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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What exactly are "beasts that perish"?

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly ...
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2 votes
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Was "Get in, jump in, if you can't get in, throw your money in" once a common saying?

My great grandmother had a saying: Get in, jump in, if you can't get in, throw your money in. I've never heard anyone else use it but somehow I always had the feeling that she got it from somewhere. ...
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Saying or expression about modesty [duplicate]

I am looking for a saying or expression in English that is equivalent to "what is an ant that you want to make a meal from?" meaning that, I dont consider myself that important to make such ...
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Which saying means to sell a part as the whole?

I'm looking for an English (or foreign saying often used in English) which mean that it is made to believe that part of a thing can achieve what the whole thing only can achieve. Examples : To sell a ...
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1 vote
3 answers
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What is an idiom for making a situation worse in your efforts to make a different one better? [duplicate]

Maybe it doesn't exist, but I feel like there's an idiom for a situation where, in an effort to solve one issue, you exacerbate or create a second related issue, probably directly. Out of the frying ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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A word meaning both masturbating and consoling oneself?

In Chinese, 自慰 means '(of a person, genderless) to masturbate', and it also means 'to console oneself'. I took it as an extension of 'God helps whose who help themselves' for a certain period of time. ...
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Saying, proverb, phrase for the idea of Absurdity of concentrating on pointless, over-the-top pleasantries than subject that matters the most [duplicate]

We have newly appointed 75+ power-hog manager (old school but in pejorative sense), affected by second childhood and treated like a lame duck (too good to do anything productive). He is infatuated by ...
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Is there a saying in English similar to Croatian "Mate-matematika, ljuta je k'o paprika!" (meaning "I don't like maths!")?

Is there a saying in English similar to Croatian "Mate-matematika, ljuta je k'o paprika!"? The Croatian phrase literally translates to "Ma-ma-maths, it is as hot as chili-pepper!" (...
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1 vote
1 answer
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English equivalent of "send the demon to fill a wicker basket with water" [closed]

In Catalan language, there is a popular refrain that talks about someone meeting a demon, and the demon offer the person to perform any tasks they want them to do, which the demon will gladly do for ...
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What is the name of the literary technique for this?

So the common adage is "The apple never falls far from the tree." So what would you call: "Sometimes the apple falls very far from the tree." It points out an exception to the rule....
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-2 votes
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Why has everyone started saying "it is what it is"? And what does it mean?

Few expressions anger me more than "it is what it is". It sounds so incredibly dumb to me. And I keep hearing it lately, from all kinds of people: Any sentence goes here. It is what it is. ...
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3 votes
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What does the expression "in with the loaves, out with the fairy cakes" mean?

In this recent news article I noted the following quote, attributed to a Cornish fisherman: Another fisher, David Bliss, added: “It’s a bit stupid isn’t it, let’s be honest. They’ve gone in with the ...
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What is a clever saying that means, 'It's impossible to stop natural phenomena? [closed]

What is a popular-refrain that means it is pointless to try and stop a naturally occuring phenomenon?
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23 votes
9 answers
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You have the watches, but we have the time

This quote is associated with the Taliban in reference to the US occupation of Afghanistan. I understand the metaphorical meaning of the quote — i.e. the point that it makes. But I am intrigued by the ...
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3 answers
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Is "green ones" not slang for money? [closed]

I wish I could bring in some green ones. I cannot bring in the green ones. I'm making tons of the green ones. Are these proper English/American English sentences? Can you use "green ones" ...
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15 votes
15 answers
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A saying similar to "playing whack-a-mole"

My wife is looking for a phrase or saying in English that is similar to... Lo urgente no deja tiempo para lo importante ...which means "Urgent matters do not leave time for what is really ...
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1 vote
3 answers
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Does "don't cry over lost Bitcoins" really work? [closed]

There's the old saying: Don't cry over spilled milk! Its meaning, AFAIK, is that you should not cry/be sad/get hung up over losing something trivial which can easily be replaced. If you spill some ...
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What is the original version of these two popular idioms? [duplicate]

When I was but a young lad, I often heard the following saying; If “ifs”and “ands” were pots and pans, we would never do the dishes. There is also another similar saying; If ‘ifs” and “buts” were ...
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1 answer
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What does the saying, "I don't like to eat what I can't swallow" mean?

My friend said this to me in regards to his girlfriend being older than he is. I don't understand what the saying means.
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3 votes
2 answers
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Does English have a version of "pouring water on a goose"?

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/verkan Det där har lika mycket verkan som att hälla vatten på en gås. That has as much effect as pouring water on a goose. It means that something is futile or ...
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Idioms: Exploiting/Taking Advantage of Others (negative connotation) [duplicate]

Could you please give me an idiom, proverb, or saying that describes someone who exploits and take advantage of others? An idiomatic expression that has a negative connotation. Or maybe to say that ...
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9 votes
3 answers
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Which phrase attributed to the “cat-o'-nine tails” is the most credible?

In one of many online articles professing the origin of well-known and popular English sayings, I was particularly struck by the one related to "Cat got your tongue". The author writes ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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"Everything's coming up X"?

I've heard several Americans say "everything's coming up X". Sometimes, it's a person's name, and sometimes, it can be anything. Example: https://youtu.be/ivW7z3wGAl8?t=175 Everything was ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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What is the meaning of the "narrow" road/path metaphor?

All my life, I've regularly heard phrases such as: Walk on the narrow road, never steering off into Hell! Don't listen to the Devil trying to lure you into his dark path! This, to me, metaphorically ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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A literary idiom/expression that means someone is worthless or express about this imagery ( he is not equal to stitch on the sole)

I have to translate a poem from Arabic into English, so I need an equivalent expression to Arabic imagery.
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1 vote
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What is origin of the phrase "as gay as cheese"?

A little while back, I was trying to find an old Hitchcock anthology story that turned out to be Joan Aiken's "As Gay as Cheese" where the eponymous phrase is one of many that the main ...
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fantasy and reality sayings

You should never act out a fantasy because the reality never matches up. Is this a famous saying (especially about sexual fantasies)? Or is there any sayings or quotes similar to this? I read this in ...
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4 votes
4 answers
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Looking for a descriptive word(s)) to describe digest/summation/pocket culture

I am looking for a generic word(s) to describe summary digest cultural of modern society. (or a Neologism) A word(s) for culture that describes "Take what is useful, discard what is useless" ...
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What should I use when I want to say "without further ado"

I have just read another post on here which taught me that the phrase "without further ado" is misused often. Most of the time, I suspect people say it (including me, before now) to mean "without ...
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-1 votes
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Origin of saying 'Thank Buddha it's Tuesday'

What is the origin of the saying 'Thank Buddha it's Tuesday.'?
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When was the term "All lives matter" first used and what was it meant?

These days these two terms "Black lives matter" and "All lives matter" are in the centre of the discussion. Although, it is understood what "All lives matter" in context of "black lives matter", Can ...
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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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4 votes
5 answers
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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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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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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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2 votes
0 answers
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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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11 votes
9 answers
3k views

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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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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0 votes
1 answer
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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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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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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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23 votes
9 answers
29k views

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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14 votes
8 answers
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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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7 votes
3 answers
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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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1 vote
5 answers
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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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4 votes
1 answer
364 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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5 votes
3 answers
11k views

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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1 vote
3 answers
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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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3 votes
1 answer
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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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