71

Copying from my comment to @Mitch's answer I think that rearranging the deck chairs is applicable in a scenario when someone tries to correct a doomed situation, cosmetically. In the scenario mentioned, I feel that “fiddling while Rome burns” might be a slightly more apt phrase.


67

The classic: Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.


59

overfamiliar [Farlex] - taking undue liberties and b. Unduly forward or brash; offensively presumptuous: She displayed an overfamiliar attitude toward her superiors. [AHDEL]


58

Much of the power of English is in its ability to be enhanced and empowered by metaphor. You are advocating the abolishment of metaphor, a step which would leave the English language half dead.


55

Although straight is used, that can also simply mean unmixed with anything else, but it can be chilled with ice. The unambiguous word would be neat, meaning no ice and no other drinks mixed in. See also this cocktails.about.com link for a short explanation: Neat typically refers to a undiluted shot of liquor served at room temperature. Up or Straight ...


49

In the given example, I would find both the behaviour, and the person committing it, to be presumptuous: (Of a person or their behaviour) failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate However, this could sound somewhat reserved, and definitely doesn't have any bite. As the question is a request for something specific and informal, my ...


45

This is an example of metanalysis: taking two words that occur in close proximity, and re-analyzing them so that the word boundary changes position. In this case, the common phrase an other is reanalyzed as a nother, which then allows the insertion of the word whole to give a whole nother. Metanalysis has happened several times in English, the most common ...


40

In Britain the term was always flies, as in your flies are undone. The only people I have heard refer to a fly in this regard are Americans. However the two expressions can sound the same, and the difference not be apparent, since an American might say your fly's undone which sounds a bit like the British term flies. I think the British expression goes ...


36

Anything can be offensive, or not. Offense is in the mind of the subject, and may take intent of the speaker into account. In my particular culture (Western Canadian Anglophone Caucasian, which overlaps with lots of other cultures, especially throughout North America), at this particular time (2010's, but extending back for quite a few years), I would ...


35

The answer is, "Because you can". 'Why' questions almost never have a useful answer in relation to language. But actually, there is a kind of regularity here. There are several other plural terms which can be used as forms of address, but the singular is either not used, or has a rather different social meaning. Examples: People works, but person doesn'...


34

It seems to be an extension of taking notes. From "The Language of Photography" http://www.source.ie/issues/issues2140/issue22/is22artlanpho.html To photograph exists alongside to take a photograph, to take a picture, and so on. This is an extension of a broad meaning of take 'to obtain or set down', as in taking notes or statements, 'to set down or get ...


33

Piece of junk refers to something that is cheap, shoddy, or worthless. It can be used as an oject as in "This piece of junk won't boot." or a modiying adjective as in "This piece-of-junk computer won't boot" (with or without hyphens). Related adjectives can be used with the name of the device. These include: "Junky", "shoddy", "trashy", "lousy", "worthless"...


32

@Mitch & @Jogabonito's answers are perhaps more apt, but someone who sweats the petty things while neglecting the larger problem may also be considered "penny wise and pound foolish."


32

It derives from the OED sense 4 of the word wonk. It is often used of government officials with a very narrow, but deep field of expertise. For example someone within the Foreign Office, or State Department with a profound knowledge of China, and everything Chinese might be described as a China wonk. U.S. A disparaging term for a studious or hard-...


30

Informal forms of address: colloquial vocatives, faux intimates, hailnames What you’re talking about are informal forms of address, colloquial vocatives, faux intimates, or my favorite from William Safire, hailnames. They’re forms of direct address (hence vocatives) used in casual situations as a substitute for you or for the formal sir or ma’am (depending ...


28

Contraption (often paired as infernal contraption) refers to any mechanical or electronic device for which the author has some contempt. Gizmo can similarly be employed to mock some needless or useless technological contrivance, but it is not inherently negative. I can call something a gizmo to suggest I am overwhelmed by its complexity, or simply because I ...


27

From: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hamlet "Full Definition of HAMLET: a small village" "Examples of HAMLET she always longed to return to the quiet hamlet where she had been born" For the more relaxed requirements of the edited version of the question, how about: "This 'town' he lives in is actually the size of Dogpatch."


26

Recently heard the phrase: He's making the beds while the house is on fire! Which seems to be fitting for your question.


26

According to the following article the idea of using terminology typical of marriage relationship dates back to the ‘30s. But the terms work wife/husband are relatively recent and date to the late ‘80s. Although the term “office wife” has been around since the 1930s, the modern definition, the one that places the “work spouses” in an equal ...


24

The term "chubby" would generally be only used to refer to babies or small children and even then some parents may take offense. Some positive terms used to describe a pleasantly plump woman (in order of safety: safest to use first): Curvaceous: (esp. of a woman or a woman's figure) Having an attractively curved shape. Rubenesque: plump and sensuous (...


23

Paper weight Implies that it is good for nothing other than holding paper in place.


23

Sometimes words you may consider not gradable are used as gradable. "Very pregnant" means last months of pregnancy, belly extremely bulged, movement impaired - a girl within first trimester can work at most jobs just fine. One who is very pregnant needs a lot of help. When you simmer or boil your pasta, it's just boiling. If the water splashes all over the ...


23

In addition to the point made by Ronan, I think take belongs to the group of verbs that are semantically empty and are often christened delexical verbs. We often like to represent actions as nouns, often for maintaining an easy rhythm in speech. So we 'take a walk', 'have/take a bath', 'have a read', 'have a look', 'take a dip', 'give a shove', 'give a ...


22

Don't worry! It's not a new word. It's used as a colloquial emphasis - they're using the extended "aaay"s to emphasise the word way, as someone might use in normal or friendly conversation.


22

The bell, once rung, cannot be unrung. or You cannot unring the bell. Google books traces "cannot be unrung" to 1924: ... what is learned or suspected outside of court may have some influence on the judicial decision. It may be only a subtle or even subconscious influence, but a bell cannot be unrung. Adverse claimants have at least some reason to ...


21

"Shall I?" is an offer. You are poised to take that course of action and are asking if they confirm your decision. It often implies that the speaker is leaning towards the affirmative. "Do/Should I?" is a request. You are asking what ought to be done. It can be used as above, but does not always indicate the speaker's preferred action and often indicates ...


21

Well, let's take the pedantry a step further and consult some references. Dictionary.com provides the following set of definitions: adjective proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern: the random selection of numbers. Statistics. of or characterizing a process of selection in which each item of a set has an equal ...


21

"And stuff" has been used in this way since the late 17th century, according to Green's Dictionary of Slang. The OED has this definition: Worthless ideas, discourse, or writing; nonsense, rubbish. Often coupled with nonsense (chiefly stuff and nonsense, †nonsense and stuff) with attestations from the 16th century, followed by this: phr. —— and stuff, ...


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