Questions tagged [phrases]

This tag is for questions about phrases in the linguistic sense. In linguistics a “phrase” is a group of words that make a unit of syntax with a single grammatical function. Use [phrase-requests] if you are searching for a phrase.

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205 votes
7 answers
459k views

When "etc." is at the end of a phrase, do you place a period after it?

Example: It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc. VS. It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc.. Update What happens if the abbreviation is inside parentheses, do you place a dot ...
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125 votes
6 answers
18k views

How to say "It's not rocket science" before rockets existed

Prior to the invention of rockets, was there a phrase equivalent to: "it's not rocket science"? If so, what was it? Here I am looking for a phrase that makes a comparison with a difficult job/task, ...
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  • 2,691
109 votes
4 answers
305k views

What does "something 101" mean? [closed]

Many times I saw the phrase something 101, such as Microsoft Excel 101. What exactly does it mean?
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  • 5,547
93 votes
16 answers
20k views

"Soccer mom": why soccer?

...why not football mom, baseball mom, or basketball mom? Soccer mom, as far as I can tell, is an American term made popular during the 1996 presidential elections, used to describe a key demographic ...
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  • 3,581
78 votes
18 answers
78k views

A formal way to say "I don't want to sound too cocky..."

Allow me to clear the situation. I was talking with my professor about a piece of software that I had developed. While we were discussing, I wanted to say something like I don't want to sound too ...
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  • 860
71 votes
4 answers
9k views

Meaning of "has a ____ to it"

People talking about how something will be perceived sometimes use the phrase "to it". For example people sometimes say "It will have a nice color to it." instead of just it will have a nice color. Or ...
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  • 957
69 votes
2 answers
169k views

Is 'at the time of writing' correct?

I am writing a technical document and I need to refer to the current point of time. Should I say 'at the time of writing', 'at the time of this writing', or 'at the time of writing this'? Are all ...
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66 votes
3 answers
14k views

What does the idiom "batteries not included" mean?

In a comment on a Stack Overflow answer to my question, somebody said that "it is a very 'batteries not included' approach": it doesn't look like there's any easy way to make a strict RFC 4627-...
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62 votes
11 answers
37k views

Is there a general word or phrase to describe the things you do after getting up, such as face-washing?

I'm looking for a more general word or phrase to describe the things like face-washing, tooth-brushing and gargling together. The word or phrase is to these things as doing sports is to playing ...
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61 votes
12 answers
30k views

Is there a non-vulgar version of "pulled it out of their ass"? [duplicate]

Is there a non-vulgar version of “pulled it out of their ass” ? It's a useful phrase, but not one to be used in professional environments. For example: There is no way John’s projections for next ...
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61 votes
12 answers
15k views

"Whatever a Russian does, they end up making the Kalashnikov gun"? Are there any similar proverbs in English?

I'm translating a Russian blog post into English and got stuck with the proverb, "Whatever a Russian does, they end up making the Kalashnikov gun." (Humorously meaning it's hard or even impossible to ...
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61 votes
5 answers
154k views

Origin and exact meaning of the phrase "I have to go see a man about a dog"

I hear my older coworkers use this idiom/phrase occasionally. It seems possibly to be a humorous way to get out of a conversation. Even as a native English speaker, I've never figured out the exact ...
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  • 2,670
57 votes
8 answers
239k views

Distinction: "What can I do you for?" vs. "What can I do for you?"

Usually, when being served the phrase "What can I do for you?" is used but sometimes I also hear "What can I do you for?" in quite the same context. So is there a difference or is it just a slip of ...
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  • 800
56 votes
6 answers
126k views

"jury-rigged", or "jerry-rigged"

As far back as I can remember, the usage went something like "Their jury was rigged, and that's how he got away." Or, "They Jerry-rigged the controller at the last moment and it worked!" I used to ...
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  • 1,514
55 votes
8 answers
346k views

When your 10-year old boy says “It’s meta,” what does it mean? In what situation and of what sort of object they use this phrase?

I asked about the meaning and usage of meta a few days ago, quoting Maureen Dowd’s review of the movie, “J. Edgar” in New York Times. I received six answers. But I still don’t get a clear idea of ...
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  • 69.9k
55 votes
3 answers
330k views

What is the purpose of using the word "why" in "why, thank you"?

I sometimes have heard somebody replying with Why, thank you. instead of Thank you. What is the meaning of the first phrase? What is the difference between the two phrases?
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  • 57.8k
52 votes
12 answers
7k views

A way of describing the lesbian parent that is not pregnant?

A friend of mine is in a long term relationship with her female partner. After deciding they wanted a family, my friend's girlfriend got pregnant. Normally when talking about a couple expecting a ...
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  • 2,246
50 votes
7 answers
11k views

Does she still have all of her fingers?

I am reading a book and the following phrase left me flabbergasted! She pulled back her fingers a second before they were sliced off. [1] Does it mean that her fingers were sliced off a few ...
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  • 661
48 votes
11 answers
15k views

What does "Wine! Because you never got a pony" mean?

The term Wine! Because you never got a pony appeared in a meme on my social media. My first reaction was to question if there was a spelling mistake, i.e. Whine! Because you never got a pony would ...
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47 votes
5 answers
336k views

What does "to come undone" actually mean?

I've heard this phrase several times but was given several contradictory interpretations. Please provide an exact meaning of the phase.
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  • 729
46 votes
5 answers
24k views

Around how old is "a woman of a certain age"?

"A woman of a certain age" is a common saying. It means more than "a woman of a given age", "a woman who could be any age" or "female, without respect to age". It's usage instead seems to suggest a ...
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  • 778
45 votes
14 answers
21k views

Is there a common saying in English that means "It's just business, I don't feel any shame"

In Gujarati language there is a saying which literally means "no shame in business". It is used in a context where one has to do something unpleasant (or immoral) for the sake of their business (...
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  • 569
45 votes
2 answers
66k views

Which preposition to use with "rename"?

Which is the correct preposition to use with rename? rename to rename as rename by
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  • 811
44 votes
4 answers
4k views

How many birds in the bush?

There is a well known proverb, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush However, I have discovered that the earliest English version of this proverb according to phrases.org.uk is found in John ...
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43 votes
5 answers
76k views

Replacement for "God forbid"

I wanted to use the phrase "God forbid" the other day, but really wanted to avoid the religious connotations that may come along with it. I was stumped while thinking of a replacement or variation. I ...
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  • 1,942
42 votes
6 answers
10k views

Word(s) to say if someone doesn't want one thing they surely don't want some second thing

I have been going crazy trying to find this word and I just cant seem to be successful. The word is to state something kind of obvious. Here is an example on where/how to use it: Parent: "Do you ...
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  • 439
42 votes
20 answers
18k views

Phrase to describe a moving goal that is forever just out of reach

Ironically, the phrase I am trying to recall is just out of reach, so perhaps someone can help me with a phrase that describes a moving goal that is forever just out of reach. I will try to provide ...
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40 votes
11 answers
22k views

Why does "Not in a month of Sundays" mean "It won't happen"?

I'm not English so I find it hard to guess the reason why "Not in a month of Sundays" means "It won't happen" or "A long period of time". I find the meaning weird. Can anybody explain to me why it ...
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  • 521
39 votes
5 answers
301k views

Origin of the phrase, "There's more than one way to skin a cat."

The meaning is clear, but where did this phrase originate? Was it always such a gruesome reference?
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  • 571
39 votes
10 answers
205k views

"The point is moot"

I was recently called out for using the phrase "the point is moot" incorrectly. My intent was to indicate that I felt that the point wasn't really worth debating or discussing. I was then shown that ...
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  • 926
38 votes
14 answers
27k views

Is there a word or an idiom for people who only spend their families' money and fool around?

Is there a word or an idiom for rich people who spend only their families' money and do not bother to work, just fool around?
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  • 1,056
37 votes
6 answers
266k views

Is "my bad" a correct English phrase?

I have seen many people use the phrase "my bad" in Internet forums. What does it exactly imply and is it a proper English phrase?
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  • 535
37 votes
6 answers
116k views

Why do we say "I win" instead of "I won"?

For a long time I was wondering why there is I win instead of I won. I met such usage in a lot of games and movies. For me, it's logical to say I won, because this winning action is done already. I ...
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  • 473
36 votes
16 answers
9k views

Phrase for a situation where a problem disappears when you are about to fix it, but reappears later

For example, the car mechanic can't replicate the problem you are having every day, but when you drive it off the service dept, there it is again. Or, when seeing the dentist, the tooth ache goes away,...
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36 votes
4 answers
4k views

Term for something that is supposed to increase safety, but really just increases fear?

Some examples: A news station giving daily "terrorist reports". It doesn't actually say how to protect yourself, just gives information on how horrible they are & why you should be afraid. A ...
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  • 479
36 votes
2 answers
4k views

"Their hunt the roast vegetable sauce": can you parse this?

An old A 2002 magazine sports the ad pictured below, juxtaposing Their hunt the roast vegetable sauce. with "Our roast vegetable sauce." There's something funny going on in the syntax of ...
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  • 6,158
35 votes
14 answers
13k views

Appropriate word for internet name of a person

What is the appropriate word or phrase which means the internet name of a person. I mean the nickname that a person uses in almost all places on the internet like blog, IRC, forums, mailing lists etc.
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  • 711
35 votes
12 answers
62k views

What is an "alternative fact"?

Sunday morning following the 2008 Trump inauguration, NBC´s Chuck Todd questioned statements made by Whitehouse spokesman Sean Spicer concerning proof of the actual size of the turnout for the event. ...
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35 votes
3 answers
143k views

Why do we say "to boot"?

Here's an example of the phrase "to boot": My wife made a disgusting looking dinner, and it tasted awful to boot! The implication of the "to boot" is that the fact that the dinner tasted awful was ...
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  • 4,460
34 votes
8 answers
7k views

What is the idiom, expression or proverb for 'If you let them use you once they will use you for life'?

What is the idiom, expression or proverb for If you bend once, they will bend you for life. In Indian culture in marathi language, we have a saying "Jithe oli/mau mathi, tithe atti" which ...
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  • 2,909
34 votes
8 answers
272k views

Is it correct to say Person A is the "spitting image" or the "splitting image" of Person B?

I understand that when trying to describe a person who has a resemblance to another, the common term is spitting image. As in: Person A is a spitting image of Person B. Here's my issue, I've ...
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  • 690
34 votes
7 answers
16k views

What is the American word for 'tea-towel'?

On a tour from Australia to the states my wife asked me to stop at the gift store and buy memorable fridge-magnets and tea-towels. Everywhere I went, none of the store attendants seemed to know what ...
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  • 2,598
34 votes
7 answers
291k views

What is the meaning of "don't mention it" (in response to "thank you")?

I read at several places that "don't mention it" is equal to "you're welcome". But for me, the word means something like "don't go around talking about this to anyone". So what is the real meaning of ...
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34 votes
7 answers
270k views

Original Meaning of Blood is thicker than water, is it real?

I recently read that the phrase "Blood is thicker than water" originally derived from the phrase "the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb", implying that the ordinary meaning ...
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33 votes
4 answers
4k views

Complete the job, as directed. There is a comma. why?

The following sentences both say that you have been directed to do a job: Complete the job, as directed. vs Complete the job as directed. But which of the two sentences above will assert ...
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33 votes
3 answers
14k views

What does the suffix “‑fu” mean?

Can anyone tell me what the suffix “‑fu” stands for in the following sentence? If you want to take advantage of some other Spring-fu, like some of its aspect-oriented features, then you’ll need to ...
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  • 2,477
33 votes
1 answer
102k views

"Logged-in", "log-ined", "login-ed", "logined", "log-in-ed", "logged in"? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “log in to” or “log into” or “login to” This following question, where and how to append "-ed", is not addressed in thу "possible ...
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33 votes
3 answers
611k views

"Convenient for you" vs "convenient to you"

Is there a difference between "convenient for you" and "convenient to you"? And if it is, could you explain it?
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33 votes
4 answers
97k views

Is it a "driver license" or a "driver's license" or a "drivers license" or...what?

I've often wondered why my Ohio license is called a "driver license". It is awkward to say it like that. Wouldn't something like driver's license be more appropriate? Or driving license (like ...
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32 votes
14 answers
14k views

Famous phrase for something which is forbidden or impossible, but can be done if desired enough

In some languages (for example Russian) there is a very famous phrase about something that is forbidden or not possible, but can be done if very desired. Если нельзя, но очень хочется, то можно ...
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