Questions tagged [phrase-requests]

This tag is for questions seeking a phrase that fits a meaning. If you're specifically seeking only a single word, see the "single word requests" tag too.

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24 votes
2 answers
4k views

"pros and cons", "black and white", "ups and downs". Always in a fixed sequence, is there a word or phrase for these?

Is there a word or phrase for two nouns or adjectives joined by a conjunction (usually "and") in a fixed sequence? alive and well fast and furious hat and gloves pen and pencil ...
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37 votes
27 answers
220k views

An idiom meaning someone's doing something useless and has no result at the end

In my native language, we use an idiom to warn someone that they're doing something which has no result at the end: Trying to convince him is like squashing water ... Is there any idiom in English ...
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  • 5,195
269 votes
11 answers
101k views

Is there a word or phrase for the feeling you get after looking at a word for too long?

Sometimes after looking at a word for a while, I become convinced that it can't possibly be spelled correctly. Even after looking it up, sounding it out, and realizing that there's simply no other ...
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  • 6,763
14 votes
17 answers
65k views

What is a word that means "someone who pretends to be your friend but is actually your enemy?"

What do you call someone who pretends to be your friend but is actually your enemy? A friend suggested spy for me, but that does not nearly describe the word I need for an English project. The ...
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  • 157
7 votes
10 answers
17k views

Expression for "intend to help but instead making things worse"

I want to say "someone (or something) intends to help, but instead it makes things worse". Is there any succinct expression or phrase for this?
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  • 303
20 votes
13 answers
29k views

What's an idiom for doing something in an unnecessarily complicated way?

For an example, I'll quote C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: One day the cat got into the dairy and twenty of them were at work moving all the milk out; no one thought of moving the cat. ...
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  • 56.7k
4 votes
2 answers
11k views

Is there a term for a word inside another word?

Is there a term for a word that occurs unbroken within another word? For example, the word "fun" in "funeral", or "drag" in "hydragog". The closest thing I could find from my search was the term "...
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24 votes
4 answers
8k views

Is there a word for colloquial forms of address?

For example, "dude," "man," "buddy," "pal," etc, when used to stand in for someone's name. "Hey, pal, how's it going?" Is there a word for terms like these? Or is "colloquialism" as close as we can ...
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  • 241
5 votes
6 answers
6k views

Opposite of "straight talk"

What is the opposite for the straight talk idiom? How do I best call the activity when someone makes a very long preamble before he says what he wants?
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  • 760
12 votes
9 answers
88k views

What is an idiom/slang for "someone who pretends to be good when they're not"?

This is not from real life, but from a movie on my local TV. A character in the movie is really bad, but when she talks with others, she pretends to be an innocent/ good woman. I want to know how to ...
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  • 3,026
92 votes
29 answers
25k views

Is there an American English equivalent of the British idiom "carrying coals to Newcastle"?

I'm an American living in the Netherlands who is learning Dutch. There's an idiom in Dutch that describes performing a needless/futile activity, "water naar de zee dragen," which literally translates ...
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  • 892
20 votes
10 answers
123k views

Idiom/phrase which means "to pretend not to understand or know"

Sometimes (well, often) people pretend not to understand what's going on (or pretend not to understand what the other person means, etc.) when in fact they do perfectly well. For example, Person A ...
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29 votes
19 answers
10k views

What is the problem that gets worse after you try to solve it?

Example sentence - This problem is a _____ which gets complicated every time you try to solve it. Is there such a word that represents a problem which will become worse if/when one tries to solve it?...
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17 votes
13 answers
15k views

What is the name of the tactic that politicians use to bury people with torrent of words?

Some people write bloated books and long essays with skilful use of hooks, e.g. Jared Diamond; some others speak in long-drawn sentences with torrents of words, e.g. Noam Chomsky. It reminds me of a ...
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  • 1,212
9 votes
4 answers
9k views

Phrase or idiom for funnelling efforts in wrong direction

What one phrase or idiom describes situations (see examples below), in which people funnel their efforts in the wrong direction? A boy wants to have a cup of coffee, so he buys a notebook in a ...
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  • 8,863
36 votes
19 answers
13k views

Word for dismissing someone's opinions as racist, liberal, etc, instead of debating back

I'm looking for either a single word or phrase that would describe either someone or the action of dismissing someone's opinions as something "socially unpopular", without giving any reasoning why, ...
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  • 668
34 votes
27 answers
286k views

Common phrases for something that appears good but is actually bad

What are common phrases that describe something that appears good but is actually bad? Edit: Because people say bad is vague I will try to sum up the phrase meaning a little better. something that ...
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  • 443
5 votes
4 answers
27k views

Word/phrase for a feature that could be both good and bad for something

Take this scenario: a tool has a specific feature that could be regarded as an invaluable benefit for. However, this feature, if used in opposite direction may be counterproductive. In other words, ...
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  • 5,095
29 votes
4 answers
9k views

Can I use "US-American" to disambiguate "American"? If not, what can I use?

Based on this question, I wonder: as an alternative to USAian (which is very nonstandard) is it OK to use US-American to more clearly indicate "inhabitant of the USA"? According to Google Ngram, this ...
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  • 2,143
21 votes
11 answers
10k views

What do you call an 'unselfish' action made with a selfish reason?

There are many examples of this, and I'd like to give a few: A person who puts a lot of effort to help the community and earns reputation points. But that reputation is the motivation behind helping ...
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  • 3,046
11 votes
7 answers
5k views

What's a good phrase for "refining a process which is hopelessly broken"?

I'm looking for a turn of phrase to describe a situation where the powers that be wish to continue making small improvements to a process which, due to deep-rooted flaws, will never be close to ...
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9 votes
10 answers
4k views

What are "good men that do nothing" called?

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke Is there an idiom, phrase or preferably a single word that we can call people that could have helped ...
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  • 8,754
136 votes
17 answers
106k views

Is there an English idiom for trying to do two things at the same time and failing at both of them due to splitting your effort?

I'm basically searching for the opposite of putting all your eggs in one basket, where the risk is total failure because you did not hedge your efforts. I'm searching for a phrase that encompasses ...
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82 votes
25 answers
45k views

What is deliberately using complex sentences to confuse people called?

I'm wondering if there's a word, phrase, or idiom to describe the action of deliberately confusing people by using complex sentences. For example, some politicians will throw out some big words and ...
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  • 1,622
67 votes
13 answers
129k views

What is the term for when you become more aware of something?

For example, when you buy a car, you start becoming more aware of cars with a similar make and model. The number of that type of car hasn't increased, but your awareness of it has. Similarly, when ...
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  • 1,155
55 votes
8 answers
9k views

"To science the sh*t out of something"

In The Martian movie, Matt Damon (Watney), when left stranded on Mars with very limited resources to survive, says: Mark Watney: In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option, I'm ...
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  • 22.3k
64 votes
21 answers
25k views

What is the word for always YES (100%) or always NO (0%), never in-between

For example: 1) In statistics, this attribute will always either be 0% or 100%, never in-between. 2) The boundary is either safe or destroyed, because there is never a state where it is only '...
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  • 753
23 votes
21 answers
52k views

What is a less offensive synonym for "retarded"?

I occasionally use "retarded" when chastising myself or other friends. I know it's not Politically Correct, but am I only allowed to say stupid? How long before we can't say that anymore? Other ...
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  • 1,115
29 votes
14 answers
132k views

What is a word/idiom for 'unable to decide'?

Let's say I have an important decision to make and I can't decide between two competing things (like break up with a girl or not break up with her). What would be a word/idiom to express that?
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36 votes
4 answers
103k views

Is there a more common phrase that means "preponed"?

I was aware of this and this stackexchange post discuss the same. There is no prepone in English. Ok, then how do I say Our meeting is preponed in correct way? What is the correct word/phrase for ...
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  • 543
48 votes
10 answers
24k views

"To shoot out of cannon into sparrows"

In Russian we have idiom/saying "To shoot out of cannon into sparrows" (literal translation) which is used to convey an idea of applying too drastic measures to small problems. I believe there should ...
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  • 965
22 votes
13 answers
9k views

request: bragging & boasting but all made up of lies

This is a single word, idiom, phrase, expression request - so basically I'll take anything that fits the bill. Basically I'm trying to translate the Chinese word 吹牛 - which dictionaries will tell you ...
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  • 5,339
21 votes
5 answers
10k views

Term for catchy tune that stays in your head

Is there a term for a catchy tune that stays in your head after you hear it? The Germans call it an earworm.
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  • 1,176
12 votes
9 answers
13k views

Is there a word for the sadness over "What might have been"?

Context: You made the decision not to see a person any more. The relationship was good, you were both happy with one another but the one main stumbling block (for you) in the relationship was never ...
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  • 85.6k
9 votes
16 answers
20k views

Phrase to describe a fix that doesn't address the underlying issue?

I'm looking for a phrase to describe fixing the relatively minor problems of something with addressing a larger underlying problem. One example would be if a house had a bug infestation and someone ...
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  • 1,123
8 votes
6 answers
79k views

Word for someone seeming deep and intelligent, but not really being that

What is the word for someone trying to seem/be deep and intelligent, but really they are shallow, and not at all being insightful. Pedant is about rules, so that is disqualified, the closest I could ...
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  • 231
2 votes
2 answers
1k views

Word or phrase for mere coincidence that brings happiness

I wish to state that my exposure to a certain area was a mere coincidence, and I am happy about the area. Moreover, I want to convey the idea that the incident was like a fairytale, something no one ...
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61 votes
25 answers
60k views

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 ...
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  • 20.7k
30 votes
15 answers
68k views

What do you call a person who is utterly independent and a loner?

I was just in the midst of writing a description for a story I am writing, and I'm trying to describe one of the characters, or more rather think of a word I could use to describe them. They are ...
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65 votes
11 answers
5k views

Is there an English phrase for an inability to actually *leave* already?

There is a Hungarian expression, küszöbgörcs, which literally means "threshold-cramp", and is used to describe that long conversation you have in the entryway, with all the guests awkwardly holding ...
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  • 32.1k
25 votes
12 answers
124k views

A word for the heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can't have

There is a phrase in French that exactly means this: "la douleur exquise" It literally means "the exquisite pain" and expresses the pain of wanting the affection of someone unattainable. I think it ...
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  • 51.6k
102 votes
21 answers
23k views

How to say that food is hot (temperature) without the listener thinking that I mean "spicy"?

There is an excellent discussion of spicy vs. hot here: Difference between "spicy" and "hot" However, having read the previous question, I did not see any answer that tells how to ...
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  • 1,851
17 votes
4 answers
1k views

What should we call language that intentionally conveys the opposite of the literal meaning?

This seems to me to be a kind of rhetorical figure, but I cannot find a classical term for it in Silva Rhetoricae. Examples include the following from Tristram Shandy (Vol. 2 Chap. 24): I define a ...
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25 votes
12 answers
5k views

Expression that means something like "killing the sheep to keep them from being kidnapped"

I'm looking for an expression that conveys an excessive risk management approach that ends up having a worse effect than what it is trying to protect against.
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  • 251
13 votes
5 answers
16k views

Is there an English term for "L'esprit de l'escalier"?

L'esprit de l'escalier or l'esprit d'escalier (literally, staircase wit) is a French term that describes the predicament of thinking of the perfect comeback too late. Merriam-Webster dictionary ...
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9 votes
7 answers
44k views

Something simple and yet complex...

Is there a phrase or word for a problem that appears simple but is in fact full of complexities? A few situations come to mind: Painting a room Breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend Eating a ...
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  • 1,050
4 votes
5 answers
15k views

Formal expression for "talking about something unrelated" [closed]

What are some words or phrases that can be used when a person is discussing a particular subject with a group of people and unintentionally she/he talks about something unrelated? I need a formal ...
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17 votes
11 answers
4k views

More formal word for "know-it-all"

We are in an impartial hearing to get special education for our son. The school social worker testified a tremendous load of lies, distortions and nonsense. She (having set herself up as an armchair ...
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  • 20.6k
13 votes
6 answers
18k views

An idiom to describe someone who thinks he/she is wiser than others

Is there an idiom in English to describe someone who thinks he/she is smarter/wiser than everyone else? In Polish, we have an idiom, which literally translated, would sound like: He/she has eaten ...
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2 votes
1 answer
1k views

Is there a term for coining a phrase for a word that already exists?

Usually a new term emerges and it becomes necessary to add a qualification to an old word for disambiguation. examples: "mono sound" versus "stereo sound" "analog watch"...
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