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58 votes
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What does children mean in “Familiarity breeds contempt - and children.“?

Two thoughts are run together: Familiarity breeds contempt {knowing people very well lets you see their faults} Familiarity breeds children {physical familiarity between the sexes leads to children} ...
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57 votes
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Exact meaning of the Gandalf quote, "He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."?

Sounds like you are not seeing the way the sentence breaks into phrases. Think about it like this: He that breaks a thing / to find out what it is / has left the path of wisdom. Loosely, it means: ...
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56 votes
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"None of us is" vs "None of us are", Which is Correct?

Semantically, none is neither singular nor plural. It's less than one and much less than many. So its subject agreement is entirely arbitrary. Plus, negatives are noted for their funny grammar. ...
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52 votes

Meaning of "Mr Right's first name is Always"

It's a joke. It's common to talk about "Mr. Right" ... meaning, the ideal man for marriage. On the other hand, people who are "full of themselves", who talk too much, who always think they know best ....
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45 votes
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Meaning of "I have often seen Essex cheese quick enough"

Heywood is rhyming "thick enough" with "quick enough" and at the same time making a pun. The word "quick" not only relates to speed, but to the state of being alive. We still use it in that sense ...
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44 votes

"None of us is" vs "None of us are", Which is Correct?

According to Oxford Online Dictionaries, either is correct: It is sometimes held that none can only take a singular verb, never a plural verb: none of them is coming tonight rather than none of ...
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42 votes
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You have the watches, but we have the time

Several sources I've checked attribute this quote to an Afghan proverb. The meaning of the second part is clear: time is on our side. But what does the "watches" in the first part refer to? ...
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37 votes

What does children mean in “Familiarity breeds contempt - and children.“?

For those whose first language is not English What other answers have not explained so far is that the phrase "familiarity breeds contempt" is a very well known proverb in English that came ...
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32 votes
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Meaning of the Oscar Wilde quote about the "tragedy of old age"

So far nobody has hit quite the right note on the quote. I would parse it this way: Life is short, and nothing brings that home like reflecting on how little we have seen and done at the point when ...
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26 votes
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Perhaps a Hanlon's Razor, but what does it mean?

The sentence you provide, Hasin, is not the same as "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity," which as Gnawme points out, is an adage known as Hanlon's Razor. ...
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23 votes
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What does it mean to be "sixty-fortied"?

The episode transcript earlier explains LORELAI: This isn’t a singles bar, Mom. It’s a sixty-forty bar. EMILY: A what? LORELAI: Sixty-year-old men hitting on forty-year-old women, divorcees mostly. ...
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23 votes

Perhaps a Hanlon's Razor, but what does it mean?

It's the original Hanlon's Razor Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. cast in the form of Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is ...
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22 votes
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Meaning of "that friendship will not continue to the end which is begun for an end"

In this case ... for an end is used to mean "for a purpose". Another example of this use case is "to what end", or "means to an end". Knowing this, the meaning of the quote is clear: If you ...
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19 votes

How do I interpret "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent"?

My understanding of this line is: Incompetent individuals, by definition, do not possess skills and wisdom. Therefore when they have (quickly) exhausted their small arsenal of half-cocked and ill-...
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16 votes

Exact meaning of the Gandalf quote, "He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."?

It means: If you break something to find out what it is, then you have left the path of wisdom. You are misparsing the actual constituents here: “is has” is not part of the same constituent, but ...
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16 votes
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Why is "man" used where a plural might be appropriate, and not "men"?

Man is being used as a singular collective term describing all of humanity. I believe that the point is that "Gods" and "Kings" would be separate entities (or special distinctions) that would be ...
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15 votes
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What's the message of this Yogi Berra quote?

It means that some people are unteachable: so dense or so close-minded that they are incapable of comprehending or accepting what you tell them unless it conforms to what they already know or believe. ...
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15 votes
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What is it called when you change a well known quote to suit your subject?

The word I've heard used for this on the linguistics blog Language Log is snowclone (it's derived from phrases of the format "If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z.") Here's a ...
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14 votes

Quotation ascribed to Benjamin Franklin, "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid."

What Franklin didn't say Like FumbleFingers, I can't find any attribution of the quoted language to Franklin before about the turn of the twenty-first century. (A Google Books search finds one ...
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  • 150k
13 votes
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Origin of "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."?

As Josh61 observes (in a comment above), the saying seems to have emerged in the middle to late 1960s in the context of education. A Google Books search finds seven occurrences between 1966 and and ...
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  • 150k
13 votes

Is Robert Oppenheimer's phrase “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” grammatical in English?

As modern German, French, and Italian still do today, early modern English formed the perfect tenses of intransitive verbs of directed motion and some changes of state not with a form of to have, but ...
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12 votes
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Who first said "We can predict everything, except the future"?

A preliminary digression Although I want to provide a useful answer to the poster's specific question, I must first point out the inaccuracy of Dougvj's answer. According to that answer, the phrase &...
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  • 150k
11 votes
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Meaning and interpretation of Bilbo's "half as well" quote

I think changing the halves into "many or some" gets past the math. More than half means many and less than half means some. And then the phrase "half as well" is "not as much" or "less than". Both ...
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  • 126
11 votes

What is the exact wordings for “There is a single stupid question in the world ... " in Stephen King's "Under the Dome"?,

The phrase "stupid question" does not appear in Stephen King's Under the Dome. (I checked online.) The following King line (as noted above by Jim) does appear in The Wind Through the Keyhole: The ...
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11 votes

"None of us is" vs "None of us are", Which is Correct?

As almost everybody else here mentions (not "mention" :D), none comes from not one, so grammatically, it should be used as a singular (it baffles me how some people conclude the opposite from the same ...
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  • 322
10 votes

Why is "man" used where a plural might be appropriate, and not "men"?

A passage from Anthem by Ayn Rand: At first, man was enslaved by the gods. But he broke their chains. Then he was enslaved by the kings. But he broke their chains. He was enslaved by his birth, by ...
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10 votes

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

One interesting feature of this quotation is that it began appearing with some regularity, usually attributed to Lincoln, in the middle 1890s, some three decades after Lincoln's death (April 15, 1865)....
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9 votes
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What does "If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG" mean

Given that the author of this quote, Phil Lapsley, is a historian of "phone phreaking", hacking the telephone system, I would guess that the 'CSSG' in question is the Communications System Support ...
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