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Questions tagged [phrase-requests]

This tag is for questions seeking a phrase or an expression 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

"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 ...
Centaurus's user avatar
  • 50.2k
40 votes
28 answers

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 ...
Gigili's user avatar
  • 5,308
272 votes
11 answers

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 ...
J.T. Grimes's user avatar
  • 6,855
22 votes
13 answers

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. ...
Daniel's user avatar
  • 57.7k
14 votes
17 answers

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 ...
user87131's user avatar
  • 157
8 votes
10 answers

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?
Ida's user avatar
  • 313
25 votes
4 answers

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 ...
channa's user avatar
  • 251
4 votes
2 answers

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 "...
Asad Saeeduddin's user avatar
29 votes
19 answers

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?...
user avatar
12 votes
9 answers

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 ...
Anonymous's user avatar
  • 3,062
5 votes
6 answers

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?
lexeme's user avatar
  • 770
93 votes
29 answers

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 ...
FAE's user avatar
  • 902
20 votes
10 answers

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 ...
Armen Ծիրունյան's user avatar
34 votes
27 answers

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 ...
austinbv's user avatar
  • 443
17 votes
13 answers

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 ...
George Chen's user avatar
  • 1,210
17 votes
4 answers

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 ...
Brian Donovan's user avatar
9 votes
4 answers

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 ...
brilliant's user avatar
  • 8,998
37 votes
19 answers

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, ...
Pyritie's user avatar
  • 678
55 votes
8 answers

"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 ...
NVZ's user avatar
  • 22.6k
31 votes
4 answers

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 ...
gerrit's user avatar
  • 2,273
21 votes
11 answers

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 ...
Ooker's user avatar
  • 3,096
15 votes
24 answers

What is a term or idiom for "blah blah blah" talk?

I am looking for a term or and idiomatic expression to convey the concept of "empty, irrelevant" talk. I am thinking about those situations in which people want to express their ideas on facts about ...
user 66974's user avatar
  • 67.5k
11 votes
7 answers

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 ...
user avatar
11 votes
16 answers

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 ...
mowwwalker's user avatar
  • 1,203
8 votes
10 answers

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 ...
Mazura's user avatar
  • 8,878
4 votes
5 answers

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 ...
user avatar
140 votes
17 answers

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 ...
Rich Armstrong's user avatar
83 votes
25 answers

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 ...
RexYuan's user avatar
  • 1,632
67 votes
13 answers

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 ...
Javid Jamae's user avatar
  • 1,155
64 votes
21 answers

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 '...
simon's user avatar
  • 753
51 votes
10 answers

"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 ...
Mike's user avatar
  • 985
39 votes
23 answers

Formal alternative to bullsh-t

What is a reasonable formal alternative to 'bullshit'? For example: Bob isn't making a very good argument. In fact everything he says is bullshit. What can 'bullshit' be replaced with that is a ...
Mitch's user avatar
  • 71.8k
36 votes
4 answers

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 ...
Gopi's user avatar
  • 543
29 votes
14 answers

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?
Anderson Silva's user avatar
24 votes
21 answers

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 ...
tooshel's user avatar
  • 1,165
23 votes
13 answers

Word for lying while bragging/boasting

This is a single-word/idiom/phrase/expression-request, so basically I'll take anything that fits the bill. I'm trying to translate the Chinese word 吹牛 - which dictionaries will tell you means to brag/...
Mou某's user avatar
  • 5,397
21 votes
5 answers

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.
Evan's user avatar
  • 1,236
16 votes
2 answers

Is there a term for this word play where a song intentionally avoids completing a rhyme?

Take this for example: In this video, at 1:04 to 1:10, the person goes on rapping with a rhyming word at the end of each line, but he pauses before the end of the last word and, being humans, we ...
user avatar
13 votes
7 answers

Word for "stating the obvious?"

Is there a word or term commonly used to describe the act of stating the obvious (or a person who continually does so)? Example sentences are given for a suitable noun / NP, or verb ... but other ...
JYelton's user avatar
  • 1,189
12 votes
9 answers

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 ...
Mari-Lou A's user avatar
  • 91.9k
8 votes
6 answers

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 ...
zvory's user avatar
  • 331
6 votes
6 answers

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, ...
Eilia's user avatar
  • 5,499
2 votes
2 answers

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 ...
Aman Deep Gautam's user avatar
105 votes
21 answers

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 at this question. However, having read it, I did not see any answer that tells how to say unambiguously that food is hot (temperature) without being ...
Vivian River's user avatar
  • 1,901
86 votes
28 answers

Idiom or word for a very crowded place

There is a popular idiom in Russian for describing a really crowded place: "(there's) no room for an apple to fall" ("яблоку негде упасть"). I struggle to think of anything similar in English, and ...
RegDwigнt's user avatar
  • 97.5k
66 votes
11 answers

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 ...
Marthaª's user avatar
  • 32.9k
64 votes
25 answers

Are there counterpart English expressions to Japanese proverb, "the nail that pops up is always hammered down?

I was once reminded by Robusto-san of a Japanese popular saying, ‘出る釘は打たれる - the nail that pops up is always hammered down,’ when I complained about sequential down-votes that I received. I wondered ...
Yoichi Oishi's user avatar
  • 70.2k
63 votes
25 answers

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 ...
terdon's user avatar
  • 21.9k
40 votes
15 answers

What is the equivalent of Persian idiom "When the reed blooms"?

In Persian, we say "When the reed blooms" when we want to express that an event: Never happens. (This is only the opinion of the speaker so it's not a fact) It's very unlikely to happen. It's going ...
Sobhan's user avatar
  • 869
37 votes
7 answers

An English idiom for "solve a problem that has been solved"?

In Polish, and I believe in a number of other European languages, there is an idiomatic expression which translates to "to force a door which is already open". It is used to describe a situation when ...
Jakub Konieczny's user avatar

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