant that ...
EvaK's user avatar
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11 votes
2 answers
3k views

What does "wife on the crupper" mean in Hunchback of Notre Dame?

Comrades! Master Simon Sanguin, the Elector of Picardy, with his wife on the crupper! Chapter 1 of Hugo, Victor. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (AmazonClassics Edition) (p. 25). AmazonClassics. Kindle ...
ICD's user avatar
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-1 votes
1 answer
53 views

What is the meaning of, “The like say”? [closed]

The like say - the ultimate sanction in matters of large importance - has not been given to the Trustees alone. From an essay “Twelve Concepts for World Service”, written in 1962 by Bill W., founder ...
AMB's user avatar
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9 votes
9 answers
3k views

Is the meaning of "Either latitude or longitude needs to be provided!" exclusive or inclusive?

The error message for a computer dialogue box reads as follows: Either latitude or longitude need to be provided! (mistakenly using the incorrect need in the plural for singular needs) Does this ...
halloleo's user avatar
  • 498
0 votes
3 answers
754 views

What does it mean "to drive something into a ditch"?

I got an email from an English native speaker. The context is that a known situation is not going as expected. The problem is ongoing, and at some point, the person responsible (P1) says to the people ...
LuizAngioletti's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
550 views

Is "turn comments" or "turning comments" an idiomatic way of responding to feedback?

I have a coworker who consistently says they are "turning comments" to mean "responding to feedback." In particular, it comes up in code review. Someone makes a comment, and the ...
Trevor's user avatar
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0 votes
3 answers
483 views

What does "the fitness of things" mean?

I'm struggling to understand what it means, from this sentence: In science, we sometimes have convictions which we cherish but cannot justify; we are influenced by some innate sense of the fitness of ...
Dee's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
24 views

I may go to the party - permission or possibility? Or both? [duplicate]

Hope you can help me to answer this tricky question. I´m posting here as I got the impression that it needs a linguist or at least a native to answer it. When you say: I may go to the party. Does this ...
Nina Lezioni's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
205 views

What does 'picket fence' mean here? [closed]

Today I was listening to a song from Fall Out boy called Miss missing you. At one point in the song, they sing the line: "Baby you were my picket fence". I know what a picket fence is, but I ...
JonathanCabral's user avatar
-1 votes
2 answers
13k views

What does saying "without the service" mean when paying the bill at a restaurant?

I just heard an actor in a movie say "without the service" when paying the bill at a restaurant. (The movie was The Strays, from 2023 - navigate to 08:19 mins from start). I assume it's ...
Vicky Dev's user avatar
  • 499
-1 votes
1 answer
47 views

Does anyone know what the word "Some" means here? [closed]

Just to context: I've playing a gang context game and after a funeral the rival gang drives by shooting and then the characters that were at the funeral have the car blown up and then they have to run ...
curiousUser's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
48 views

Does “at the borders of” mean “out of” in this text?

Does “at the borders of” means “out of” in this text? If not, what is its precise meaning? In such ways, theology became as yet marginalised, or even banned from the university as no longer deserving ...
Sasan's user avatar
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