Hopefully, this chapter has also made you aware of how similar CSS approaches can be applicable to different formatting options, such as how the wonderful styles you created for a table can be modified for a definition list. This is something you’ll see much more of in the next chapter, with basic chunks of CSS being reused for different approaches. It might be worth sticking the kettle on and spending a moment or two reflecting on how far you’ve come. You’re halfway to being a professional!

What does this phrasal verb exactly mean? Something similar to the expression to turn <something> on?

  • 1
    Seems this author is getting bored writing about web design, inserting colorful phrases from time to time. Haven't heard this phrase before (AmE), though I know a phrase "putting the kettle on to boil" meaning doing something else for a short while (figuratively until the water boils).
    – user3169
    Oct 19, 2014 at 23:29
  • It looks like British English: corpus.byu.edu/glowbe/?c=glowbe&q=33856835
    – user230
    Oct 20, 2014 at 1:42
  • That usage seems to be in dictionaries: "• put somewhere, typically in a quick or careless way: just stick that sandwich on my desk." (This usage is common in my idiolect -- AmE speaker.)
    – F.E.
    Oct 20, 2014 at 4:10
  • But on seems to be intransitive in the OP's example of "sticking the kettle on". I wouldn't personally say "Just stick that sandwich on." as a complete utterance.
    – user230
    Oct 20, 2014 at 5:13
  • "It might be worth sticking the kettle on [the stove] and spending a moment or two reflecting . . ." -- I'm reading it that the kettle is placed on a stove or burner, but "the stove" or equivalent was intentionally omitted from the casual speech/writing. (AmE speaker)
    – F.E.
    Oct 20, 2014 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


In this case, "sticking ~ on" doesn't mean turning on in the electrical power sense, but placing on top of: to operate a kettle (a vessel for boiling water for beverages) one puts it on a stove and then turns the stove on.

The author is creatively alluding to making oneself a cup of tea as a break ("and spending a moment or two"), and proposing now is a good time to do it -- a way of indicating coming to a conclusion of a conceptual chunk of the text, like a chapter, and suggesting taking that break as a kind of reward ("reflecting on how far you’ve come. You’re halfway to being a professional!") for all one's hard work so far.

The technical term for this particular sort of poetic turn of phrase is metonymy -- he's using "kettle" to refer to making oneself a cup of tea. Or even we could say it's a metonym twice removed: the hypothetical tea alluded to could, itself, be described as a metonym for taking a celebratory respite in one's labors.

  • Voted down for "celebratory respite in one's labors" (respite from).
    – TimR
    Oct 20, 2014 at 0:43
  • @snailboat: if I'm going to be downvoted after supplying two definitions and then saying that I've never heard a certain expression, it certainly seems reasonable to downvote an answer for an actual grammatical error and a misuse of "metonymy". If you're looking for something to upvote, it was staring at you. The downvoter also supplied uses of "stick on" that were not even germane to the question (skewer, adhesion). Don't take sides.
    – TimR
    Oct 20, 2014 at 11:41

There is the verb to stick in informal American English. It means to put or place something in something else. Stick the letter in the envelope. Stick the envelope in the mail slot. Stick the bundle of papers in the desk drawer. But I've never heard it used in a scenario where something is being set upon a surface.

See Merriam-Webster's definition for the transitive verb #4 here. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stick

But see #2.2 here: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/stick

There's apparently a British English use with "on".

  • Voted down: incorrect. Stick takes on in AmEng. e.g. "Stick the sticky note on his monitor". "Stick the dictionary on the top shelf." "Stick the head on a pike and put it at the gate to warn off other grammar prescriptivists." Oct 20, 2014 at 0:12
  • That's a different kind of sticking, @Codeswitcher, i.e. adhesion. I'm talking about laying or setting something on a surface. I think the book example fits the idea of an enclosed area. What do you have in mind when you say stick the book on the shelf? Place it standing next to another book or between two books, or set it down horizontally?
    – TimR
    Oct 20, 2014 at 0:19
  • Neither: "take this books and get it out of the way". Oct 20, 2014 at 0:27
  • @Codeswitcher: also, the sticking the head on a pike is yet another kind of placement, a skewering. Not germane to the idea of laying something upon a surface.
    – TimR
    Oct 20, 2014 at 0:27
  • @Codeswitcher: Are you a British or American English speaker?
    – TimR
    Oct 20, 2014 at 0:27

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