dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten
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What is "the exception that proves the rule"?
28 votes

The phrase has its origin in the law. It means that a law written in broad terms, but provided with an exception for some special case, is properly understood broadly; because the authors of the law ...

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"Lunch" vs. "dinner" vs. "supper" — times and meanings?
20 votes

My paternal grandfather grew up on a farm in the American Midwest in the 1920s and was fond of telling us about the day's schedule and the meals. Up before dawn to milk the cow, while food was ...

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Are there other idioms like "a stone's throw away" that both describe an activity and act as a measurement?
14 votes

In the southern US, walking distances are sometime described in looks. As in "Then you go 'bout three looks down the road and you'll come to...". When you start down the road or path, you look for ...

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Word for romantic partner you are living with but not married to
10 votes

"Common-law [husband|wife|spouse]" implies a understanding that a state of marriage exists but that you have not bothered getting official sanction. Unmarried people living together are sometimes ...

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Term for measuring in fractions of 1
10 votes

Answering here from the perspective of a physical scientist. Such comparisons are often dimensionless (say change in length over initial length, which is length/length = 1), and when they are we ...

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What is the difference between "urgent" and "critical"?
Accepted answer
10 votes

My take is that urgent expresses the time frame in which the requirement must be met (but does not speak to the severity of failing to met the requirement), while critical expresses the importance of ...

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Antonym for "Virgin"
8 votes

"Experienced" As in the Jimi Hendrix song. Though it will only be clear in the right context. "Sexually expereienced" is explicit, but not one word.

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Single word for "Private Realm"
7 votes

A little bit of an archaic flavor, but how do you feel about "demesne"?

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"Saving on the parrot's chocolate is futile"
6 votes

Not in exactly the same vein but "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" also speaks to worrying about detail that won't make a difference to the looming disaster.

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How do native English speakers respond to "Thank you"?
6 votes

My most common response are "Certainly" and "My pleasure" but I sometimes use the less formal "De nada" (I grew up in an area with strong Hispanic roots...), "Sure", "No problem" and of course "You're ...

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Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors - what category?
5 votes

"Year"? "Cohort"? or you could say that students are grouped by their "Expected graduation date".

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Is there a word meaning a problem that has to be solved in order to work on another problem?
5 votes

Taken to an extreme you get "yac shaving", but that does not apply only one or two levels in, and may not be understood by non-hacker audiences without some explanation. In more general managerial ...

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How do you say 'Twisted' Congress power balance?
5 votes

I know of no set phrase for this situation (which is odd as it happens a lot), but I would used "mixed". As in "The Obama adminsitration may have a harder time moving their agenda this session because ...

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Is there a prefix for "infinite"?
4 votes

omni- means "all" or "universally" which isn't exactly infinite, but may be a suitable substitute for some uses. Classical the Judeo-Christian God is described as omni-potent (all-powerful).

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Why did ‘off-the-shelf' come to mean ‘in stock, ready-made, and easily available’?
Accepted answer
4 votes

Compare to "off the rack" as opposed to "tailored" for clothing. The implication is that it is a readily available product that can be obtained without a considerable lead time. Contrast with "...

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Common expression for "frame conditions" for a working concept/process
3 votes

"Preconditions" get a lot of use in formal computer science and in less formal analysis and documentation of programming routines. As far as I see it genralized perfectly to other uses. An ...

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Synonym for "ad-hoc" that conveys rigor
3 votes

None of "one-off", "bespoke", "custom", or "made to order" are exact synonyms to my mind, but they all convey a (potentially) one-of-a-kind, for this need nature. Nor do any require "rigor" per se, ...

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What's the opposite of "retaliate"?
3 votes

"repay" (note: I disagree with you comment on MT_Head's answer that this is dominated by negative connotations. It is used both ways) While it's not one word, I am fond of: "return the favor"

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How should I address someone with a known name and unknown gender?
3 votes

If you are lucky there may be a title you can choose. "Dear Professor Doe" is safe for either gender. Likewise of "Doctor" (either the academic or the medical/veterinary/dental variety), and for ...

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Does a word meaning "Created Recklessly for Temporary Use" exist?
2 votes

Like many of the other suggestions here in the phrase "field expedient" does not necessarily imply recklessness, lack of care or insufficiency, but does cover cases where one is forced to make do with ...

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What do you call a person who uses vulgar words too often?
2 votes

A sweary person is one inclined to swear a lot. The word is fairly informal but appears in a number of online dictionaries

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I set an unlit campfire on fire?
2 votes

You can "kindle a fire" a phrase which can even be found in some version of the bible. It's little bit archaic, but I've heard it used. Note the relationship to the word "kindling" for small easily ...

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What's the most common word to refer to a soccer team's shield (or coat of arms)?
2 votes

Crest? Heraldry A distinctive device borne above the shield of a coat of arms ... or separately reproduced ... to represent a family or corporate body.

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Is "chubby" offensive?
2 votes

There is a lot of psychology at play here and what she'll take badly depends on the lady, but you might consider "full figured" instead. Lets see some other choices include voluptuous (though the ...

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Once a super computer, but now no longer?
2 votes

You might use "antique" (in the noun usage). The implication of great age might be seen as slightly ironic, but it makes it clear that we are not talking about something current.

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Term for the type of audible reaction typically written as "heh" or "hmph"
1 votes

A female friend who was baffled about why her husband wasn't having some minor health problem seen to said I told him he needed to go see the doctor. I suggested that he had responded with ...

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Established as a rule through experimentation or statistics
1 votes

Peter has a good suggestion but I will add that we also say "it is an experimental fact that...".

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Does responsibility come with consequences?
1 votes

Politicians (at least in the US) have been making "I take full responsibility" speeches with the apparent expectation that the speech will prevent them from having to suffer any ill consequences for ...

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Idiom for restlessness
1 votes

Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rockin' chair factory. Or I've heard it "Jumpy as a ...".

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Which word you would choose as a superlative of "wrong"?
1 votes

In physics we tend to like "not even wrong" after a Pauli quip.

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