Questions tagged [popular-refrains]

A saying is something that is said, notable in one respect or another, to be "a pithy expression of wisdom or truth."

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2answers
201 views

Origin of the saying “God must love the poor because he made so many of them”

The saying "God must love the poor [or the common people or the plain people] because he made so many of them" falls somewhere between a proverb and a famous quotation, but its origins are rather ...
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5answers
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Word for when something makes something else seems smaller in a relative manner

I'm trying to think of a word that is somehow alluding me. Imagine two people are speaking loudly, but then a third person begins shouting even louder. The third persons voice has made the other two ...
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0answers
27 views

How to say grief delayed for good cause?

What words, or phrases, are related to grieving having been deferred, but not disparaged, for a worthy reason? Bonus points for folklore references. === I was thinking of something along the lines ...
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48 views

What does “run for the hills” really refer to?

I know that it means "run for your lives", but why would running to the hills be a good idea to hide? Aren't the hills the easiest place for the enemy to spot the peasants/people who "run for the ...
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Quote similar to “the pen is mightier than the sword”

I'm looking for a quote that is similar to "the pen is mightier than the sword", which is commonly credited to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. The quote should state the same thing, namely, that words ...
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Is there a word for when you tell show something and it doesn't work?

E.g. "This hasn't been working all day", and then when you show it, it works
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9answers
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What's an idiom to express the idea “the correcter stands corrected”

I'm quite confident there is a short and to-the-point idiom to express the idea of someone who is an 'expert' in his field, suddenly is found in a situation where he is ignorant. Something that would ...
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1answer
59 views

The old-money rich “don't buy their own furniture?”

I've heard it said of the old-money wealthy that they "don't buy their own furniture." Is the implication that the family has so many heirlooms, and perhaps of superior quality to modern goods, that ...
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1answer
91 views

Where does the concept of “big brother sees you” come from? [closed]

I don't mean the metaphor "big brother" or "Big Brother" as in the government or other powerful entity. I mean the original meaning of "big brother sees you". I am a big brother. Or was. I never ...
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1answer
42 views

How can “running down the plane” be interpreted in this SOAD song? [closed]

In the lyrics of a System Of A Down song called Roulette the following part can be found: Left a message, but it ain't a bit of use I have some pictures, the wild might be the deuce Today you ...
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143 views

Is “making a hen out of a feather” really not an English expression?

Today, after learning English for decades, I learned that the expression "to make a hen out of a feather" apparently is Swedish-only, and that nobody outside Sweden would understand this (other than ...
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A term for “it's raining while the sun is shining”

Most languages have a popular term or a traditional saying for the occurrence of rain while the sun is shining (a sunshower). Most of these expressions have been handed down from generation to ...
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Translate the French quote “Il n’y a pas d'amour, il n’y a que des preuves d’amour” to English?

I’d like to translate a quote from Pierre Reverdy (or Jean Cocteau, this is an open question apparently). The quote is: Il n’y a pas d’amour, il n’y a que des preuves d’amour. For some context in ...
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488 views

Origin of “in your corner”?

I just wrote an email to a new friend and colleague from Rwanda, whom I am helping to find work in translation and interpreting. And I signed my email, “In your corner,” only later realizing she might ...
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5answers
152 views

An epigram for when one bad thing happens, it causes a chain reaction of bad things [duplicate]

I'm not talking about Domino Effect or Murphy's Law, it's something else. I used to know it, but for the life of me, I can't seem to remember. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I think it was "...
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1answer
140 views

Origin of the saying 'It's a soda'?

We say that something is easy (in Australia at least) by saying that 'it's a soda?' What is the origin of this please? Why soda?
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Those who speak do not know, those who know do not speak

We have this idiom-like saying in Turkish. The idea is that there are certain things, topics, etc., if one talks about it, it strongly suggests that he has no idea what he is talking about, else he ...
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3answers
68 views

Looking for a well-known refrain or proverb indicating that some big trouble has just started

I am translating into English a famous refrain from Spanish, Ahí fue Troya. That means something like Then a big trouble started. I am looking for some correspondingly recognizable refrain I can ...
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1answer
292 views

What does it mean “to queer the pudding”?

In today's Observer, columnist Jonathan Bouquet mentions Jon Snow on Channel 4 News while interviewing Jacob Rees Mogg, having used the expression to queer the pudding. Bouquet refers to it as a "new ...
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2answers
539 views

Where is the saying “A for away” from?

I have recently picked up the saying "A for away" (meaning, we are good to go/ready to go). I am English but live in South Africa and watch American TV, so I have no idea where this saying is from. Is ...
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Concise way to express the Spanish saying “it is preferable to be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion”

I came across this vivid Spanish expression today and have been wondering how it might best be said in English: "Más vale ser cabeza de ratón, que cola de león" which, literally, means that it is ...
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2answers
93 views

Is there an English metaphor/saying for this expression?

I'm translating a book and the author has written down a saying that can be translated literally as "If you want to hit a dog you can easily/quickly find a stick" Like, if I wanted to hit a dog, ...
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1answer
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“Last days of Rome” phrase, meaning with examples

I would be interested to know the origin and evolution of meaning, along with example usage, for the phrase "last days of Rome".
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…Your baby gonna come out naked

I heard this in a casual how-to video. It seemed random and not associated with anything they were doing. Someone said, "My favorite one is... your baby is going to come out naked. If you keep working ...
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0answers
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Is there an old saying/joke about “Where would I go if I were a [name of lost object]?”

In the 1950s my mother used to say, if I lost (for example) a glove, "Where would you go if you were a glove?" More recently I read this in a novel by my father from the mid-1960s: "... the old gag ...
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7answers
536 views

What is the saying for when “early adaptors (first timers) always takes the hit” which is opposite of “early bird catches the worm”

While we say "early bird catches the worm" which means whoever arrives first has the best chance of success; some opportunities are only available to the first competitors. On the opposite end, what ...
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3answers
140 views

What is a good metaphor/analogy/idiom espousing the virtues of “developing something gradually over time”? [closed]

My question specifically relates to learning a new skill. Which could be used in the following example: An aspiring athlete trains for an hour each day without feeling like she is making much ...
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1answer
274 views

Origin of the saying “you can't put a price on sanity”?

This is something my mother used to say on a daily basis, and I grew up thinking it was a common saying. Today it occurred to me that I've never heard anyone else say it, and when I googled it, no ...
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What does “stay in vegetables” mean?

The quote says "Don't do school, eat your drugs, stay in vegetables". I realize the last part does not mean something like "remain in the box with potatoes" literally, so what does it mean?
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1answer
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Origin of “Don't ask the question if you're not prepared to hear the answer”?

It is a saying, or life advice perhaps. Not everyone is taught it. Where did it come from? The Bible? A philosopher? Literature? Does it have a canonical name?
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1answer
102 views

Looking for an English idiom

In Russian language we have this joke: -- Is this a taxi? -- Yes -- Why isn't the car yellow then? -- Do you want a yellow car or do you need a ride? We often use the last phrase of the joke as an ...
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1answer
58 views

Proper spelling/saying

My 90 year old father has a saying, "I've been dragged through an auger hole and beat with a sut rake." It means you're worn out or have been treated badly. "Sut" pronounced almost like "soot." Not ...
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1answer
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How would you translate this Spanish saying “Sacar un clavo con otro clavo” to English?

Fellow English Speakers, I've been trying to translate this common saying from Spanish to English: Sacar un clavo con otro clavo. However, I cannot find any translation that satisfies my ...
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3answers
864 views

Help recall the exact idiom “I'm against my brother, I'm with my brother against my cousin, I'm with my brother and cousing against everyone else”

There's a very interesting asian saying, describing dichotomy of a person's attitude towards others. My quote is probably incorrect, but it says roughy: "I'm against my brother, I'm with my ...
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2answers
372 views

Does English have a saying for “The person who orders something is the one has to pay for it”?

In German, we have the saying Wer bestellt, bezahlt, which translates literally into Who(ever) orders, pays in English. Is there a corresponding English idiomatic expression or proverbial refrain for ...
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2answers
902 views

Origin of “rank hath its privileges”

It's often seen with "has," but the frequent appearance of "hath" suggests the saying may be much, much older. Early Modern English always suggests Shakespeare to me, but my Google-fu hath failed me ...
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1answer
232 views

What's the old saying that means “the written word is more powerful than the spoken”

I'm looking for that old saying that means "the written word is more powerful than the spoken" It suggests that getting an idea on paper and publishing it can reach many more people (because of books,...
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3answers
3k views

What does “it’s the head of the fish that stinks” mean?

In a text regarding the meeting of the members of a automotive company appears: In the past, there was one clear rule at our plant, I hope I’m not going to make anyone uncomfortable, but it’s the ...
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3answers
634 views

What is the idiom for “ If it is something impossible to believe it”

Often, when something really odd is said,or if something impossible to believe is said to have happened, Turks say:" Yeah, if you eat it". I wonder what is the corresponding idiom in English? If I ...
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1answer
735 views

Meaning of “That sort of says something”

What does "That sort of says something" mean? What says what? One man tells another: He used to say when his wife died it killed the whole family. That sort of says something, sir. That you kept ...
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0answers
128 views

Unit testing frameworks for C/C++ for Linux, or unit testing frameworks for C/C++ on Linux? [closed]

My colleagues and I had a little debate. We are working with Linux, and we use a mocking framework to test our code. Since the mocking framework is used to test the code that is written in C and C++ ...
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2answers
922 views

Is there a proverb of proverbs?

In my language (Vietnamese), there is a proverb (or at least a common saying) that proverbs are the treasure of our ancestors. Do we have such proverbs, proverbial phrases or sayings in English? ...
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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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1answer
82 views

Quote/saying to mean “the only worthwhile object of study is Man himself”?

Looking for a known Greek/Roman quote/saying that expresses the opinion why the humanities are the only worthwhile subjects to study. Yes, dad. I know studying Philosophy is a waste of time but as ...
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1answer
8k views

A more eloquent way to say “messed up”

How can you describe something as fucked up or messed up? Specifically talking about a bunch of pictures. A better way of saying “These pictures are fucked up.” A picture like this would be fucked up ...
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1answer
100 views

Getting credit for trying?

Is there an idiom, saying, or an epigram that expresses the meaning of getting the credit for trying even without the success of outcome?
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5answers
260 views

A speaker of truth must have his/her horse saddled up

The implication is that, upon telling the truth, one must be ready to gallop his/her horse away, any moment because, people may find such justness unacceptable and resort to violence in response. ...
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2answers
105 views

The quail did not perch in a tree, that wasn’t its way

This is a Georgian idiomatic expression. It conveys the idea that, as a quail will never perch in a tree because it can not, so a person will not be able to accomplish a task or perform, due to his/...
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3answers
5k views

If there is honey, the bees will come from nine mountains away

This idiomatic expression implies that, if there is a favorable financial situation ( a situation in which money can be made ) people who would like to use such a situation to their advantage, will ...
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2answers
5k views

What's the second part of the saying “Give someone an inch”?

What's the second part of the saying "Give someone an inch"? I've consulted a number of dictionaries, and they all say the second part is "and they'll take a mile." This is while in real life I've ...

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