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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12
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6answers
3k views

Is the form “double Dutch” still used?

I'm looking for a way to say that something it is really difficult, like when you start learning a new language, or reading something that you are not familiar with and there are terms that you never ...
3
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1answer
698 views

'never peg the needle on your spending meter'

I've met the phrase in this article: Never peg the needle on your spending meter. After some research I found 'What is the meaning of the phrase “moving the needle”?' here. Now the original phrase ...
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7answers
333 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
163 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
71 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 "...
12
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3answers
4k views

What popularized “a roll in the hay” in the 1940s?

While I was looking for an expression for casual sex I came across the evocative expression "a roll in the hay." The saying is from 1942 according to Etymonline: Meaning "act of sexual ...
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4answers
1k views

Possession of the matter is the end of the entertainment/fun?

In the Netherlands, where I live, we have a saying: Het bezit van de zaak, is het einde van het vermaak. This roughly translates to: Possession of the matter is the end of the entertainment/fun....
4
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1answer
92 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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2answers
154 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 ...
2
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2answers
14k views

What is a proper response to a joke about visiting dentist at 2:30/tooth hurty?

I advised my client that I would be unavailable on a particular day because I have an appointment with the dentist to remove a tooth. The client responded What time is the appointment? 2:30? The ...
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3answers
57 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 ...
1
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1answer
157 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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4answers
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Meaning of “They say! What say they? Let them say.”

I've heard this quote in the past, but have never really found any reference to the meaning of it. "They say! What say they? Let them say." was the personal motto of reclusive millionaire Edward F. ...
3
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1answer
55 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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2answers
77 views

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
84 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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8answers
33k views

What's the origin of the saying “know your onions”?

In French, there's the expression occupez-vous de vos oignons which means "mind your own business" in English but can be literally translated as "take care of your onions". Know your onions however ...
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1answer
2k views

“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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0answers
158 views

…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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2answers
8k views
35
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4answers
33k views

I don't have a ___ in this ___ (saying)

Earlier this evening, I was trying to tell someone, "I don't care who wins the Superbowl this year. I don't have a-" I could't remember how to complete this saying (to mean I don't have a personal ...
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4answers
37k views

Good Things Come In Threes - has a definite positive connotation.

From fairytales to hollywood blockbusters, “the rule of three” (Latin-"omne trium perfectum") principle suggests things that come in threes are inherently more humorous, satisfying and effective than ...
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7answers
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“… gets my goat”. What's my goat and why does it get it?

To get someone's goat is make them annoyed or irritated. But what is the goat and why does getting it annoy them? When and where does the phrase come from? What's the first known use?
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3answers
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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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15answers
33k views

Phrase for focusing on unimportant details

I'm looking for an idiom or saying that I could use when people are focusing too much on small details and not seeing the big picture. A couple that come to mind are "being penny-wise and pound ...
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0answers
36 views

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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1answer
88 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 ...
2
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2answers
652 views

No one feeds a starving dog - is it a saying?

I grew up in a small down full of orginal settlers and kin from england- This was saying in our small town - did it originate with us, or does it have origins elsewhere.
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5answers
9k views

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?
13
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11answers
30k views

To “have someone's number”

Where does the saying I've got your number come from?
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3answers
366 views

'Gargle with rose water before you dare speak of/about'

'Rinse your mouth/gargle with (rose/blossom water or Zamzam water or in case of culture differences Pierian spring water), before you dare speak of/about..'. This is an Arabic saying. This is used ...
2
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3answers
15k views

English folk saying or proverb involving the number four (of people)?

We have: "it takes two to tango", "two is company; three is a crowd", etc... Are there any similar sayings that refer to four people?
3
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1answer
1k views

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
91 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 ...
13
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7answers
26k views

More eloquent idiom/expression for the phrase “cut it at the roots/source to prevent the problem from growing/escalating ”

There's nothing particularly wrong with the phrase that's in the title except I figure there may be some better sounding alternative or something more pleasing to the ears. Example usage: We have to ...
3
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2answers
899 views

An expression for “cut you off with honey”

In the Greater Maghreb of the Arab world, when two people are having a conversation and the person who is listening has to say something very important and has to butt in, that person would say ...
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4answers
279 views

English equivalent of Polish saying “Uncle replaced hatchet with stick”

Consider another nice Polish saying "Zamienił stryjek siekierkę na kijek" that literally means "Uncle replaced hatchet with stick" but I managed to form it into a little rhyme just like in Polish (I ...
0
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2answers
670 views

Do you remember the English expression “content is better than…” which means “real inside content is better than superficial outside appearance”?

I remember that once upon a time I heard the expression "content is better than...", which means that real inside content is better than superficial outside appearance. But I couldn't remember the "....
23
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5answers
9k views

Phrase: “Colder than a witch’s kiss!”

The following was used in a radio broadcast (The Adventures of Harry Lime, 14th December 1951, episode 20 “An Old Moorish Custom”) as Harry was hit on the back of his head with a rifle butt by a giant ...
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4answers
31k views

Talking out of the side of your mouth

Talking out of the side of your mouth This means one is lying, right? Or something else?
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14answers
6k views

Are there any English sayings to the effect that little changes may lead to big changes?

Can you think of any sayings about change, especially ones expressing how a big change must begin with a little change? how certain institutions, ideas, or God remain eternally unchanged? Note: the ...
4
votes
1answer
773 views

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
119 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 ...
5
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1answer
1k views

At what point did “what a shame” come to mean “what a disappointment” or “what a missed opportunity”?

This is the common usage of "what a shame". used for expressing sympathy or disappointment (MacMillan Dictionary) another common usage spoken used when you wish a situation was different (...
3
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2answers
3k views

How did an “arm” become a “mile”?

The common saying "give an inch and they'll take a mile" means: Make a small concession and they'll take advantage of you. For example, I told her she could borrow the car for one day and ...
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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 ...
3
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2answers
266 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 ...
3
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2answers
569 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 ...
9
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7answers
975 views

“Soldier sleeps - the service continues” (Russian idiom/saying)

What are English equivalents for following Russian idiom: "soldier sleeps - the service continues"? In Russian it means that "you have a rest, but your work is still being done". UPD from comments: ...
2
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1answer
134 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,...